black dirt from vents

lbelle5July 26, 2012

I just moved into a 50 year old home. There was a new heating unit put in 7 years ago. An addition was put on in 2004.

Once the old owners moved out, you could easily see where black dirt was sucked into the vents as well as where the vents put out the heat/AC onto the walls. Some areas worse than others.

I was thinking I just needed the ducts cleaned, but after reading up on it, I don't see anyone mentioning being able to see obvious dirt on walls or carpets. It's almost as if someone used a kerosene heater with black oily smoke. There was no mention of a fire at any time in the disclosure.

Any ideas what it is from? Or if duct cleaning is sufficient? Hate to disturb any asbestos like product that may have settled in over the years of remodeling in this house.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

post some pics
its hard to see from here

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 6:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, I would call an HVAC guy in to take a look. You don't want to use it without getting it checked out first. It could be something serious and not just dirt.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 8:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Can't post pics as carpets got cleaned as did the walls. It wasn't horribly black like a fire, nor is it obvious coming out of the vent. however, I think getting an Hvac guy in might help. I have noticed that the unit has been checked spring and fall religiously according to the sticker on the unit. That's why I'm thinking it's something icky in the ducts...
The carpet cleaner suggested the house needed more venting? Too much negative pressure ore something like that? Odd part is that it's from the intake and output vents

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 8:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Burning candles for long enough will throw smoke stains, and HVAC filters are not fine enough to catch the particles.

It could also just be from long term coking without
adequate ventilation (or not running the vent fan if it is noisy).

Clean and paint before spending money on duct cleaning.

If the marks start to return THEN take additional action.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 10:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

if a room is starved for return air it will put
the room under a negative pressure. the room will
then suck air from where ever it can get it..
under sole plates of exterior walls is common if
they were not sealed during construction.

as the air is sucked thru the gap it brings dirt
particles with it, causing dark marks on the carpet.
for example a master bedroom/bath suite with 2 supplies
in bedroom, one in bath, one in each closet with
door to hallway undercut 1" will have a dark mark
under the door to hallway.

air is being supplied with insufficient pathway for it
to get back to return grill.
if homeowners keep the doors open, its not a problem.
but when the bedroom door is closed, the 1" undercut
door only returns for 1 supply. this is why jump ducts
and transfer grills are installed. to provide
a dedicated pathway for air to get back to return.

the dark marks are called ghosting. hvac folk will tell
you it is because of burning candles...but it is really
a symptom of not enough return air.

dirt marks on supply grills are from dirt.
if you remove the supply grill you will see that the
cut in the sheetrock is not sealed where the supply box
is attached. the air is pushed out of the supply box
when unit is running. dirt from the gap around the supply
box is also picked up and pushed out.
if condensation forms, the dirt sticks to the condensation
and grills are dirty.

take a look by removing a supply grill.
post back or show how it looks.
we can help you fix it if we know how it looks.

include the following information.
size of unit, size of return (on filter)
location of return, location of heating system.
type of ducts.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 10:52AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
No Fully Trained Mini Split Installers
Reading threads about mini split heat pumps I got curious...
New HVAC install in So Cal
Hi Everyone, I just got a quote from Home Depot contractor....
Seeking input on HVAC replacement
I am getting ready to do a full replacement. Current...
Is this HVAC system OK?
Replacing original old ~9 seer unit. House is 2001...
Maytag/Nordyne/Nortek HVAC
Wanted to share my HVAC experience. Hopefully save...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™