Does Dust Come Out of Air Vents? What You Need to Know

If you find that you are continually having to clean up the dust in your home, your HVAC system could be the reason. Does dust come out of air vents?

Dust comes out of your air vents due to dirty air filters that become clogged, preventing an air filter from efficiently stopping dust from entering your home. Excessive dust can also be caused by leaky ductwork, which allows dust to move past existing air filters. 

Does Dust Come Out of Air Vents? What You Need to Know
Regularly replacing dirty air filters improves your in-home air quality.

Use Air Filters to Trap Dust in Your Vents

The filter is where you should start when inspecting your HVAC system to find the cause of your home’s dusty condition. 

HVAC filters should be checked at least once a month and should be cleaned or replaced if they become dirty. 

It may be worth replacing the filter more frequently if you live in a particularly dusty area or have pets that shed.

The dust that you see in your filter is actually taken out of your home’s circulation. However, if your filter is clogged, it can’t effectively clean out dust from the air.

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This means that more dust will remain in your living area.

It’s important to know that not all filters are created equal, and you will have more success with filters that have a higher MERV rating. These filters are more expensive yet provide more energy efficiency.

You should make sure that your filter is tightly sealed at all points to prevent dust from flowing through open cracks. 

A filter that is not the proper fit will leave gaps that will contribute to your in-home dust troubles.

How Do I Know Which Air Filter to Buy?

Air filters play a vital role in maintaining clean air in your home. It’s actually the most important thing you can buy for your home’s indoor air.

Because your indoor air can pollute up to five times as much as the outside air (and nobody likes to breathe pollutants), you will need a high-quality filter.

There are many different types of air filters you can buy. It’s no surprise that most people don’t understand what quality means.

Which Type of Air Filter Do I Need?

There are only so many ways to make filters. There are three options for home air filters. 

There are three options for home air filters: pleated, fiberglass, and washable, reusable filters. Each type of filter has its advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s take a look at the different types of air filter options that are out there to help you better decide which air filter is right for you.

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Fiberglass filters can be found in large retail and hardware stores and are 1″ wide. 

These filters are made from spun glass, which captures large particles in your home’s atmosphere. fiberglass air filters typically have a MERV rating of 1 to 4.

Fiberglass filters can be called “throwaway” and “disposable” because they only last for around 30 days. 

What Are the Benefits of Fiberglass Air Filters?

Fiberglass air filters are more affordable than other filters such as pleated and whole-house air cleaners. 

A fiberglass filter can be purchased individually for less than $3 and can be found in almost every department or large retail shop.

What Are the Drawbacks of Fiberglass Air Filters?

  • Fiberglass filters can only last 30 days, unlike advanced filters that last three months or more. They lose their effectiveness after 30 days and must be replaced.       
    •  Your furnace’s efficiency can be seriously affected if you don’t change the fiberglass filter. Fiberglass filters can clog quickly, which causes your air handlers to work hard and require a lot more energy to compensate.  
    •  Fiberglass filters are not effective in removing small particles. They provide little protection for your cooling and heating systems and do not protect your health.
    • Ineffective for allergies or asthma. The smallest particles in the air we breathe can cause serious health problems. These tiny particles can flow right through fiberglass filters.

      This means that these filters won’t prevent the spread of diseases or alleviate symptoms such as asthma and allergies like more advanced filters.

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    Pleated Air Filters

    Pleated filters are named after their filter media. This is the material that makes the filtering process possible. 

    To maximize the surface area of a pleated filter, its media is folded in an accordion fashion. The pleated filters made from cotton are now made with synthetic polymers.

    This allows for efficient filtering and minimizes airflow.

    The pleated filter is almost always the best, as pleated filters capture a higher percentage of large and small particles from the air.

    Pleated air filters require little effort but are very functional. You only need to remember to change them, and your air will continue to pull the gunk from it.

    Washable Electrostatic Air Filters

    These electrostatic filters are made from metal frames and can be washed and reused rather than replaced. 

    Electrostatic filters have the advantage of being long-lasting and can be used for many years before they eventually wear out and need to be replaced.

    These filters do require regular washing and drying before they can be reinserted back into place. Drying does not happen immediately, so don’t expect a quick rinse and reinstall in a matter of minutes. 

    Washable electrostatic air filters do a poor job of collecting large particles as they rely on static electricity as their only filtering mechanism. 

    Washable filters work in the opposite direction of fiberglass, allowing larger particles to pass through and filtering out smaller ones.

    What is an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)? Ultimate Resource Learn how an energy recovery ventilator helps capture indoor humidity, odors, and pollutants such as chemicals, pollen, and smoke particles.

    Which filter quality should I choose?

    Once you have determined which type of filter you prefer, it is time to determine the right rating for you. There are three scales that can be used to rate filters. 

    The MERV scale is used by the National Air Filtration Association professionals. It stands for minimum efficiency reporting value.

    The MERV scale ranges from 1-16. Except in extreme cases, anything above 13 is unnecessary.

    FPR and MPR are two other types of filter scales. They stand for Microparticle Performance Rating and Filter Performance Rating. 

    FPR was developed by Home Depot to measure the performance of its brands. It includes a color code and a range of 4–10. 

    MPR was created by 3M. It ranges between 300 and 2800. This scale is determined by the filter’s ability to capture particles less than 1 micron in diameter and is only available on 3M Filtrete filters.

    Related Article: Do Air Purifiers Help Get Rid of Dust Mites? We Find Out

    United Filter
    Courtesy of United Filter

    Deciding the right MERV rating for your home should be based on a few personal factors.

    Are You a Pet Owner?

    Pet dander is the dead skin from your pets, so if you have a dog or cat or any other type of furry pet, you have pet dander floating around in your home. Some people can be extremely allergic to it.

    We suggest a MERV13- rated air filter if you are allergic to pet dander. 

    Are You Living in a Polluted Region?

    It is inevitable that air outside your home will soon become indoor air. It’s inevitable. It doesn’t matter how much weatherstripping you use or how well-sealed your home is.

    There will always be particles outside that get in. This is especially important if you live near areas with high levels of pollution such as smog. 

    Californians can be severely affected by photochemical smog, as you probably know. The state can also be affected by smoke pollution during wildfire season. This also happens in the summer and autumn.

    The smoke particles are tiny, less than one-tenth of a micron. To make one foot, you’d need at least 3,000,000 particles lined up end-to-end. 

    An air filter with a MERV rating of 13 is recommended if you are frequently exposed to smoke or smog in your home.

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    Are You an Allergy Sufferer

    Over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergy. Allergies can be found everywhere, and your air filter can help keep these allergens from entering your home.

    How important filtration is for your home will depend on how severe your allergies are. A filter with a MERV 13 rating is recommended if you have severe allergies to a particular substance in your home. 

    A good quality air filter with a MERV 11 rating may be sufficient if you have minor allergies or are allergic to something not found in large quantities in your home.

    Which Size Air Filter Should You Get?

    The size of your air filter will be displayed on the side of the air filter that you currently have. Simply remove your dirty air filter and look to see what size you will need to replace it.

    This is assuming, however, that the air filter is replaced fits snuggly, and is the recommended type of fit for the vent opening. The last thing you want is air bypassing the air filter. 

    You can also measure an existing air filter if you cannot find the size on the side. These measurements will give you the exact size. To get the best size, add 1/4″ to the length and width that you measure.

    Energy Efficiency and Duct Leakage

    ​Leakage accounts for 25% of all air loss within your HVAC system. This means that one-fourth of your conditioned air is not reaching your home. 

    This is comparable to duct inefficiencies throughout the country. Duct leaks can cause high utility bills and can result in homes losing 20-30 percent of their HVAC energy.

    Find and Repair Ductwork Leaks

    Leaky ductwork can be a more difficult problem and can lead to excessive dust. 

    Leakage in ductwork can cause indoor discomfort and make HVAC systems use more energy to maintain the perfect indoor environment. 

    ​Poor workmanship, age, or damage to ductwork can cause small gaps in the ductwork. These can also develop in very dusty places in your basement and attic. 

    These gaps let dust flow in from a point beyond your filter.

    ​Professional methods are used to test ducts for leaks. The process involves the use of specialized equipment that is connected to the duct system.

    Airflow measurements are taken by the HVAC professional to determine if leaks exist in your air duct system.

    There are some things that homeowners can do in addition to professional testing to find leaking ducts.

    • Visually inspect any ductwork that you have access to. Take a look at all ductwork in your crawlspace, basement, and attic. 

      Examine each section and connect to see if there are any obvious tears, disconnections, or gaps. You should also look for areas where duct tape has been attached to the ducts.

      This indicates that duct leaks may have been repaired in the past. These sections should be inspected carefully as duct tape is not the best material to seal leaks.  
    • Turn on your HVAC system and go back to areas that have ductwork. Place your hand on the metal and check the connections. 

      If your hand feels like it is being held against the metal, you may have an air leak. The duct joints are a common spot for air leaks.  
    • When the HVAC system is on, use an incense stick/smoke pencil to move along the ducts. This will indicate that air is leaving the system.  

    You can mark any duct leaks by using a grease pencil to draw an arrow along the duct. This will help you pinpoint the source of the leakage.

    After you have completed testing for leaks you can return to the problem areas and seal them to stop future ones.


    Trina Greenfield, Author
    SmackDown Media LLC

    About the Author:
    Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.