18 Jan Must Know Info To Protect Your HVAC Ductwork & Family(Last Updated On: September 27, 2018)
What is HVAC ductwork?
Homes contain a series of ducts (or tunnels), which circulates air throughout the house. The ducts circulate warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer. This is your HVAC ductwork.
Not sure about how your ductwork operates? Interested in learning about warning signs and common issues?
Rest assured, there is plenty of information available to learn about ductwork and air sealing. For example, homes with flexible ducts around 10 to 15 years old likely require replacement. Additionally, older flexible ducts frequently contain poor insulation (which may include asbestos as the insulation material). Plus, many contractors do not properly seal the duct connections. As a result, improper installation means homeowners paying to heat or cool the attic, basement, and walls.
Ultimately, proper HVAC ductwork means:
- R-8 insulation is best; go no lower than R-6.
- Ensure there is a 3-step, UL 181 approved duct sealing process.
- Anti-microbial lining ensures contaminants don’t adhere to the duct lining.
- Insist upon dense weave/heat resistant jackets.
- Ask about balancing dampers if you have rooms that are far apart.
Ductwork must be well-sealed, insulated, and balanced to ensure your home’s heating and cooling systems work as efficiently as possible. Most homes have leaky ductwork and insufficient air flow, which results in an uncomfortable living environment — regardless of the thermostat setting.
A duct system that is properly sealed can make your home more comfortable, energy efficient, and deliver cleaner air. Replacing or making improvements to your duct system accomplishes the following goals.
Sealing and insulating ducts can help with common comfort problems, such as rooms that are too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.
Enhances Indoor Air Quality
Fumes from household and garden chemicals, insulation particles, and dust can enter your duct system, aggravating asthma and allergy problems. Sealing ducts can help improve indoor air quality by reducing the risk of pollutants entering ducts and circulating through your home.
During normal operation, gas appliances such as water heaters, clothes dryers,and furnaces release combustion gases (like carbon monoxide) through their venting systems. Leaky ductwork in your heating and cooling system may cause back-drafting, where these gases are drawn back into the living space, rather than expelled to the outdoors. Sealing leaks can reduce this risk.
Leaky ducts can reduce heating and cooling system efficiency by as much as 20 percent. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers your energy bills, and can often pay for itself in energy savings. Plus, if you’re planning to install new heating and cooling equipment, a well-designed and sealed duct system may allow you to downsize to a smaller, less costly heating and cooling system that will provide better dehumidification.
What impacts my HVAC ductwork?
As duct systems distribute heated or cooled air throughout our homes, they should be leak free and insulated. For example, do your heating ducts contain any air leaks? If so, then you are essentially throwing money out the window. Plus, particularly in the winter, we want the heating duct insulated wherever it passes through any unheated spaces in your home.
Home ductwork relies on two basic types of heating and cooling ducts.
- Supply ducts carry warm, heated air (or cooled, air conditioned air) from your furnace to all the rooms of your house.
- Return ducts allow the air from the different areas of your home to flow back to the furnace.
Frequently, supply and return ducts are located in unconditioned attics, garages, crawl spaces and basements. Any air leaks occurring in unconditioned spaces is air from your furnace or central air condition lost directly to the outside. For example, any heated air that leaks from the furnace due to a leak in the basement does not reach your living room. As a result, the cost to heat that air is lost. Plus, the heated air lost to the outside of your house contributes to uncomfortable conditions in your home.
Duct leaks into conditioned spaces do not result in the severe energy penalty as leaks into unconditioned spaces. However, these leak create poor comfort conditions within homes. Additionally, uninsulated ductwork in unconditioned attics, garages, crawl spaces and basements results in excessive heat loss and poor heating/cooling system efficiency. For example, a heating duct carries very warm air from your furnace to all of the rooms in your house. Uninsulated ducts lose their heat quickly robbing your house of the warm air needed for comfort.
What are the warning signs of poor duct insulation?
Homeowners should know that uninsulated ductwork contributes towards home comfort problems. Here are some warning signs that identifies if better duct insulation is required.
- Air temperature coming out of supply registers from ductwork in unconditioned spaces is very cool to the touch.
- Air temperature coming out of supply registers from ductwork in unconditioned spaces is warm to the touch.
- Ductwork has visible signs of condensation.
Remember that insulating and sealing ductwork in unconditioned basements will make the basement spaces colder. Care should be taken to make sure water pipes don’t freeze in the winter. The best way to know if your home needs more sealing and insulation remains a home energy audit. The right assessment helps determine the real issues in your home. Plus, quality auditors provide solutions that make the most sense for you and your home. While sometimes a new system is just the ticket, it often makes sense to address insulation and air-sealing first, before installing a new furnace or air-conditioner.
How do I seal and insulate HVAC ductwork?
SolvIt recommends homeowners seal ductwork. As a result, homeowners enjoy a leak free home that protects their family. To best accomplish this, there are many types of sealants available including:
- mastic sealers.
- spray foams.
- approved tapes (don’t use duct tape!).
Since your entire home contains HVAC ductwork, including those hard to reach places, consider working with an experienced contractor.
In addition to sealing, remember insulating your ducts as well. Particularly during winter, insulating your home heating ducts improves energy efficiency and home comfort.
For any questions, please contact SolvIt and work with our team to help protect your home HVAC ductwork.