Ductwork is the veins of your residential heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. It is used to direct the air from your HVAC system, including but not limited to your air conditioner, furnace, heat pump, and air handler, into the different living spaces of your home. Thus, without an air duct, every room in your home would be at a different temperature.
After your air is conditioned and the ductwork delivers hot or cold air throughout your home, it also removes conditioned air and returns the same amount of air back into your home's airflow. Air ducts are a vital part of your HVAC system; without them, your HVAC system would be useless.
What Are the Different Types of Ductwork?
Most homeowners are familiar with metal ductwork; however, did you know there are other types as well? This includes flexible ductwork, duct board, and thermo-pan. Let’s dig deeper into the types so that you can make an educated decision about the ductwork in your home.
- Sheet Metal Ductwork: this is the most common type of ductwork. They are typically made up of galvanized steel or aluminum. They are lightweight and easy to install. Not to mention, this type of ductwork is the most durable and typically has the longest longevity.
- Flexible Ductwork: as the name states, this ductwork is flexible and is usually made with a vinyl material with insulation and has a spring or essentially a slinky inside of it. Because of its flexibility, it is one of the best choices for tight spaces; however, one thing that homeowners need to be wary about when opting for flex ductwork is how your HVAC contractor is installing it.
- Ductboard: is essentially pressed fiberglass without a coating on the inside, making this type of ductwork more susceptible to rust and erosion. One of the most compelling aspects of duct board is its ability to be modified and fabricated to fit into spaces where sheet metal and flexible ductwork can’t reach.
- Thermo-Pan: this is the first alternative to sheet metal. It’s lightweight and precise, which makes HVAC installation easy. It is made up of ridged insulation lined with aluminum and is fire-resistant.
In our opinion, properly-sized sheet metal ductwork is the best bang for your buck and will last for several years. It is typically the most energy-efficient ductwork available.
Choosing the right ductwork for your home boils down to the design, your heating and cooling needs, and your overall budget.
On top of that, you want to make sure your HVAC contractor is licensed and can fit and install your ductwork properly. Undersized or oversized HVAC equipment is one of the biggest issues when it comes to existing residential ductwork.
When Should You Consider an HVAC Ductwork Replacement, Installation, or Modification?
Most often, if you have sheet metal or flexible ductwork, and it’s installed and sized properly, it should last for the life of the home. On the other hand, life happens, and it’s not uncommon to need ductwork repair, installation, or replacement services down the line. Below are some scenarios where you may need a professional ductwork service.
- Old Age
As stated above, if you have sheet metal or flexible ductwork that was installed and sized properly, typically, it should last for as long as you're in the home. However, if you have another kind of ductwork like duct board or thermo-pan, they are more susceptible to wear and tear and may need replacing.
- Odd Noises
Your HVAC system is supposed to function quietly; if you hear noises such as screeching, whistling, or rattling, your ductwork may have a clog or damage that needs to be repaired.
Pro Tip: Don’t ignore any unusual sounds coming from your ductwork; contact a licensed HVAC professional to avoid further damage and improve the lifespan of your home's ductwork.
- Increased Utility Bills
When your ductwork is clogged or damaged, you may notice a spike in your monthly energy bills. Keep in mind that high energy bills can mean poor attic insulation or loss of conditioned air through cracks or holes in your ductwork.
Also, any holes or cracks in your ductwork may leak carbon monoxide, which isn’t good for you, your home, or your loved ones.
- Poor Indoor Air Quality
This is one of the most commonly overlooked functions of your residential HVAC system. Did you know that your heating and cooling air filter should be changed/checked (depending on your filter type) at least once a month?
Improper airflow and other air pollutants cannot be absorbed by your air filter when it’s clogged. Thus, it can cause unpleasant smells or odors, sudden allergy symptoms, and unfiltered air circulating throughout your home.
Also Read: How Often Should Furnace Filters Be Changed?
- Hot or Cold Spots
Is there one room in your home that never seems to be properly conditioned? If so, you may be dealing with a problem within your air ducts. This could be holes, leaks, undersized ductwork, or even a lack of ductwork. Some contractors like to cut corners, which makes the airflow in your home inadequate and less energy efficient.
At Fire and Ice, our HVAC experts complete a Manual J Load Calculation on every furnace and air conditioning installation estimate, which the U.S. Department of Energy and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) requires.
A Manual J Load Calculation considers your home's square footage, windows, doors, the direction in which way your home faces, and more. This calculation ensures that your ductwork is sized and fitted properly to ensure you're getting conditioned air in every room in your home.
- Punctures, Dents, and Leaky Ducts
This one is self-explanatory, but if you notice any damaged ductwork or air leaks, it’s a good idea to repair or replace that piece or part of your duct system. Dents or punctures in your ductwork can cause the conditioned air to be lost, release carbon monoxide into your home, and interfere with your HVAC system's ability to function properly.
According to Energy Star, the average home loses about 20% to 30% of all air that moves through your duct system. If the damage is bad enough, you could lose over 50%. If this is the case, your HVAC professional may suggest a new ductwork installation or modification to get the most out of your HVAC unit.
- Pest Infestations
I know many of us homeowners don’t like to think that we have pests living in the ductwork in our homes; however, the truth of the matter is you might. This doesn't mean that your house is dirty or that you don't take proper care of it; it simply means that pests have found a “safe” place to hide and procreate.
If you suspect pest infestations in your ductwork or HVAC system, contacting a professional is best to remove the pests and prevent others from infiltrating your air ducts.
- Improper Installation
This has been said multiple times in this article already, but this shows you just how important proper ductwork installation is. In fact, The National Comfort Institute (NCI) has reported that only 57% of U.S. homes have adequate ductwork installation.
This is astounding, considering the fact that our residential ductwork is what keeps ourselves, our homes, and our loved ones comfortable throughout the different seasons of the year.
That said, if you are a homeowner who wants to avoid committing to replacing, modifying, or adding ductwork to your home, a duct cleaning may resolve the issues above.
Not to mention, at the time of the duct cleaning, our indoor air quality specialist will be able to determine the state of your ductwork and if you need an air duct replacement. This way, you're not jumping to the worst-case scenario and most expensive option first.
However, if you want to learn more about our duct cleaning services, check out the video below!
Within the realm of ductwork, you can opt for a modification of your ductwork instead of a complete duct installation, if applicable. Ductwork modification comes into play when your new or existing ductwork isn't the proper size.
There are several different instances in which ductwork modification would be the best option, including, but not limited to:
Undersized or Oversized Ductwork
As mentioned earlier, over 57% of U.S. homes have improperly sized ductwork, which can waste thousands of your hard-earned dollars. You may have the most energy-efficient, top-of-the-line HVAC system. But if your ductwork needs modifications to distribute the conditioned air evenly, you’ll lose some of the benefits of the new system.
To ensure you're getting the most out of your home's comfort system, it's important to hire a reputable HVAC contractor who puts your needs and budget first.
This includes a porch, patio, or even a three-season room. Since this addition was built after the home was constructed, it probably won't have ductwork leading to that space. Your ductwork may need to be modified to reach that particular room.
If your ductwork cannot be modified to reach your new home addition, you can consider investing in a ductless mini-split system.
Related Content: Ductless Mini-Splits 101: What They Do & How You Benefit
Old Home, New HVAC System
In this instance, let’s say you have an older home. Just because you got a new, more energy-efficient HVAC system doesn't mean it will fit into the old space like a glove. This is when your home may require a modification to your existing ductwork.
Keep in mind that inadequate ductwork can make your HVAC system work harder.
Also Read: Cost of HVAC Ductwork Modification
Should You DIY Your Home's Ductwork?
In today’s world, homeowners are all about doing it themselves. While there is no harm in sealing your ductwork yourself, the average homeowner shouldn't try to modify, replace, or install ductwork on their own.
When sealing your ductwork, it's important to note that despite its name, Duct Tape is not for ductwork. The best way to seal your ductwork is with caulk, mastic tape, or tape specifically designed for ductwork, such as UL 181A or UL 181B.
- UL 181A/B: The UL 181 listing refers to this tape as being flame resistant, which is vital for use on your home's furnace as well as local code compliance.
- Duct Mastic: This is a gooey, disposable material applied by a brush or putty knife to larger gaps in your ductwork. Keep in mind that it should first be covered with fiberglass or mesh tape before applying the duct mastic.
- Foil-Backed Tape: This is the best type of tape for ducts. It uses a large amount of acrylic adhesive that is resistant to drying out or becoming brittle. This material can withstand drastic temperature changes without shrinking or falling apart.
However, remember that these are only temporary fixes, and just like any other piece of machinery in your home, your HVAC system should be handled by a professional.
Why Shouldn't I DIY Install, Modify, or Replace My Ductwork?
You shouldn't DIY the ductwork in your home for several reasons, the first being that you're not a professional. Our HVAC systems provide comfort throughout our entire home. As stated above, various calculations go into fitting your ductwork correctly. As much as we would like a “one size fits all” scenario, unfortunately, all homes are not created equally within the HVAC world.
A professional with years of HVAC experience knows what materials would be best for your home and overall comfort. An HVAC professional will also know how to seal and insulate your ductwork properly so you get the max performance and energy efficiency.
Another reason why you shouldn't DIY your ductwork is because of your HVAC warranties. Let’s say you try to redo the ductwork in your home; even if you've done a great job and did everything correctly, your HVAC system could still break down.
If a professional notices that your ductwork was tampered with by you and not by a professional, your HVAC warranties could be voided. Which, in turn, can cost homeowners several thousands of dollars.
If you suspect any compromised ducts in your home, whether it's one of the common problems we mentioned or any others, it's best to contact a professional. Choosing the right ductwork for your home comes down to the materials, design, budget, and the HVAC contractor you hire to install your HVAC system.
At Fire and Ice, we understand that investing in your home's heating and air conditioning system is a considerable investment, and we intend to treat it like one.
If you’d like to talk to one of our HVAC residential specialists, click below to schedule your free in-home estimate.
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