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A complete guide to home duct design

Find out why duct design is important

Although often overlooked in its importance to an HVAC system, duct design is important. In fact, the ducts are responsible for distributing the air conditioning throughout your home.

Ductwork typically brings air from the air conditioner or furnace to the source and sends it to your home through a supply duct. The air then naturally flows to different parts of the house where there is a return duct.

If the air that is pumped into the room is not flowing through the return duct, it becomes trapped in the area around the supply duct.

It stays there while the atmospheric pressure continues to rise, and with no other option, the air escapes from the house. Thus, the HVAC system operates continuously to generate more cold air.

During this time, the air does not reach the area around the return duct, so the air pressure drops. This brings in air from outside to balance it. The temperature in this part of the house changes considerably.

In fact, this shoddy duct design creates two zones, and you don't want your home to be affected either.

Leaks or cracks in your ductwork can also affect how much you spend on utilities each month. . Up to 20% of your air conditioning is lost before it reaches its destination. Duct leaks in places like the attic or basement where they won't fit.

To resolve these issues, you will need to work with an HVAC contractor to update your ductwork design.

Good duct design: the key to savings

Good duct design can help you save money through greater efficiency, balanced air distribution and adequate airflows.

Effective duct design is essential to properly distribute air in the home. Depending on the layout of your home, general types of duct designs for maximum productivity are truck and branch style systems or spider systems. Professional technicians can help with various methods to eliminate energy losses in ductwork to achieve maximum savings.

Improperly sized ductwork or ductwork that does not allow air to flow properly may require redesigning to maintain home comfort.

Properly sealed and balanced ducts consume less energy and reduce costs.

Please note that a leaky duct system does not balance air distribution and the system may use too much heating or cooling in certain areas of the home, creating unnecessary expense for the homeowner . These leaks may involve adjusting the thermostat to make the affected rooms more comfortable, which increases the cost of running the HVAC system.

Of course, the best duct design can leak over time due to normal wear and tear. If you have a strong pipe but are experiencing leaks, consider system maintenance.

When properly designed, ductwork includes adequate supply and return air methods. This ensures that air is flowing through the system at the correct rate. Good airflow will increase unit productivity and reduce unit operating costs.

Aging piping? How to Tell if You Need a Redesign

Aging piping can compromise your system's optimal performance, efficiency, and air quality.

Consider the following factors when evaluating the design of your aging ducts.

When were the ducts installed? Often, original construction residential drains have been designed on the cheap and without much thought to longevity. Original equipment seals, gaskets and seals can fail in less than 10 years.

Once you have assessed the age of the ducts, visually inspect them in easily visible areas such as the attic or crawl space.

Look for deteriorated tape used to seal disconnected ducts and bays. Pay attention to the abundance of dust coming from the seams which can indicate air leaks and note any rust or corrosion.

How is the air circulation in the rooms? Parts with low air volume can indicate duct segments that have become disconnected, damaged, or clogged with dust and debris. If you notice temperature changes, it could mean air leaks in the ducts or deteriorating insulation causing thermal leaks from the duct.

Once you have gathered this information, schedule a duct fan test with an HVAC contractor. Contractors use a fan to pressurize the ductwork and a computer to calculate the amount of air loss versus total airflow.

Three Elements for Efficient Duct Design

Heating and cooling the average home accounts for about half, and sometimes even more, of the energy consumed. But your home's heating unit is only one side of the energy consumption equation. The other side is the duct system.

Efficient duct design and installation is critical to maximizing energy savings and equipment performance. There are a few different elements for an effective design.


Duct components include ductwork, supply air registers, return grilles, insulation, and sealing tape or concrete. For an efficient layout:

Use ductwork for all air distribution: Do not use construction cavities such as walls or raised floors.

Install ductwork in the most direct and closest path between the air source and the living space.

If possible, do not install ductwork in unconditioned spaces. Quickly lose thermal energy from damaged and leaky ductwork or if insulation peels off over time.

Install return grilles at each level. For more efficient results, install smaller air vents in each room with dampers to maximize air distribution and comfort.

Try connecting ducts and transfer grilles to improve air distribution.

Sealing and insulation

Hermetically seal all duct joints with putty and fiberglass mesh and/or aluminum tape. You can also mechanically secure the joints.

After sealing the ducts, install insulation for all ducts in unconditioned areas. You may want to insulate ducts in air-conditioned areas and maintain temperature for remote logs.

Mechanically secure duct connections to logs and grates.

It is common for these fittings to loosen or disconnect over time. Inspect them annually or have them inspected by a professional.

Air Distribution

Accurate supply and return air pressure is essential to maintain even air pressure throughout the home. Uneven air pressure can force the exchange of air between indoor and outdoor air, making the heating unit heavier and increasing utility costs. Install volume dampers in ductwork to increase airflow control.

Best Practices in Duct Design

Maintain Watertightness

Design ducts so that none of the runs have to travel too far to reach a room or service. area.

If this happens, the occupants of this room will probably complain that it is too cold in winter and too hot in summer.

Watch your path

If possible, scatter conduits through conditioned areas. If the air conditioning is leaking, it will leak at least in one area that should receive heated or cooled air. The air conditioning circulating in the ducts does not lose heat energy to the cold outside air (or to the hot air which dilutes the cold air inside the ducts in summer). When the ducts have to pass through non-air-conditioned areas, they must be well sealed and insulated.

In addition, conduit should not be twisted to make sharp bends or route cavities through walls. Straight ducts offer the least resistance to airflow and will allow your air handler to easily deliver the airflows your heating and cooling appliances need to operate efficiently.

Use properly sized ducts

Ducts that are too small will have a high resistance to airflow which could prevent the air handler from achieving sufficient airflows. Even so, high air velocities in the ducts will be noisy. Air velocities in ducts that are too large will not be effective in distributing air to rooms.

Use as few separate pipes as possible

Any place you connect parts together is a potential air leak point. This leak wastes conditioned air and can allow outside air to circulate.

It's all about balance

Airflow must be perfectly balanced, with all air supplied as much as it is routed to the HVAC equipment. Otherwise, the pressure differential will cause unwanted air loss or gain due to air leaks in the exterior walls.

You can achieve this balance by ensuring that the return flow has the same flow capacity as the air supply.

You will also need to ensure that each supply log has a path to a return log. To this end, include a return log in each room or install grates on walls and doors to provide a suitable path.

Don't neglect the ducts

If possible, each room with a supply log should also have a return damper. Where this is not possible, vent grilles and other design features should be present to allow air circulation between rooms.

Hermetically seal the duct sections with sealant and metal screws.

Never use standard tape.

While these tips are a good start to planning your duct work, we recommend consulting a professional to work out the details, such as calculating the exact duct size. appropriate.

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