Ductwork plays a crucial role in your home heating and cooling system. Beyond serving their primary purpose of circulating heated or cooled air, air ducts that are properly sealed and insulated can improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs. This article will explore how air ducts contribute to home efficiency and how to keep them in top condition.
Role of Air Ducts
Air ducts can be made out of sheet metal, fiberglass, or other materials. Ductwork that is poorly designed or isn’t maintained properly can negatively impact not only HVAC efficiency but also air quality and energy usage. A typical residence can lose up to 30 percent of airflow through the duct system due to problems like leaks, holes, or poorly installed ductwork.
If you have abnormally high utility bills during the summer and winter months, this can be an indicator that the ductwork is no longer performing at optimal levels. Other symptoms of under-performing ductwork are stuffy rooms or certain rooms that are hard to heat or cool to a comfortable temperature.
Benefits of Sealed Ductwork
Sealing the ductwork in your home’s HVAC system and ensuring it is well designed and properly installed can go a long way toward improving efficiency, making your home more comfortable to live in while reducing energy costs. Sealing and insulating ductwork can help resolve the issue of rooms that are too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. It also ensures that irritants like dust, allergens, and other pollutants cannot escape through the ductwork to circulate through your home. If you are building a new home, you can install an energy-efficient duct system in the conditioned space of the home, like in dropped ceilings or the corners of rooms, to help evenly distribute air without leaking to keep each room at the desired temperature.
Sealed air ducts can also improve indoor air quality by minimizing the risk of a phenomenon called “backdrafting.” This is when combustion gasses like carbon monoxide get drawn back into a living space through leaky ducts instead of being released outdoors where they belong. It is essential to test your home’s carbon monoxide detector on a regular basis to make sure you are alerted if levels rise to a harmful level.
Maintaining or Upgrading Ductwork
If they’re not too old or damaged, you can take steps to improve the energy efficiency of your home’s existing ducts. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to begin is by ensuring nothing is blocking the registers throughout your home, including furniture, curtains, or other objects that could impede airflow. You can also detach the register covers and clean them to remove any dust buildup.
To achieve airtight ducts, seal any air leaks using metal tape or a mastic sealant. Mastic sealant is a sticky, glue-like substance that is spread over duct seams with a paintbrush or gloved fingers. Mastic’s gooey texture allows it to coat any and all spaces that air could slip through, which can make it more efficient than metal tape. However, make sure to seal any gaps over ¼ with tape first before applying the mastic, as it can’t bridge gaps that size. Sealing ducts is even more important if they were installed in the attic or a vented crawl space, as unconditioned air can be easily drawn into the return ducts from outside. You can also inspect every connection at the vents and registers to see if they are sealed where they meet the floor, wall, or ceiling. These locations are where leaks or disconnected ducts or most likely to occur.
Work with a Professional
While you could inspect or seal ductwork yourself, it is always best to partner with a professional with experience in this area. An expert will be well versed in the proper ways to seal and insulate the ductwork and can inspect your home’s existing air ducts to check for repairs. They will also be able to offer insight on other ways to maximize the energy efficiency of your ductwork and HVAC system, even if it means installing a more modern system that is better designed.
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