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Duct (HVAC)

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A round galvanized steel duct connecting to a typical diffuser

Fire-resistance rated mechanical shaft with HVAC sheet metal ducting and copper piping, as
well as "HOW" (Head-Of-Wall) joint between top of concrete block wall and underside of
concrete slab, firestopped with ceramic fibre-based firestop caulking on top of rockwool.
Ducts are used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to deliver and remove air.
The needed airflows include, for example, supply air, return air, and exhaust air.
commonly also deliver ventilation air as part of the supply air. As such, air ducts are one method
of ensuring acceptable indoor air quality as well as thermal comfort.
A duct system is also called ductwork. Planning (laying out), sizing, optimizing, detailing, and
finding the pressure losses through a duct system is called duct design.

1 Materials
o 1.1 Galvanized steel
o 1.2 Aluminium
o 1.3 Polyurethane and phenolic insulation panels (pre-insulated air ducts)
o 1.4 Fiberglass duct board (preinsulated non-metallic ductwork)
o 1.5 Flexible ducting
o 1.6 Fabric ducting
o 1.7 Waterproofing
2 Duct system components
o 2.1 Vibration isolators
o 2.2 Take-offs
o 2.3 Stack boots and heads
o 2.4 Volume control dampers
o 2.5 Smoke and fire dampers
o 2.6 Turning vanes
o 2.7 Plenums
o 2.8 Terminal units
o 2.9 Air terminals
3 Duct cleaning
o 3.1 Signs and indicators
o 3.2 Commercial inspection
4 Duct sealing
o 4.1 Signs of leaks
5 See also
6 References
7 Further reading
8 External links
Ducts can be made out of the following materials:
Galvanized steel
Galvanized mild steel is the standard and most common material used in fabricating ductwork.
For insulation purposes, metal ducts are typically lined with faced fiber glass blankets (duct
liner) or wrapped externally with fiber glass blankets (duct wrap).
Aluminium ductwork is lightweight and quick to install. Also, custom or special shapes of ducts
can be easily fabricated in the shop or on site.
The ductwork construction starts with the tracing of the duct outline onto the aluminium
preinsulated panel. The parts are then typically cut at 45, bent if required to obtain the different
fittings (i.e. elbows, tapers) and finally assembled with glue. Aluminium tape is applied to all
seams where the external surface of the aluminium foil has been cut. A variety of flanges are
available to suit various installation requirements. All internal joints are sealed with sealant.
Polyurethane and phenolic insulation panels (pre-insulated air ducts)
Traditionally, air ductwork is made of sheet metal which is installed first and then lagged with
insulation. However, ductwork manufactured from rigid insulation panels does not need any
further insulation and can be installed in a single step. Both polyurethane and phenolic foam
panels are manufactured with factory applied aluminium facings on both sides. The thickness of
the aluminium foil can vary from 25 micrometres for indoor use to 200 micrometres for external
use or for higher mechanical characteristics.
There are various types of rigid polyurethane foam panels available, including a water
formulated panel for which the foaming process is obtained through the use of water and CO

instead of CFC, HCFC, HFC and HC gasses. Most manufacturers of rigid polyurethane or
phenolic foam panels use pentane as foaming agent instead of the aforementioned gasses.
A rigid phenolic insulation ductwork system is listed as a class 1
[clarification needed]
air duct to UL
181 Standard for Safety.
Fiberglass duct board (preinsulated non-metallic ductwork)
Fiberglass duct board panels provide built-in thermal insulation and the interior surface absorbs
sound, helping to provide quiet operation of the HVAC system.
The duct board is formed by sliding a specially-designed knife along the board using a
straightedge as a guide. The knife automatically trims out a groove with 45 sides which does not
quite penetrate the entire depth of the duct board, thus providing a thin section acting as a hinge.
The duct board can then be folded along the groove to produce 90 folds, making the rectangular
duct shape in the fabricator's desired size. The duct is then closed with outward-clinching staples
and special aluminum or similar metal-backed tape.
Flexible ducting

Flexible ducting
Flexible ducts (also known as flex) are typically made of flexible plastic over a metal wire coil to
shape a tube. They have a variety of configurations. In the United States, the insulation is usually
glass wool, but other markets such as Australia, use both polyester fibre and glass wool for
thermal insulation. A protective layer surrounds the insulation, and is usually composed of
polyethylene or metalised PET.
Flexible duct is very convenient for attaching supply air outlets to the rigid ductwork. However,
the pressure loss is higher than for most other types of ducts. As such, designers and installers
attempt to keep their installed lengths (runs) short, e.g. less than 15 feet or so, and try to
minimize turns. Kinks in flexible ducting must be avoided. Some flexible duct markets prefer to
avoid using flexible duct on the return air portions of HVAC systems, however flexible duct can
tolerate moderate negative pressures. The UL181 test requires a negative pressure of 200 Pa.

Fabric ducting
This is actually an air distribution device and is not intended as a conduit for conditioned air. The
term fabric duct is therefore somehow misleading; fabric air dispersion system would be the
more definitive name. However, as it often replaces hard ductwork, it is easy to perceive it
simply as a duct. Usually made of polyester material, fabric ducts can provide a more even
distribution and blending of the conditioned air in a given space than a conventional duct system.
They may also be manufactured with vents or orifices.
Fabric ducts are available in various colours, with options for silk screening or other forms of
decoration, or in porous (air-permeable) and non-porous fabric. The determination which fabric
is appropriate (i.e. air-permeable or not) can be made by considering if the application would
require an insulated metal duct. If so, an air-permeable fabric is recommended because it will not
commonly create condensation on its surface and can therefore be used where air is supplied
below the dew point. Material that eliminates moisture may be healthier for the occupants. It can
also be treated with an anti-microbial agent to inhibit bacterial growth. Porous material also
tends to require less maintenance as it repels dust and other airborne contaminants.
Fabric made of more than 50% recycled material is also available, allowing it to be certified as
green product. The material can also be fire retardant, which means that the fabric can still burn,
but will extinguish when the heat source is removed.
Fabric ducts are not rated for use in ceilings or concealed attic spaces. However, products for use
in raised floor applications are available. Fabric ducting usually weighs less than other
conventional ducting and will therefore put less stress on the building's structure. The lower
weight allows for easier installation.
The finish for external ductwork exposed to the weather can be sheet steel coated with
aluminium or an aluminium/zinc alloy, a multilayer laminate, a fibre reinforced polymer or other
waterproof coating.
Duct system components
Besides the ducts themselves, complete ducting systems contain many other components.
Vibration isolators

An air handling unit with vibration isolator (3)
A duct system often begins at an air handler. The blowers in the air handler can create substantial
vibration, and the large area of the duct system would transmit this noise and vibration to the
inhabitants of the building. To avoid this, vibration isolators (flexible sections) are normally
inserted into the duct immediately before and after the air handler. The rubberized canvas-like
material of these sections allows the air handler to vibrate without transmitting much vibration to
the attached ducts. The same flexible section can reduce the noise that can occur when the
blower engages and positive air pressure is introduced to the ductwork.
Downstream of the air handler, the supply air trunk duct will commonly fork, providing air to
many individual air outlets such as diffusers, grilles, and registers. When the system is designed
with a main duct branching into many subsidiary branch ducts, fittings called take-offs allow a
small portion of the flow in the main duct to be diverted into each branch duct. Take-offs may be
fitted into round or rectangular openings cut into the wall of the main duct. The take-off
commonly has many small metal tabs that are then bent to attach the take-off to the main duct.
Round versions are called spin-in fittings. Other take-off designs use a snap-in attachment
method, sometimes coupled with an adhesive foam gasket for improved sealing. The outlet of the
take-off then connects to the rectangular, oval, or round branch duct.
Stack boots and heads
Ducts, especially in homes, must often allow air to travel vertically within relatively thin walls.
These vertical ducts are called stacks and are formed with either very wide and relatively thin
rectangular sections or oval sections. At the bottom of the stack, a stack boot provides a
transition from an ordinary large round or rectangular duct to the thin wall-mounted duct. At the
top, a stack head can provide a transition back to ordinary ducting while a register head allows
the transition to a wall-mounted air register.
Volume control dampers

An opposed-blade, motor-operated zone damper, shown in the "open" position.
Ducting systems must often provide a method of adjusting the volume of air flow to various parts
of the system. Volume control dampers (VCDs; not to be confused with smoke/fire dampers)
provide this function. Besides the regulation provided at the registers or diffusers that spread air
into individual rooms, dampers can be fitted within the ducts themselves. These dampers may be
manual or automatic. Zone dampers provide automatic control in simple systems while variable
air volume (VAV) allows control in sophisticated systems.
Smoke and fire dampers
Smoke and fire dampers are found in ductwork where the duct passes through a firewall or
Smoke dampers are driven by a motor, referred to as an actuator. A probe connected to the motor
is installed in the run of the duct and detects smoke, either in the air which has been extracted
from or is being supplied to a room, or elsewhere within the run of the duct. Once smoke is
detected, the actuator will automatically close the smoke damper until it is manually re-opened.
Fire dampers can be found in the same places as smoke dampers, depending on the application of
the area after the firewall. Unlike smoke dampers, they are not triggered by any electrical system
(which is an advantage in case of an electrical failure where the smoke dampers would fail to
close). Vertically mounted fire dampers are gravity operated, while horizontal fire dampers are
spring powered. A fire damper's most important feature is a mechanical fusible link which is a
piece of metal that will melt or break at a specified temperature. This allows the damper to close
(either from gravity or spring power), effectively sealing the duct, containing the fire, and
blocking the necessary air to burn.
Turning vanes

Turning vanes inside of large fire-resistance rated Durasteel pressurisation ductwork

Turning vane close-up.
Turning vanes are installed inside of ductwork at changes of direction (e.g. at 90 turns) in order
to minimise turbulence and resistance to the air flow. The vanes guide the air so it can follow the
change of direction more easily.
Plenums are the central distribution and collection units for an HVAC system. The return plenum
carries the air from several large return grilles (vents) or bell mouths to a central air handler. The
supply plenum directs air from the central unit to the rooms which the system is designed to heat
or cool. They must be carefully planned in ventilation design.

Terminal units
While single-zone constant air volume systems typically do not have these, multi-zone systems
often have terminal units in the branch ducts. Usually there is one terminal unit per thermal zone.
Some types of terminal units are VAV boxes (single or dual duct), fan-powered mixing boxes (in
parallel or series arrangement), and induction terminal units. Terminal units may also include a
heating or cooling coil.
Air terminals
Air terminals are the supply air outlets and return or exhaust air inlets. For supply, diffusers are
most common, but grilles, and for very small HVAC systems (such as in residences) registers are
also used widely. Return or exhaust grilles are used primarily for appearance reasons, but some
also incorporate an air filter and are known as filter returns.

Duct cleaning
The position of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is that "If no one in your
household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual
inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated
with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts
cleaned is probably unnecessary."
A thorough duct cleaning done by a professional duct
cleaner will remove dust, debris, pet hair, paper clips, children's toys, and whatever else might
collect inside. Ideally, the interior surface will be shiny and bright after cleaning. Insulated fiber
glass duct liner and duct board can be cleaned with special non-metallic bristles. Fabric ducting
can be washed or vacuumed using typical household appliances.
Duct cleaning may be personally justifiable for that very reason: occupants may not want to have
their house air circulated through a duct passage that is not as clean as the rest of the house.
However, duct cleaning will not usually change the quality of the breathing air, nor will it
significantly affect airflows or heating costs.
Signs and indicators
Cleaning of the duct system may be necessary if:

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this
article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged
and removed. (July 2009)
Sweeping and dusting the furniture needs to be done more than usual.
After cleaning, there is still left over visible dust floating around the house.
After or during sleep, occupants experience headaches, nasal congestion, or other sinus
Rooms in the house have little or no air flow coming from the vents.
Occupants are constantly getting sick or are experiencing more allergies than usual.
There is a musty or stale odor when turning on the furnace or air conditioner.
Occupants are experiencing signs of sickness, e.g. fatigue, headache, sneezing, stuffy or
running nose, irritability, nausea, dry or burning sensation in eyes, nose and throat.
Commercial inspection
In commercial settings, regular inspection of ductwork is recommended by several standards.
One standard recommends inspecting supply ducts every 12 years, return ducts every 12 years,
and air handling units annually.
Another recommends visual inspection of internally lined
ducts annually
Duct cleaning should be based on the results of those inspections.
Inspections are typically visual, looking for water damage or biological growth.
visual inspection needs to be validated numerically, a vacuum test (VT) or deposit thickness test
(DTT) can be performed. A duct with less than 0.75 mg/100m
is considered to be clean, per the
NADCA standard.
A Hong Kong standard lists surface deposit limits of 1g/m
for supply and
return ducts and 6g/m
for exhaust ducts, or a maximum deposit thickness of 60 m in supply
and return ducts, and 180 m for exhaust ducts.
Another UK standard recommends ducts
cleaning if measured bacterial content is more than 29 colony forming units (CFU) per 10 cm
contamination is classified as "low" below 10 CFU/cm
, "medium" at up to 20 CFU/cm
, and
"high" when measured above 20 CFU/cm

Duct sealing
Air pressure combined with air duct leakage can lead to a loss of energy in a HVAC system.
Sealing leaks in air ducts reduces air leakage, optimizes energy efficiency, and controls the entry
of pollutants into the building. Before sealing ducts it is imperative to ensure the total external
static pressure of the duct work, and if equipment will fall within the equipment manufacturer's
specifications. If not, higher energy usage and reduced equipment performance may result.
Commonly available duct tape should not be used on air ducts (metal, fiberglass, or otherwise)
that are intended for long-term use. The adhesive on so called duct tape dries and releases with
time. Building codes and UL standards call for special fire-resistant tapes, often with foil
backings and long lasting adhesives.
Signs of leaks
Signs of leaky or poorly performing air ducts include:
Utility bills in winter and summer months above average relative to rate fluctuation
Spaces or rooms that are difficult to heat or cool
Duct location in an attic, attached garage, leaky floor cavity, crawl space or unheated

See also
Duct (industrial exhaust)
Darcy friction factor
1. The Fundamentals volume of the ASHRAE Handbook, ASHRAE, Inc., Atlanta, GA,
USA, 2005
2. HVAC Systems -- Duct Design, 3rd Ed., SMACNA, 1990
3. "Factory-Made Air Ducts and Air Connectors UL 181", UL Standards, retrieved
September 2, 2009
4. Designer's Guide to Ceiling-Based Room Air Diffusion, Rock and Zhu, ASHRAE, Inc.,
Atlanta, GA, USA, 2002
5. "Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?", U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, retrieved April 17, 2008
6. NADCA (2013). ACR, The NADCA Standard for Assessment Cleaning Restoration of
HVAC Systems. National Air Duct Cleaners Association. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
7. ANSI/ASHRAE/ACCA (2012). Standard 180 Standard Practice for Inspection and
Maintenance of Commercial Building HVAC Systems. American Society of Heating
Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineers. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
8. Willis, Steve. "Verifying System Clenliness: A Guide for Commissioning Providers". American Commissioning Group (ACG). Retrieved 16 June
9. AIIB/ACRA/BSOMES/HKBCxC (2004). A Management Practice Guidance Note on Air
Duct Cleaning of for Hong Kong. Asian Institute of Intelligent Buildings.
10. CIBSE (2000). TM 26 Hygiene Maintenance of Office Ventilation Ductwork. Chartered
Institute of Building Service Engineers.
11. Ductwork sealing article at Energy Star
Further reading
Air Diffusion Council Flexible Duct Performance and Installation Standard, 4th Ed.,
External links
Media related to Ductwork at Wikimedia Commons
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