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Air Handling Systems

Engineering & Technical Bulletin

80-1-ISD Condensation Control on Air Conditioning Ducts

Condensation of water vapor can occur on ducts going through any location if the dew point temperature of the
ambient air is higher than the operating temperature of the HVAC system. Although this situation could be present in
ducts in any location, particular attention should be given to ducts exposed to outside or unconditioned air, such as
ducts in attics and crawl spaces.
For ducts in conditioned spaces, it is normal HVAC design to maintain a conditioned ambient temperature of 75F and
relative humidity of 50% or below with a supply air or operating temperature in the range of 55F to 60F, thus reducing
by design the need for duct insulation since the dew point temperature of the conditioned space would be equal or
less than 55F.
Under actual conditions, variations in the rate of ventilation, number of people and equipment, could increase the dew
point temperature of the conditioned space above the operating temperature. A typical example would be in a building
with supply ducts going through return air plenums where usage of the conditioned space has been changed to
conference areas instead of regular office work.
Attached are condensation parameters and the calculation procedure to determine the required insulation needed to
prevent condensation.
Also attached is a table from which the ambient dew point temperature can be obtained knowing the dry bulb temperature and relative humidity. The dew point temperature below the line indicates condensation is likely to occur.

Condensation Parameters
1.

Temperature of air in the duct or operating temperature.

2.

Condition of air in the space where ducts are located.

a.
b.
c.

3.

Duct location.

dry bulb temperature


relative humidity
dew point temperature

General Formula to Calculate Minimum Insulation Thickness Required to Prevent Condensation


(TDP - TOP)

tk = kRs

(TADB - TDP)

tk

Insulation thickness (in)

Thermal conductivity

R S

TDP

Dew point temperature (F)

TOP

Operating temperature (F)

TADB

Ambient dry bulb temperature (F)

Btuin
[(hrft
F)]
(hrft F)
Surface temperature resistance [
Btu ]
2

The typical values for:

TOP

55F cooling; 140F heating

RS

1.32 (hrft F) (reflective surface, still air)


2

Btu

By setting tk = 0 and solving the equation for TOP , it has been determined that the minimum condition for which insulation would be required is when TOP is equal to the dew point temperature. Therefore, at standard barometric pressure
and normal cooling operating conditions, insulation would be required when TDP 55F.

Example
For those conditions where the operating temperature is less than or equal to the dew point temperature, the required
insulation can be calculated as follows:
Vapor
Barrier

Surface

Air Flow
Sheet Metal Duct
Microlite XG (Type 75)

Solving for insulation thickness:


(TDP - TOP)
tk = kRS

(TADB - TDP)

= (0.29) (1.32)
= 0.15 inches

(62-55)
(80-62)

Assumptions
TADB
=

80F

Relative
Humidity =

55%

TDP

62F (from table)

TOP

55F

0.29 Microlite XG (Type 75)

RS

1.32

(hrft2F)
Btu

The results show that 0.15 inches of insulation is required in order to avoid condensation. Although this is not very
thick, the point is that without any insulation, this duct will sweat and cause problems, e.g. stained ceilings and wet
floors.
Since water vapor would be free to penetrate fiber glass insulation, a vapor barrier is required in order to prevent
condensation within the insulation and possible damage to the product.
Heating Season
Condensation during the heating season is rare but can occur inside the duct where solar energy is used for heating
or in return ducts going through unconditioned spaces. Also, in dry climates where humidifiers are used in the supply
air, condensation can occur if the duct is exposed to the outside air.

North American Sales Offices,


Insulation Systems

Eastern Region
P.O. Box 158
Defiance, OH 43512
(800) 334-2399
Fax: (419) 784-7866

717 17th St.


Denver, CO 80202
(800) 654-3103
specJM.com

80-1-ISD 10-08 (Replaces 2-07)

Western Region & Canada


P.O. Box 5108
Denver, CO 80217
(800) 368-4431
Fax: (303) 978-4661

The physical and chemical properties of the Air Handling Products


represent typical, average values obtained in accordance with
accepted test methods and are subject to normal manufacturing
variations. They are supplied as a technical service and are
subject to change without notice. Numerical flame spread and
smoke developed ratings are not intended to reflect hazards
presented by these or any other materials under actual fire
conditions. Check with the Regional Sales Office nearest you
to assure current information. All Johns Manville products are
sold subject to Johns Manvilles standard Terms and Conditions
including Limited Warranty and Limitation of Remedy. For a copy
of the Johns Manville standard Terms and Conditions, Limited
Warranty and Limitation of Remedy, and information on other
Johns Manville thermal insulations and systems, call
(800) 654-3103.

Printed on recycled paper.

Copyright 2008 Johns Manville


Printed in USA

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Dry-bulb
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95


Percent relative humidity

-14

Dew-Point Temperature Chart

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