Proper ductwork is one of the most important components of an energy-efficient, healthy, and comfortable home. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked and disregarded. When most homeowners think about their HVAC system, they inadvertently direct their focus to the big pieces of equipment involved, such as air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps, etc.
For this reason, ductwork installation is often considered an entry-level job that requires little experience and training. However, it should be treated much more seriously given its ability to make or break the performance of a home’s HVAC system.
Let’s talk more about what ductwork is, why it’s important, and how to install it for maximum energy efficiency.
We’ll start by defining exactly what ductwork is. Ductwork is the part of your home’s HVAC system that’s responsible for distributing and circulating air. It’s composed of a system of ducts, or flexible tubing, that work together to force warm or cool air to keep your home healthy and comfortable.
Yes, appliances like air conditioner and furnaces are important — but they can’t do their work alone. Think of it this way:
You need your lungs to breathe, but you also need the rest of your body’s network to carry that oxygen throughout your body. Without that transportation system, that air has nowhere to go. In your home, ductwork is that transportation system for warm, cool, and clean air.
Designing and installing ductwork is partly art and partly science. You need to ensure the system is either hidden from or blended into your home’s design, and you need to ensure it’s functioning at a high efficiency level.
Here are a few tips to help get you there.
Before ductwork is installed, it should be modeled by computer software to ensure that each of your home’s rooms receives the right amount of air supply and return. The system should adhere to the same principles as fluid dynamics, with radius turns and as few bends and obstructions as possible. Specialized computer software can help get you there.
Ductwork should have as few gaps as possible. While all ductwork should be properly sealed with mastic or foil tape, sealed gaps aren’t designed for long-term performance. Joint sealants eventually fail, and properly installed ductwork shouldn’t be compromised because of them.
The placement of your ductwork system’s cold air return is another consideration that will affect efficiency and health. Cold air returns are often located in the framing openings, but that’s not always the best choice. These areas are impossible to clean and become incubators for dust and microbes very easily.
Also, framing chases have gaps and openings where air is sucked in. So using framing chases as cold air returns decreases the efficiency in which air is drawn from the right locations. A properly installed ductwork cold air return system will resolve these issues to ensure efficient operation and great air quality.
Placing ductwork in unconditioned spaces should be avoided. Why? Even if the ducts are insulated, it’s usually not at a high R-value, and they’ll continuously lose energy to the unconditioned area.
When ductwork must be installed in crawl spaces and attics, try bringing these areas into the conditioned space. Barring that, build a well-insulated chase around the ductwork. This will help those ducts lose less energy and keep the rooms they serve at a more comfortable temperature.
Our final recommendation is to hire an expert. If you want a highly efficient duct system, you need to find a professional you can trust. Be sure to do your due diligence and vet contractors, as you want someone with experience doing this job.
Better yet? Find a professional who’s not only experienced in energy-efficient ductwork installation, but also in other green building techniques and technologies. They’ll help you ensure all of your home’s systems are working together for ultimate efficiency, healthiness, and comfort.
Want to build or remodel your home for maximum efficiency? There’s no better team to work with than Meadowlark. Our company was founded on sustainable building practices, and that’s where we continue to excel today.
A Meadowlark home isn’t just a beautiful home; it’s a home built to support the environment, promote heathy living, and withstand the test of time. To start your project, contact our team online.