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Ducts: There are More to Ducts than Just Tape
IMPORTANT FACT: Your home is a special place. It is where you rest, relax, and recharge. Normally when someone buys a house with a forced air heating and cooling system, they pretty much expect the duct system that delivers the air to be in perfect working condition. With today's demands for the highest efficiency, you may likely find that your duct system isn't performing in the best way possible.
The duct system is a series of tubes that carry the warm and cool air from your air conditioning and heating equipment into your home and then take it back to the equipment. They control how much air is delivered to each room. The right amount of air will keep the room temperatures where they need to be. If ducts are damaged, improperly installed or the wrong size, they can cut your system's ability to heat or cool by more than half on hot or cold days, when you need it the most.
MORE IMPORTANT FACT: Improperly sized or designed ductwork is the most common reason people are not comfortable in their own homes. Imagine for a moment that your air conditioner is your lungs. Now imagine that you are running a 1-mile race. If you are in good shape you should have no problem. Now imagine that you have to run that same 1-mile race breathing through a cocktail straw. No matter how good of shape you are in, you will never be able to run as fast and easily as if you could breathe normally. This inability to breathe is what happens when your air conditioner is forced to operate through improperly sized ductwork.
A 30% return duct leak on a hot or cold day can decrease your heating or cooling capacity more than 50%. That may sound extreme, but it's not an uncommon condition.
Ducts move air, and air is invisible. So to determine if your ducts work or not, air properties must be measured. A 4 Seasons Heating & Air Comfort Specialist is able to measure how much air goes to each room and compare it to how much is needed. He will also take other measurements including temperatures and pressures to determine how well your ducts work, then will review the results of these test with you.
Unfortunately few have the knowledge or own the tools and instruments to measure the performance of your duct system. If they can't measure it, they have no idea how to fix it, or even where to begin. They assume that the ducts are just fine.
The typical duct renovation includes removing damaged ducts, straightening them, adding proper suspension and sealing all the joints. Sometimes larger ducts need to be installed to certain rooms or the registers and grilles need to be replaced. Other improvements might include adjusting fan speeds or improving your air filtration system.
Some contractors will offer to seal your ducts to improve efficiency. While duct sealing is definitely done as part of a renovation, sealing by itself cannot address many of the flaws in a duct system. In many cases, just sealing the duct can make the problem worse, as it could choke down airflow causing equipment failure, major comfort problems. In extreme cases, it has caused back-drafting of flues leading to dangerous carbon monoxide problems.
ULTRA IMPORTANT FACT: Duct tape is found in every home toolbox and is the go-to, fix-all for many minor repairs. But, duct tape does not adequately seal the joints and has a short lifespan. If your air conditioning system is struggling to finish that 1-mile race, it needs more than a bigger straw and duct tape. So, leave the duct tape for the Apollo 13 astronauts who used it to make a repair on their return to Earth from the moon and put the straw in your chocolate milk shake!