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Duct (flow)

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Ducts for air pollution control in a 17000 standard cubic feet per minuteregenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO).

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.
Low profile PVC ducting

Ducts are conduits or passages 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.[1] Ducts 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.[2]

Contents

 1Materials
o 1.1Galvanized steel
o 1.2Aluminium (Al)
o 1.3Polyurethane and phenolic insulation panels (pre-insulated air ducts)
o 1.4Fiberglass duct board (preinsulated non-metallic ductwork)
o 1.5Flexible ducting
o 1.6Fabric ducting
o 1.7PVC low profile ducting
o 1.8Waterproofing
 2Duct system components
o 2.1Vibration isolators
o 2.2Take-offs
o 2.3Stack boots and heads
o 2.4Volume control dampers
o 2.5Smoke and fire dampers
o 2.6Turning vanes
o 2.7Plenums
o 2.8Terminal units
o 2.9Air terminals
 3Duct cleaning
o 3.1Signs and indicators
o 3.2Commercial inspection
 4Duct sealing
o 4.1Signs of leaks
 5See also
 6References
 7Further reading
 8External links

Materials[edit]
Ducts can be made out of the following materials:
Galvanized steel[edit]
Galvanized mild steel is the standard and most common material used in fabricating ductwork
because the zinc coating of this metal prevents rusting and avoids cost of painting. For insulation
purposes, metal ducts are typically lined with faced fiberglass blankets (duct liner) or wrapped
externally with fiberglass blankets (duct wrap). When necessary, a double walled duct is used. This
will usually have an inner perforated liner, then a 1–2" layer of fiberglass insulation contained inside
an outer solid pipe.
Rectangular ductwork commonly is fabricated to suit by specialized metal shops. For ease of
handling, it most often comes in 4' sections (or joints). Round duct is made using a continuous spiral
forming machine which can make round duct in nearly any diameter when using the right forming die
and to any length to suit, but the most common stock sizes range evenly from 4" to 24" with 6"-12"
being most commonly used. Stock pipe is usually sold in 10' joints. There are also 5' joints of the
non-spiral type pipe available, which is commonly used in residential applications.
Aluminium (Al)[edit]
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.
Aluminum is also used to make round spiral duct, but it is much less common than galvanized steel.
Polyurethane and phenolic insulation panels (pre-insulated air ducts)[edit]
Traditionally, air ductwork is made of sheet metal which was installed first and then lagged with
insulation. Today, a sheet metal fabrication shop would commonly fabricate the galvanized steel
duct and insulate with duct wrap prior to installation. 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 CO2 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)[edit]
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[edit]
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. It is commonly sold as boxes containing 25' of duct compressed
into a 5' length. It is available in diameters ranging from as small as 4" to as big as 18", but the most
commonly used are even sizes ranging from 6" to 12".
Flexible duct is very convenient for attaching supply air outlets to the rigid ductwork. It is commonly
attached with long zip ties or metal band claps. 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[edit]
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.
Fabric ducts requires a minimum of certain range of airflow and static pressure in order for it to work.
PVC low profile ducting[edit]
PVC low profile ducting has been developed as a cost effective alternative to steel low profile
ducting. Low profile ducting has been used extensively in apartment and hotel ventilation since
2005. The growth of low profile ducting has grown significantly due to the reduction of available
space in ceiling cavities in an effort to reduce cost. Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 there has
been a rise in the discovery of noncompliant building materials, many PVC low profile ducting
manufacturers have struggled to gain or maintain compliance, some building projects have had to
resort back to using the more expensive steel option.
Waterproofing[edit]
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[edit]


Besides the ducts themselves, complete ducting systems contain many other components.
Vibration isolators[edit]

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.
Take-offs[edit]
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[edit]
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 bootprovides 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[edit]

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[edit]
Smoke and fire dampers are found in ductwork where the duct passes through a firewall or
firecurtain.
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[edit]
Turning vanes inside of large fire-resistance rated Durasteelpressurisation ductwork

Turning vane close-up.

Turning vanes are installed inside of ductwork at changes of direction (e.g. at 90° turns) in order to
minimize turbulence and resistance to the air flow. The vanes guide the air so it can follow the
change of direction more easily.
Plenums[edit]
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.[why?]
Terminal units[edit]
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 VAVboxes (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[edit]
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.[3]

Duct cleaning[edit]
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."[4] A thorough duct cleaning done by a professional duct cleaner will
remove dust, cobwebs, debris, pet hair, rodent hair and droppings, paper clips, calcium deposits,
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[edit]
Cleaning of the duct system may be necessary if: