As a homeowner, you likely don’t give thought to a hidden system of ductwork that circulates air throughout your home. When a problem arises with ductwork that is tied into your central HVAC unit, your entire system can be compromised.
Whether you are repairing or replacing existing ductwork, there are several things to keep in mind as you choose materials that work best for you and your home. Read on to learn more about your ductwork and what to look for as you consider a replacement.
What Are Air Ducts?
Your air ducts pull air from different parts of your home. The air is then heated or cooled and recirculated to regulate temperatures in your living spaces. Dirty, cracked, or porous air ducts will cause a loss of pressure in your system, not to mention compromise the quality of the air circulating throughout.
As the average lifespan of air ducts ranges from 10-15 years, you’ll eventually need to consider repair and replacement to ensure that your HVAC system remains in good working condition. If you detect any of the following issues, it’s time to consider the replacement of your ductwork.
A moderate amount of noise coming from your system is considered normal, but loud or clanging noises often indicate a problem somewhere in the network. Rattling sounds may mean that a portion of your ductwork is vibrating, while damaged joints result in whistling sounds as escaped air flows through cracks.
When rooms around your house have noticeably hot and cold spots, your ductwork is not working as efficiently as it should. Partial obstructions and leaks can cause your system to send inadequate amounts of air to different rooms, resulting in temperature fluctuations that can be downright uncomfortable.
Foul odors can be the result of bacteria, mold, and mildew buildup in your ductwork. Exposure to airborne mold spores can, over time, cause a number of health complications for you and your family. Symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and respiratory issues are common as air becomes saturated with thousands of spores that you breathe in on a daily basis. If you notice any of these symptoms or strange odors emanating from your system, it’s time to consider duct replacement.
Ductwork Replacement Options
A number of options exist for replacing ductwork. Choosing the right style that works for you is a matter of determining the need, unit capacity, and maximum efficiency for your unique home. Here are some pros and cons of popular ductwork options, as well as what a typical installation might cost for each.
Much like metal ducts, flexible ductwork provides a simple path for air to circulate. Flexi-ducts are composed of round wire coils that are encased in flexible polymer skins. Fiberglass insulation is often installed to surround the flexible skin, and a thin foil jacket covers fiberglass to encase everything neatly. Flexi-ducts can also be made from rubber, silicone, PVC, or even stainless steel.
Flexible ductwork is a less expensive option when you consider installation, materials, and the cost of labor. It is not as difficult to install, and a flexible duct system can be set up in a fraction of the time when compared to other types of ductwork. There is little sound associated with a flexible duct network, as the dual layers of insulation work to mask any sound that could emanate from it. Flexible ductwork sections are longer; as a result, there are fewer issues with leaking that can commonly happen on joints and seams with metal ductwork.
The winding path of flexible ductwork makes it efficient when placing it, but this twisted airway makes it more difficult to circulate air through your system. You could incur additional energy costs on your monthly energy bill. Flexible ductwork is also less durable than traditional metal ductwork, so it’s more prone to tearing and punctures, which can damage your whole system. Lastly, flexible ductwork is hard to clean. Many of the traditional tools used to clean metal ductwork would tear flexible ducts apart. More sensitive cleaning tools could result in higher maintenance costs for you as well.
Sheet Metal Ductwork
Sheet metal ductwork is the most commonly used material for use in homes. Made of galvanized steel or aluminum, its thick, solid walls make it highly durable, providing a solid receptacle for circulating air. Sheet metal ductwork comes in various shapes, including rectangular, round, and even spiral.
Sheet metal ductwork is fairly light and easy to work with. It is extremely durable, easy to install and clean, and has the least probability of attracting mold and mildew spores, thanks to its non-porous surface. Sheet metal ductwork lasts longer than other materials and can easily be repaired or replaced in sections to reduce repair and installation costs.
Sheet metal ductwork can be quite rigid and thick, making it difficult to install in tight corners and crawl spaces. In cases like these, smaller, more flexible materials are needed to ensure that your system retains proper airflow.
Fiberboard ductwork comprises fiberglass strands that are bonded with resin and encased in a foil covering. The foil acts as an airtight barrier and moisture deterrent to keep fiberglass fibers in place. Fiberboard ductwork looks and performs similarly to sheet metal ductwork.
Fiberboard ductwork is popular due to the fact that it is less expensive to install than sheet metal. The presence of fiberglass provides acoustic and thermal insulating properties, and they can be crafted to fit into unique spaces, making them more efficient to install than sheet metal ductwork.
Unfortunately, the insulating nature of fiberboard makes this material ideal for mold and mildew growth. Those who suffer from allergies or respiratory issues should not use fiberboard in their homes. The inner surfaces of fiberboard are rough, so they are difficult to clean. Porous inner layers can trap surface contaminants, negatively impacting indoor air quality.
Fiberglass ductwork consists of sheet metal ducts with additional fiberglass linings. They look and perform similarly to sheet metal ductwork, helping to minimize heat loss and prevent condensation and particulate buildup in your system.
Fiberglass ductwork can reduce the overall noise of your HVAC system due to its acoustic insulating properties. Thermal insulation provides an extra dose of protection when seeking to regulate both hot and cold air.
Fiberglass ducts require frequent cleaning, and this process can be dangerous. Over time, fiberglass fibers may start to deteriorate, releasing particles into the air and causing significant health concerns. Fiberglass linings can become saturated with bacteria, mold, and pathogens that become trapped in your system as they keep circulating through. If fiberglass ductwork becomes cracked or damaged in any way, it must be replaced to ensure that you don’t suffer respiratory issues from breathing in released fibers.
Let Us Help You Choose the Right Ductwork for Your Home!
When it comes to finding the right solutions for your HVAC system, come to the professionals at Protek Roofing, Heating, Air & Solar. Proudly serving valued customers in the Tampa, FL area and beyond, we offer a variety of quality services, including ductwork replacement and indoor air quality solutions. We also offer heating and cooling repair, installation, and maintenance, and we have a team of roofing professionals available to install and repair residential and commercial roofing systems. Call today to schedule a ductwork consultation and see how we can improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your home.