Sealing Ductwork for Energy EfficiencyThe average home loses between 20 and 30 percent of the conditioned air that moves through its ducts due to leaks, holes, or poor connections, according to Energy Star. If 30 percent of air is lost, that means your AC or furnace is running 30 percent longer to get the same results as if you had sealed ducts. That’s a lot of power you don’t need to be wasting, especially now that PG&E’s rates are continuing to go up. Insulation in your ducts keeps moisture out, reducing corrosion, which also reduces the risk that ducts will develop holes and leaks. Sealed ducts make HVAC systems much more efficient, meaning they run less often and use less power.
The average home loses between 20 and 30 percent of the conditioned air that moves through its ducts due to leaks, holes, or poor connections.Ducts with poor insulation are also more susceptible to temperature transference. For years, ducts were made from galvanized steel, a material picked almost entirely for its durability. The problem with galvanized steel, though, is that it lacks any sort of insulative properties, which means that not only are they affected by moisture, they also become heated and cooled when located in your attic or basement, as ducts often are, because those rooms aren’t climate controlled like the rest of your house. If the ducts are too warm, they will actually heat the air inside them, making it harder for the air conditioner to keep your home cool in the hot Elk Grove summer sun. A major problem I see in terms of HVAC energy efficiency is that many folks in our area live in older homes and don’t even realize that their ducts are poorly insulated. Cities like Elk Grove, as well as Sacramento, Roseville, and Folsom, have homes that have been there for decades, long before rising power rates—a problem exacerbated by improperly insulated ductwork—were even a concern.
How to Insulate HVAC Ductwork in Your HomeThe good news is that as rates continue to rise, HVAC ductwork technology continues to improve as well. In modern homes, galvanized steel ducts are largely a thing of the past, and in historic or older homes that inherited them, HVAC professionals now have relatively affordable ways to retrofit insulation. In fact, insulation for ducts has come so far that you now have several choices when it comes to enhancing energy efficiency, enough that as a responsible homeowner interested in counterbalancing rising energy rates, you owe it to yourself to do some homework. Let’s take a look at some of the options:
- Flexible ducts: Flexible ducts, sometimes called flex ducts, are usually made of flexible plastic over metal wire coil. These ducts are shaped like a tube, and they do an outstanding job of preventing moisture, even during a rainy winter in Elk Grove, from causing corrosion. These ducts don’t let moisture get inside in the first place. The problem with these, however, is that they aren’t very durable and are prone to breaks.
- Combination flexible and galvanized steel ducts: This is ideal when building a new home or retrofitting your existing one with better-insulated ducts. You can put galvanized steel ducts in the driest areas of a house. Meanwhile, you can install flexible ducts in out of the way places where they won’t be damaged, such as in an attic, crawlspace, or basement. If you work with a trained HVAC professional, you’ll end up with an ideal mix of durability and energy efficiency.
- Retrofitted insulation: If you’re not in a position to replace your ductwork, there are now options to retrofit existing galvanized steel ducts with certain materials. Here are your two primary options:
- Regular fiberglass insulation with a foil back: This is the most common choice, available in various thicknesses and in flexible or rigid forms.
- Bubble wrap duct insulation: This insulation is double-wrapped foil bubble wrap. It’s cheaper than the regular fiberglass variety, but may not necessarily be as effective as you want or need it to be.