Few homeowners have the knowledge and equipment to attempt duct installation themselves. It’s best to have a licensed professional install or replace ductwork. However, you can plan accordingly, which is important because ducts move all the air between your central HVAC system and each room. And depending on the setting, they also help remove hot or cold air. Here, we’ll explain how to plan for duct installation before you hire a contractor.
Your planning process should account for:
Your Home’s Structure and Layout
First, you need the space to fit ductwork. Otherwise, there’s no sense in bringing in a professional. Air ducts typically require two to three feet of clearance above a ceiling or below a floor, which isn’t always available in a residential property. If not, you can look at options such as building a drop ceiling (if you have high ceilings), using small open areas in the basement or attic, or installing a ductless mini-split system.
Knowing the components you need matters, even if a professional will install them. The ducts are major components, but you must also plan where air-supply registers, return grills, the supply plenum, branch lines, and other components will go. As the design process unfolds, here are some layout tips to consider:
- Ducts will be the only means of air distribution.
- Ductwork should be routed from the air source to the living space as directly as possible.
- Try to avoid installing ducts in unconditioned spaces, which increases heat loss.
- Insulate ducts that must be put in unconditioned spaces.
- Return grills should be installed on each level.
- Seal duct joints with mastic and fiberglass mesh; aluminum tape can also be used.
- For better sealing, ensure joints and register/grill connections are mechanically fastened.
Budgeting for duct installation can be tricky. There are lots of costs to consider. Before you even think of labor, variables such as the size and design of your house, the number of stories it has, and where ductwork will be installed must be determined. The number of vents, the duct material, and the number of temperature control zones also factor into the overall cost of installation. You can save by using flexible ductwork wherever possible, while the more individual thermostats you have for zoning, the more the project will cost.
Ductwork Design Tips
Optimal airflow means rooms won’t be too warm in the summer or too cold in the winter. Aside from ensuring ducts don’t travel too far, pay attention to how they’ll be routed. Route ducts through conditioned spaces whenever possible; that way, conditioned air will only leak into areas you intend to have cooled or heated. And use as much straight ductwork as you can. It shouldn’t be twisted or forced into tight turns, which can increase air resistance and reduce HVAC efficiency.
- Determine the Best-Sized Ducts: If too small, they can prevent the air handler from achieving the proper airflow rate. High air velocities will also increase noise. If ducts are too large, air won’t be distributed effectively.
- Minimize the Number of Connections: Ductwork can have a lot of pieces. But every connection is a potential leak point where conditioned air can escape from and external air can get in. Using fewer separate pieces reduces the chances of leaks.
- Design to Achieve Balance: Balanced airflow ensures as much air is delivered as is routed back through your HVAC system. Without proper balance, the pressure differential can increase air loss or gain through leaks. To avoid this, the return and supply ducts must have the same airflow capacity. A route from every supply register to a return register also helps achieve balanced airflow.
Finalize Your Plan
Planning for duct installation requires a careful home assessment. Once you determine there’s enough room to install ducts and where they’ll go, map out a duct plan. It is a visual drawing of where every duct and ductwork component will be placed. The representation should indicate duct lengths, locations of supply and return vent holes, and insulation. It will also show the placement of the air handler, furnace, and outdoor unit.
Once the project has been planned out, the contractor has something to work with and can often complete duct installation in a day or two.
Call Sky for Ductwork Services in Portland
At Sky Heating & Air Conditioning, we provide duct installation, sealing, and repair by licensed professionals. Our team can help with ductwork design and planning and ensure every component is properly sized, installed, and insulated to maximize efficiency. To schedule an appointment or learn about our special offers, maintenance plans, and financing options, call (503) 694-4665.