Among the several components that are vital for the basic operations of your HVAC system, your ductwork deserves some of the most attention. Responsible for transporting air to and from various parts of the home to allow for proper heating, cooling and air quality, air ducts are very important — and knowing how they work pays off for many homeowners.
When you hire quality HVAC professionals for themes like AC or furnace repair or replacement, or any other maintenance or upkeep services, air ducts will be one element closely considered. One theme it’s good to be aware of when it comes to your home’s HVAC ductwork: Which material is used. Here are some of the most common duct materials found in today’s homes, plus their benefits and drawbacks.
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The term “fiberboard” refers to ducts made of fiberglass strands bonded together with resin, with foil insulating on at least one side. It’s a popular option because it is moisture-resistant, durable and usually affordable.
The downside is that fiberboard ducts don’t always seal as well as other materials. Because the inner part of this duct is textured due to the fiberglass strands, certain forms of dust or debris may stick to it and affect air flow.
Sheet Metal Ducts
Typically made from galvanized steel or aluminum, the most popular ductwork material for today’s homes is sheet metal ducts. They’re strong and durable, don’t corrode or rust, and can be easily shaped into the specific dimensions needed for your home.
These ducts come with a thick, solid wall that makes it hard for dust and debris to accumulate and block airflow, making them energy-efficient. They’re also great at preventing moisture infiltration, which can be a big plus in climates with high humidity levels.
The main downside of sheet metal ducts is that they can be more expensive than some other materials. They’re also a bit more difficult to install, so it’s important to work with a qualified HVAC technician.
Fiberglass ducts are actually more similar to sheet metal ducts than they are to fiberboard ducts, despite the latter utilizing fiberglass strands. However, in addition to the typical setup of a sheet metal duct, a fiberglass duct will also contain an additional fiberglass lining to limit heat loss.
This lining also helps limit sound transmission, making fiberglass ducts a popular choice for homes where noise reduction is important. They’re also moisture-resistant and relatively affordable. The main downside of fiberglass ducts is that they can be less durable than other materials and are more prone to damage in high-traffic areas.
Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is a popular duct material because it’s strong and relatively inexpensive. It’s also resistant to moisture and corrosion.
However, one downside of PVC ducts is that they’re not very energy-efficient, as heat can escape through the walls of the ducts quite easily. Additionally, these ducts are known for emitting unpleasant fumes, so they’re not the best option if you’re particularly sensitive to smells.
These modern duct options are non-rigid, made with a steel spring coil covered in a thick layer of plastic. These flexible ducts are ideal for smaller, tighter spaces where traditional ducts wouldn’t fit.
They’re also adjustable, so they can easily be expanded or contracted to fit the specific dimensions of your home. The main downside of flexible ducts is that they can be less durable than other materials and are more prone to damage in high-traffic areas.
Knowing which type of duct material is in your home is a good start, but it’s not the only factor you need to consider when it comes to the health of your HVAC system. For more tips and advice, be sure to contact a trusted HVAC professional in your area.