A duct system is often called ductwork. Planning (‘laying out’), sizing, optimizing, detailing, and finding the pressure losses through a duct system is called duct design.
Polyurethane and Phenolic insulation panels (pre-insulated air ducts)
Traditionally, air ductwork is made of sheet metal which is installed first and then lagged with insulation as a secondary operation. Ductwork manufactured from rigid insulation panels does not need any further insulation and is installed in a single fix. Light weight and installation speed are among the features of preinsulated aluminium ductwork, 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, then the parts are typically cut at 45 degree, 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.
Among the various types of rigid polyurethane foam panels available, a new water formulated panel stands out. In this particular panel, the foaming process is obtained through the use of water instead of the CFC, HCFC, HFC and HC gasses. And most manufacturers of rigid polyurethane foam panels use normal pentane as foaming agent instead of the CFC, HCFC, HFC and HC gasses, so do manufacturers of rigid phenolic foam panels.
A rigid phenolic insulation ductwork system is available and complies with the UL 181 standard for class 1 air ductwork.
Both polyurethane foam panels and phenolic foam panels are then coated with aluminum sheets on both sides, with outside aluminum thicknesses that can vary from 80 micrometres for indoor use to 200 micrometres for external use or high air pressure in order to guarantee the high mechanical characteristics of the duct, or then coated with aluminum sheets on inside, and coated with 200 micrometres sheet metal or pre-painted sheet metal on outside.
Fiberglass duct board (preinsulated non metallic ductwork)
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 “valley” with 45° sides; the valley does not quite penetrate the entire depth of the duct board, providing a thin section that acts as a hinge. The duct board can then be folded along the valleys to produce 90° folds, making the rectangular duct shape in the fabricator’s desired size. The duct is then closed with staples and special aluminum or similar ‘metal-backed’ tape. Commonly available duct tape should not be used on air ducts, metal, fiberglass, or otherwise, that are intended for long-term use; the adhesive on so called ‘duct tape’ dries and releases with time.
Flexible ducts, known as flex, have a variety of configurations, but for HVAC applications, they are typically flexible plastic over a metal wire coil to make round, flexible duct. 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. Flexible duct is very convenient for attaching supply air outlets to the rigid ductwork. However, the pressure loss through flex 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 to minimize turns. Kinks in flex 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, also known as air socks, duct socks or textile ducts, are designed for even air distribution throughout the entire length. Usually made of special polyester material, fabric ducts can provide air to a space more effectively than a conventional exposed duct system.
Fabric duct is a misnomer as “fabric duct” is actually an “air distribution device” and is not intended as a conduit (duct) for conditioned air. However, as it often replaces hard or metal ductwork it is easy to perceive it simply as duct. Fabric air dispersion systems, is the more definitive name. As they may be manufactured with venting or orifices for even air distribution along any length of the system, they commonly will provide a more even distribution and blending of the conditioned air in a given space. As “fabric duct” is used for air distribution, textile ducts are not rated for nor should they be used in ceilings or concealed attic spaces. Applications for fabric duct in raise floor applications; however, are available. Depending on the manufacturer, “fabric duct” is available in standard and custom colours with options for silk screening or other forms of appliques.
“Fabric duct”, depending on the manufacturer, may be available in air permeable(porous) or non-porous fabric. As a benchmark, a designer may make the determination of which fabric is more applicable by asking the question if the application would require insulated metal duct? If metal duct would be insulated in a given application or installation, air permeable fabric would be recommended as it will not commonly create condensation on its surface and can therefore be used where air is to be supplied below the dew point. Again; depending on the material and manufacturer, material that eliminates moisture may also be healthier and may also be provided with an active anti-microbial agent to inhibit bacteria growth. Porous material also tends to require less maintenance as it repels dust and other airborne contaminants.