Air ducts supply conditioned air from your space heating and cooling equipment to your living spaces. They also return an equal volume of air back to the equipment to be conditioned again.
Ducts are typically made out of thin metal materials that easily conduct heat. Therefore, uninsulated or poorly insulated ducts in unconditioned spaces can lose through conduction 10-30% of the energy used to heat and cool your home. The heating and cooling equipment then has to compensate for the heat loss and gain by conditioning additional air. This added conditioning raises a homeowner's energy bills. In addition, when ducts lose heat through conduction, rooms served by long duct runs can experience "cold blow" during the winter because they usually have lower heating-supply temperatures.
Ducts in conditioned spaces experience minimal conductive losses and gains since they are exposed to indoor air temperatures. However, these ducts may also require some insulation to prevent condensation on duct walls and to ensure that conditioned air is delivered at the desired temperature.
HVAC contractors typically insulate ducts using rigid fiber board insulation. Below is a table showing the recommended R-values by climate for duct insulation in unconditioned spaces.
a. Adapted from Modera et al., "Impacts of Residential Duct Insulation on HVAC Energy Use and Life Cycle Cost to Consumers," ASHRAE Transactions (#AT-96-13-4)
b. Insulation is also effective at reducing cooling bills. These levels assume that you have electric air conditioning.
Related categories• INSULATION TOPICS
• COOLING, REFRIGERATION, AND AIR CONDITIONING
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