5 Things You Need to Know About Air Conditioner Ducts

Published on: July 25, 2016
Inside hvac ductwork | AC Southeast®

Because air conditioner ducts are an essential part of the cooling process for central AC units, it’s important that you understand how they work. Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about your Georgia home’s air conditioner ducts, including duct function, sizing, insulation, and more.

Duct Function

Central air conditioning systems use ducts to distribute cool air throughout your home. In a split system AC, the process begins inside your house, where hot air is sucked into the unit, treated, cooled, and blown back out via a blower. This blower is connected to the ductwork and relies on a system of duct tubes to ensure that cool air reaches every area of your house.

If you have a split ductless air conditioning system, your home most likely does not have ducts. If this is the case, your air conditioner works via indoor blower units that cool the rooms in which they’re located. Although the system does not operate with ducts, it still works effectively and is great for providing zoned comfort.

Duct Sizing

If your home has ducts, it’s crucial that all duct sections be sized properly. After all, undersized ductwork can cause inefficient and noisy operation, while oversized ductwork can be a waste. Your HVAC contractor can determine optimal sizing for your cooling system by performing load calculations and following professional methods recognized by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Manual.

If you’re having a new air conditioning system installed, make sure your contractor evaluates whether your ducts need to be resized or not. An upgrade from a very old AC system to a new one may require duct resizing and replacement. Also be careful if you’ve recently constructed an addition to your home or are adding a central air system to an existing heating system for the first time.

Duct Insulation

In addition to being sized properly, ducts must also be sealed and insulated. This ensures that you stay cool and comfortable during the summer and don’t get stuck paying high utility bills unnecessarily. When ducts aren’t properly sealed and insulated, your conditioned air can escape through leaks and waste up to 40 percent of the energy used to run the system. This can make your home feel hot and uncomfortable and cost you plenty of extra money when your utility bill comes due.

If you think your ducts are leaking, don’t attempt to identify or fix the problem yourself. You should always contact an HVAC contractor, who will evaluate the ductwork, repair any leaks, and get your cooling system back on track.

Duct Problems

Some of the more common duct problems include duct leaks, damage, and disconnection. As mentioned above, duct leaks are normally the result of improper sealing and insulation. However, they can also result from normal wear and tear. Sometimes the joints between ducts are sealed with duct tape, which naturally loses its adhesiveness over time. Damaged ducts could result from improper installation, rough maintenance checks, or weight being applied to them. If there are visible holes in the ductwork, this is a clear indication that they’re damaged and need to be fixed. Disconnected ductwork is often due to normal wear and tear or installation error.

If any of these issues occur, the consequences can include an uncomfortable home, higher energy bills, noisy air conditioner operation, and poor indoor air quality. For these reasons, it’s important that ducts are installed properly and checked regularly by expert HVAC contractors.

Duct Checks

Clearly your ducts are important, so make sure that you have them checked by a professional at least once per year. During this HVAC checkup, the contractor will not only ensure that ducts are sized, insulated, and operating properly, but also that all AC filters and coils are clean, the drainage system is clear, and the vacuum and blower compartments are working optimally. Remember: your AC system works as a complete unit, so its worth the effort to keep all parts working properly for the good of the whole system.

Never underestimate the power — or importance — of air conditioner ducts. If you need assistance with your air conditioner ducts or have any questions, visit AC Southeast® to find a local contractor in your area who can help.