Ductwork airtightness can be defined as the resistance to inward or outward air leakage through the ductwork envelope (or ductwork shell). This air leakage is driven by differential pressures across the ductwork envelope due to the combined effects of stack and fan operation (in case of a mechanical ventilation system).
For a given HVAC system, the term ductwork refers to the set of ducts and fittings (tees, reducers, bends, etc.) that are used to supply the air to or extract the air from the conditioned spaces. It does not include components such as air handlers, heat recovery units, air terminal devices, coils. However, attenuators, dampers, access panels, etc. are a part of the ductwork even if they have more functions than conveying the air and are therefore also referred to as technical ductwork products.
Ductwork airtightness is the fundamental ductwork property that impacts the uncontrolled leakage of air through duct leaks.
There are two major systems to classify ductwork airtightness, one based on European standards, the other based on ASHRAE standard 90.1-2010. Both are based on the leakage airflow rate at a given ductwork pressure divided by the product of the ductwork surface area and the same ductwork pressure raised to the power 0.65.
|Airtightness classes||Airtightness classes||Air leakage limit (fmax) according to the test pressure (pt) [m3.s−1.m−2]|
|Previous name||New name|
|ATC 7||Not classified|
|ATC 6||0,0675 x pt0,65 x 10−3|
|A||ATC 5||0,027 x pt0,65 x 10−3|
|B||ATC 4||0,009 x pt0,65 x 10−3|
|C||ATC 3||0,003 x pt0,65 x 10−3|
|D||ATC 2||0,001 x pt0,65 x 10−3|
|ATC 1||0,00033 x pt0,65 x 10−3|
In future revisions of EN 12237, EN 1507, EN 1751 and EN 15727 these new names will be used; they have already been introduced in EN 17192.
The relationship between pressure and leakage air flow rate is defined by the power law model between the airflow rate and the pressure difference across the ductwork envelope as follows:
This law enables to assess the airflow rate at any pressure difference regardless the initial measurement. Threshold limits in ductwork airtightness classifications usually assume an airflow exponent of 0,65.
The ductwork airtightness level is the airflow rate through ductwork leakages divided by the ductwork area. It is recommended to test at least 10% and 10 m2 of the duct surface including all duct types and a variety of sizes and components. The ductwork surface area is estimated according to EN 14239.
The airflow rate through leakage can be measured by temporarily connecting a device (sometimes called a duct leakage tester to pressurize the ductwork including duct-mounted components. Air flow through the pressurizing device creates an internal, uniform, static pressure within the ductwork. The aim of this type of measurement is to relate the pressure differential across the ductwork to the air flow rate required to produce it. Generally, the higher the air flow rate required to produce a given pressure difference, the less airtight the ductwork. This pressurization technique is described in standard test methods such as EN 12599 and ASHRAE standard 90.1-2010. In principle, it is similar to that used to characterize building airtightness.
An airtight ductwork has several positive impacts:
Duct leakage affects more severely the energy efficiency of systems that include air heating or cooling.
At construction stage, the airtightness of individual components depends on the design (rectangular or round ducts, pressed or segmented bends, etc.) and assembly (seam type and welding quality). Components with factory-fitted sealing devices (e.g., gaskets, clips) meant to ease and accelerate the installation process are widely used in Scandinavian countries.A variety of techniques are widely used to tighten duct systems on site, including gaskets, tapes, sealing compound (mastic), internal duct lining, aerosol duct sealing. So-called "duct tapes" are often not suited for sealing ducts, which explains why, in the US, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requires any tape used on duct board or flexible ducts to be labeled in accordance with UL 181A or 181B.
Typical reasons for poor ductwork air tightness include:
Sweden is often considered as a reference for airtight ducts: the requirements introduced in AMA (General material and workmanship specifications)starting in 1950 have led to excellent ductwork airtightness on a regular basis in Sweden.
In the US, there has been a significant amount of work showing energy saving potentials on the order of 20-30% in homes;and 10-40% in commercial buildings with airtight ducts
The ASIEPI project technical reporton building and ductwork air tightness estimated the heating energy impact of duct leakage in a ventilation system on the order of 0-5 kWh per m2 of floor area per year plus additional fan energy use for a moderately cold European region (2500 degree-days).
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is the technology of indoor and vehicular environmental comfort. Its goal is to provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality. HVAC system design is a subdiscipline of mechanical engineering, based on the principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. "Refrigeration" is sometimes added to the field's abbreviation, as HVAC&R or HVACR or "ventilation" is dropped, as in HACR.
A furnace, referred to as a heater or boiler in British English, is a heating unit used to heat up an entire building. Furnaces are mostly used as a major component of a central heating system. The name derives from Latin word fornax, which means oven. Furnaces are permanently installed to provide heat to an interior space through intermediary fluid movement, which may be air, steam, or hot water. Heating appliances that use steam or hot water as the fluid are normally referred to as a residential steam boiler or residential hot water boiler. The most common fuel source for modern furnaces in North America and much of Europe is natural gas; other common fuel sources include LPG, fuel oil, wood and in rare cases coal. In some areas electrical resistance heating is used, especially where the cost of electricity is low or the primary purpose is for air conditioning. Modern high-efficiency furnaces can be up to 98% efficient and operate without a chimney, with a typical gas furnace being about 80% efficient. Waste gas and heat are mechanically ventilated through PVC pipes that can be vented through the side or roof of the house. Fuel efficiency in a gas furnace is measured in AFUE. Furnaces primarily run on natural gas or electricity. Furnaces that are used to boil water are called boilers.
Ventilation is the intentional introduction of outdoor air into a space. Ventilation is mainly used to control indoor air quality by diluting and displacing indoor pollutants; it can also be used to control indoor temperature, humidity, and air motion to benefit thermal comfort, satisfaction with other aspects of indoor environment, or other objectives.
A blower door is a machine used to measure the airtightness of buildings. It can also be used to measure airflow between building zones, to test ductwork airtightness and to help physically locate air leakage sites in the building envelope.
A sound attenuator, or duct silencer, sound trap, or muffler, is a noise control acoustical treatment of Heating Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) ductwork designed to reduce transmission of noise through the ductwork, either from equipment into occupied spaces in a building, or between occupied spaces.
An air handler, or air handling unit, is a device used to regulate and circulate air as part of a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. An air handler is usually a large metal box containing a blower, heating or cooling elements, filter racks or chambers, sound attenuators, and dampers. Air handlers usually connect to a ductwork ventilation system that distributes the conditioned air through the building and returns it to the AHU. Sometimes AHUs discharge (supply) and admit (return) air directly to and from the space served without ductwork
Variable air volume (VAV) is a type of heating, ventilating, and/or air-conditioning (HVAC) system. Unlike constant air volume (CAV) systems, which supply a constant airflow at a variable temperature, VAV systems vary the airflow at a constant temperature. The advantages of VAV systems over constant-volume systems include more precise temperature control, reduced compressor wear, lower energy consumption by system fans, less fan noise, and additional passive dehumidification.
Ducts are conduits or passages used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to deliver and remove air. The needed airflows include, for example, supply air, return air, and exhaust air. Ducts commonly also deliver ventilation air as part of the supply air. As such, air ducts are one method of ensuring acceptable indoor air quality as well as thermal comfort.
Infiltration is the unintentional or accidental introduction of outside air into a building, typically through cracks in the building envelope and through use of doors for passage. Infiltration is sometimes called air leakage. The leakage of room air out of a building, intentionally or not, is called exfiltration. Infiltration is caused by wind, negative pressurization of the building, and by air buoyancy forces known commonly as the stack effect.
Industrial exhaust ducts are pipe systems that connect hoods to industrial chimneys through other components of exhaust systems like fans, collectors, etc. Ducts are low-pressure pneumatic conveyors to convey dust, particles, shavings, fumes, or chemical hazardous components from air in the vicinity to a shop floor or any other specific locations like tanks, sanding machines, or laboratory hoods. Ducts can be fabricated from a variety of materials including carbon steel, stainless steel, PVC, and fiberglass. They can be fabricated through rolling or extruded.
HVAC is a major sub discipline of mechanical engineering. The goal of HVAC design is to balance indoor environmental comfort with other factors such as installation cost, ease of maintenance, and energy efficiency. The discipline of HVAC includes a large number of specialized terms and acronyms, many of which are summarized in this glossary.
Underfloor air distribution (UFAD) is an air distribution strategy for providing ventilation and space conditioning in buildings as part of the design of a HVAC system. UFAD systems use an underfloor supply plenum located between the structural concrete slab and a raised floor system to supply conditioned air through floor diffusers directly into the occupied zone of the building. UFAD systems are similar to conventional overhead systems (OH) in terms of the types of equipment used at the cooling and heating plants and primary air-handling units (AHU). Key differences include the use of an underfloor air supply plenum, warmer supply air temperatures, localized air distribution and thermal stratification. Thermal stratification is one of the featured characteristics of UFAD systems, which allows higher thermostat setpoints compared to the traditional overhead systems (OH). UFAD cooling load profile is different from a traditional OH system due to the impact of raised floor, particularly UFAD may have a higher peak cooling load than that of OH systems. This is because heat is gained from building penetrations and gaps within the structure itself. UFAD has several potential advantages over traditional overhead systems, including layout flexibility, improved thermal comfort and ventilation efficiency, reduced energy use in suitable climates and life-cycle costs. UFAD is often used in office buildings, particularly highly-reconfigurable and open plan offices where raised floors are desirable for cable management. UFAD is appropriate for a number of different building types including commercials, schools, churches, airports, museums, libraries etc. Notable buildings using UFAD system in North America include The New York Times Building, Bank of America Tower and San Francisco Federal Building. Careful considerations need to be made in the construction phase of UFAD systems to ensure a well-sealed plenum to avoid air leakage in UFAD supply plenums.
A dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) is a type of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system that consists of two parallel systems: a dedicated system for delivering outdoor air ventilation that handles both the latent and sensible loads of conditioning the ventilation air, and a parallel system to handle the loads generated by indoor/process sources and those that pass through the building enclosure.
A duct leakage tester is a diagnostic tool designed to measure the airtightness of forced air heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) ductwork. A duct leakage tester consists of a calibrated fan for measuring an air flow rate and a pressure sensing device to measure the pressure created by the fan flow. The combination of pressure and fan flow measurements are used to determine the ductwork airtightness. The airtightness of ductwork is useful knowledge when trying to improve energy conservation.
Airflow, or air flow, is the movement of air. The primary cause of airflow is the existence of air. Air behaves in a fluid manner, meaning particles naturally flow from areas of higher pressure to those where the pressure is lower. Atmospheric air pressure is directly related to altitude, temperature, and composition.
The Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) is a model code developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to govern the installation, inspection and maintenance of HVAC and refrigeration systems. It is designated as an American National Standard.
Building airtightness can be defined as the resistance to inward or outward air leakage through unintentional leakage points or areas in the building envelope. This air leakage is driven by differential pressures across the building envelope due to the combined effects of stack, external wind and mechanical ventilation systems.
TightVent Europe is a platform, formed in January 2011, with a focus on building and ductwork airtightness issues. The creation of the platform was triggered by the need for a strong and concerted initiative to meet the Directive on the energy performance of buildings ambitious targets for the year 2020 and overcome the challenges in relation to the envelope and ductwork leakage towards the generalization of nearly zero-energy buildings. The platform’s main activities, among others, include the production and dissemination of policy oriented publications, networking among local or national airtightness associations, as well as the organization of conferences, workshops and webinars.
The Indoor Environmental Quality Global Alliance (IEQ-GA) was initiated in 2014 aiming to improve the actual, delivered indoor environmental quality in buildings through coordination, education, outreach and advocacy. The alliance works to supply information, guidelines and knowledge on the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in buildings and workplaces, and to provide occupants in buildings and workplaces with an acceptable indoor environmental quality and help promote implementation in practice of knowledge from research on the field.
Ventilative cooling is the use of natural or mechanical ventilation to cool indoor spaces. The use of outside air reduces the cooling load and the energy consumption of these systems, while maintaining high quality indoor conditions; passive ventilative cooling may eliminate energy consumption. Ventilative cooling strategies are applied in a wide range of buildings and may even be critical to realize renovated or new high efficient buildings and zero-energy buildings (ZEBs). Ventilation is present in buildings mainly for air quality reasons. It can be used additionally to remove both excess heat gains, as well as increase the velocity of the air and thereby widen the thermal comfort range. Ventilative cooling is assessed by long-term evaluation indices. Ventilative cooling is dependent on the availability of appropriate external conditions and on the thermal physical characteristics of the building.