Posts Tagged ‘ducts’

Are you Spring Cleaning and Considering your Ductwork? Ask why First!

April 7, 2014

Having your ductwork cleaned can be a good thing. With the arrival of spring some of us throw open the windows and start cleaning everywhere, but it’s probably best to find a pro for ducts. They have the right equipment and training to do a thorough job.

If you think the ductwork in your home needs a tune up, it pays to do a little homework first and ask why. Are they musty or dusty? Do they go through a crawlspace, basement or attic? Will you be fixing the problem or just a symptom?old duct uninsulated no airseal (3)
Duct cleaning is not a cure all, and in some cases, unsubstantiated claims are made from contractors taking advantage of our fears of mold and poor indoor air quality. Some unscrupulous contractors present pricing so high that for the same price you could get a new set of ducts installed instead! I’d suggest finding someone who understands that ductwork is part of a house as a system. In other words choose a home performance contractor to do the work, since cleaning ducts won’t help if they constantly pull dirty air from attics and crawlspace every time they run. That’s treating the symptom and not the problem.

Take a look at what the EPA has to say and do it for the right reasons, and have them cleaned knowing you are doing the right thing!


Cooling with Mini-Split A/C

July 25, 2011

With the monster heat wave we’ve been having, a question that has come up several times this week—how can I add central air if I have a hot water heating system (and thus don’t have ducts to move the air)?

Mitsubishi Minisplit A/C

Minisplit air-conditioning is recognizable by it's slimmer--and quieter--outdoor condensing unit.

The good news is that there is a great answer—ductless minisplits. And mini-splits have some big advantages going for them.

    • Mini-splits are some of the most efficient systems available, and you know we’re a fan of efficiency.
    • Mini-splits come in smaller sizes, better matching cooling “loads” in the house.  And as you’ve heard me say, when it comes to A/C, bigger is NOT better.
    • Not only do they come in smaller sized, but they can also modulate the amount of heating or cooling by varying the refrigerant flow to dial is the amount of cooler you need now, not just what you need on the worst day (see bigger is not better, above).
    • With no ducts, there is no duct leakage.
    • They are really quiet!
Mitisubishi Mr. Slim Indoor A/C Unit

The indoor units, while different than a simple grill, can usually be unobtrusively tucked away, like in this hallway, for instance.

    Mini-split systems have a different design aesthetic, and some people don’t look the way the look.  However, it’s often possible to tuck them in an unobtrusive location where they’re barely noticed.  And there are options like a “ceiling cassette” with is mounted above the ceiling with just a grill visible.  Ducted mini-splits are another option.  The allow you to hide the unit, in a soffit for example, and use short ducts for the return and supply air.  With the ducted systems, you can allow feed multiple rooms from a hallway, for example.

A mini-split system is often more expensive than bolting on A/C to an existing warm air furnace and duct system.  But it is usually less expensive than adding A/C and ductwork if you have a hot water system already.  And because of the smaller sizes available, mini-splits are often a better choice for a more efficient home—one where we’ve air-sealed, insulated, swapped out lighting and appliances for more efficient models, and upgraded windows.

So, if you’ve got hot water heating, whether it’s baseboard, radiators, and in-floor radiant, don’t sweat it.  Ask us if a mini-split might be a great cooling solution for you.


More bad duct adventures…

August 2, 2010

We could probably host a 24/7 blog highlighting nothing but poor duct work.  Again, from the all-too-common leaky duct category, is the following.  Your standard cloth duct tape may be good for holding together ankles and boots, but it doesn’t work for keeping ducts sealed–and it certainly isn’t intended to hold them together.  Would you rather cool your bedroom or your attic?

This doesn’t even look as sound as the cardboard cobble job.  Just use whatever you have on the truck…

Of course, we weren’t expecting much finding this creative installation–the furnace attached to the above masterpiece.

Caveat emptor.  [Thanks, John, for another round of beauties.]


It’s time to call a new HVAC contractor…

June 25, 2010

Syracuse Advisor John Scipione (we call him “The Master”), passed along a couple more doozies today, more examples of the real life conditions that we run across all too often.

From the “Joists?  We don’t need no stinkin’ joists!” Department, here an unwise contractor decided to figuratively cut corners, and literally cut a floor joist right out.  Folks, these joists are there for a reason.  Namely, to hold your floor up and keep it from bouncing!   The contractor also left a chunk of wood being held up by the electric wiring.  My inspector wouldn’t like that!  We can fix this, but you shouldn’t let a contractor get away with it to begin with.

And why fix an oil leak when you’ve got a bucket (hey, maybe BP should try this)?  An open bucket of fuel oil doesn’t smell too nice in the basement.  Probably a couple other concerns with that, too? 

If your system looks like this, get help!  And one lesson for today is make sure you choose a quality contractor.


More of what ducts should NOT look like

June 17, 2010

The previous poor duct examples of the last couple of days are unfortunately not as isolated as we would like.  And that’s what we often see duct leakage rates of 30% or higher–that 30% of the air that you’ve paid to heat or cool making it’s way outside.  Not very energy-efficient even is you have a 95 AFUE furnace or an 18 SEER AC.  You can good ductwork, sized properly, with smooth transitions, well sealed, and especially if outside your home’s envelope, properly insulated.

Dave Stecher and Duncan Prahl of IBACOS–a company that does research into how buildings work and helps builders and contractors do a better job doing the right thing–forwarded these doozies.  I won’t show you the whole house’s ducts, just a representative example:

Here’s a planned floor joist, hopefully (ah, hope spring eternal with shoddy building practices) directing air to a register.  Using joist and stud bays as duct work isn’t a good idea to begin with, even if done “well”.  These cavities are difficult to seal making leakage a problem.  And they’re not conducive to good air flow.  But picture this sheet metal filling the space (before it was peeled back), and you’ll get the picture of what it looks like.

Now, even when using sheet metal to block air flow, we find leaks at the wood intersections.  How well do you think sweaters and t-shirts work?  That’s what was stuffed on the back side!

Yes, a sweater and a t-shirt.  Not your standard building materials.  But I guess they were handy and installation probably only took a few seconds.  At the right are the articles of clothing.  I’m wondering if someone has a photo of a leg from a pair of blue jeans used as a duct run.  I’ve also got some old shoes and a bike helmet–any ideas how I can make them part of my HVAC system?

The fixed transition here gives you a better idea what the transition should look like.  The duct, transition, and boot are all directly connected and sealed.  We typically use mastic to seal, but the foil tape here looks like it is the proper type of duct tape (not the cloth stuff). 

And you’re much more likely to actually get the right amount of air delivered from your register.  (Not the actual register pictured here–but one from the same house.)

You can take the lowest bid or you can insist that the job gets done right.  The two often don’t happen together.  And if the job isn’t done right, you’ll usually pay more in the long run pumping your conditioned air outside.  Which approach do you prefer?


Bad Ductwork Continued

June 16, 2010

When it rains, it pours, and this could be a good string highlighting bad work.  Not to be outdone, Syracuse Senior Advisor Bill Meadows forwarded this duct masterpiece found during an audit.  Ah, to have watched that decision being mae…”Need better airflow?  Grab some from here.”

DIY Ductwork

June 15, 2010

As a follow-on to yesterday’s post about the DIY furnace horror story, John Scipione, a Senior Advisor in our Syracuse office, forwarded a shot of a furnace he ran across during an audit.  Many people know (and many more do not!) that your garden variety duct tape is good for lots of things, but not sealing ducts.  In this picture, sure enough, we can see some failing duct tape.  😉   That, however, is only part of the problem on this do-it-yourself duct job.  But at least this homeowner did find something to do with those old moving boxes!  And I do confess to a certain admiration for that can-do ingenuity.  Nonetheless, this example is not a good illustration of the fast road to energy-efficiency and a well performing home.

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