Sunday, July 13, 2014

Check System External Static BEFORE Sealing Ducts

I recently read a thought provoking article by David Richardson in the July 7 Air Conditioning Heating and Refrigeration News. In it he argues that sealing an undersized duct system can cause problems. The system cooled BEFORE you sealed the ducts, and now that you have worked on it, the system cannot move enough air to stay operating. I know I have seen many systems with marginal ductwork that still managed to operate, even if inefficiently. The duct leaks could be allowing just enough extra air flow to keep the system operating. The combination of leaks on both the return and supply sides of the system serve to reduce the static pressure difference against which the fan must move the air. If the static pressure difference between the return and supply is already at or past the limit the manufacturer publishes for their system, sealing the ducts will increase the already high static pressure difference and push the system over the edge. This is why Mr. Richardson advises taking a reading of the total external static pressure difference BEFORE sealing the duct to avoid this trap. If it is too high, the duct system will need more attention than just sealing – it will need some duct modifications as well. Better to know before you do the job. What is too high? I don’t like to see anything higher than 0.8” wc – that is usually the top end on most residential systems. Most residential systems will operate comfortably around 0.5” wc. Some will go all the way to 1” wc, but at a cost. With ECM fan motors you are burning electricity to shove air through restrictive ductwork. With PSC blowers you lose airflow at high external static pressures. This costs electricity in another way. The suction pressure drops, the compression ratio increases, and system capacity decreases – causing extended run times and inefficient operation.

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