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HVAC Efficiency: It Might Be Your Ductwork

For some commercial spaces, remodeling becomes a way of life. As one tenant moves out and another moves in, its all about putting up new walls and creating functional space to match needs.

While the walls come down and go back up again, the one thing that never changes is the HVAC duct system. The US Department of Energy has stated that the average HVAC duct system is only about 60 percent efficient due to the many changes. That means air flow is not making it to the spaces throughout your building in an efficient way. Which leads to:
  • Hot and cold spots
  •  Drafts or stuffy air
  •  Extra wear and tear on your air conditioner as it tries to keep up with space needs
  •  Poor air quality
  • Unbalanced air pressure
The only way to fix these problems is to improve the duct work already in existence within your building, making it more efficient year round.
Design Mistake 1: Incorrect size and material
Commercial buildings have a lot of action. They may have been designed with one purpose in mind; over the years, that purpose changes. Load requirements may have changed for each room. Materials to construct the ductwork may no longer match with the HVAC system in place. As space requirements and room configurations change, load calculation should be completed each time to determine if the system is properly balanced to meet demand.
Design Mistake 2: Duct layout
HVAC equipment and ductwork design is not always optimized during the planning phase. Equipment may have been chosen because of costs, instead of functionality. Ductwork may have long runs with little break, or sharp turns that empede air flow for maximum return. Not only should duct size and layout be recalculated based on current building needs, it should also be reevaluated each time a major change takes place.
Design Mistake 3: Air leaks
If ducts are incorrectly sealed or supported, they can leak treated air into the walls rather than delivering it to its intended location. Ductwork materials are often chosen based on the budget, rather than the right materials for your needs. Flexible ducts may be easier and cheaper to install, but they aren’t as durable over time as sheet metal. As much as 20 percent of conditioned air can be lost when duct joints are not correctly sealed. Properly sealing your joints and reviewing the current system in place for leaks is one of the best places to start.
Design Mistake 4: Lack of returns
Chances are your ductwork was installed for a different layout than is currently in place. Which means the return vents for the air in the room are not set up to meet current demands. Both vents and returns should be recalculated and added to make sure the HVAC system is working at its proper level, no matter what the current room layout is like.
After reading this article, if you are concerned that your HVAC system might not be set up as efficiently as possible for your current layout, lets get started with a building evaluation. Not only can it improve the efficiency of your building, making your tenants happier, it can also help reduce energy costs for the long term.

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