The best way to understand the importance of duct insulation is to imagine the inefficiency of blowing heated air through ductwork that's really cold.
If your uninsulated ductwork is located in an attic, basement or crawl space, the duct temperature will be the same as the temperature of these spaces. This means that your heating system has to heat up the ductwork before it can actually heat your living space.
On hot summer days, uninsulated ducts cause similar comfort and energy problems. The air that has been cooled by your central air conditioning system ends up being heated by the ductwork. You won't feel the relief of cooler air until your HVAC system has cooled off the hot ducts.
Duct insulation improves comfort and energy performance
Ducts can be insulated in different ways. Sometimes a foil-faced blanket is wrapped around the duct. In other cases, a duct run can be insulated with spray foam. A third option (with attic ductwork) is to add enough extra attic insulation so that the ducts are completely covered with the new insulation. A good way to determine which strategies work best is to have an energy audit performed on your house.
Duct sealing and duct insulation go together
Home energy experts recommend that ducts should be sealed as well as insulated, and it's very cost-effective to have this work performed at the same time. Ducts are inherently leaky, because of all the joints between duct sections and fittings. Energy is wasted when conditioned air leaks out of ducts, and when unconditioned air leaks in. Leaky ducts also create indoor air quality problems by drawing attic, basement and crawl space air into the air supplied to the living space.
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