When designing a ducting system, size is everything. The starting size has to be the outlet size of the air handling system. While there are many sizes available, the most common size used for homes today is 20 inches square. This provides 400 square inches of air movement. This number is important, as that quantity of air must be split up and sent to the various rooms which are to be heated and cooled.
For simplicity's sake, let us use the example of a house where all the rooms are roughly the same size. If this house has eight rooms, then each room can receive 12.5 percent of that total air volume, or an equivalent to what 50 square inches of the duct is carrying. This would necessitate a 5-inch by 10-inch heat register. Of course, most homes have larger and smaller rooms, meaning that the sizes of the registers and the branch ducts leading to them need to be adjusted accordingly.
There are several ways of designing a ducting system, including a perimeter loop, a radial duct system, and a trunk system. The trunk system is by far the most common, as it requires the least amount of materials and labor to install. A trunk system is similar to a tree trunk, with branches coming off it. As the trunk gets farther from the roots (the air handling unit), the trunk becomes smaller, with a portion of the air going off in branch ducts, to individual rooms and registers.
When installing ducting, it is best to work from the air handling unit outward, installing the trunk with all the necessary transitions from one size to the next. When using insulated duct board for the ducts, they are attached together with a system of S-cleats and drives. The S-cleats are used to connect the tops and bottoms of the ducts together. Each piece of ducting fits into a separate slot. Then, the drives are attached to the sides, bending them over on themselves to lock them into place. An end cap needs to be installed to the end of the trunk, unless the trunk splits to form branch ducts.
If metal ducts are used, they are designed to be connected together by a slip fitting. Short drill-point sheet metal screws are used to connect adjacent pieces together mechanically. The same type of connector is used for branch ducts, as well as for duct boards and flexible ducting. Trunks that are installed above a suspended ceiling need to be supported a minimum of once every 8 feet.
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