CHICAGO — With model building codes mandating tighter and tighter ductwork, and with homeowners and building owners desiring increasingly higher efficiencies from their ducted systems, many new products have hit the market to help builders and installers efficiently and effectively meet those requirements. Many of those products were on display at this year’s AHR Expo in Chicago, where manufacturers showcased their latest product offerings and services.
Sheet Metal Fabricating
A significant number of homes in the U.S. are ducted with sheet metal ductwork. At Snappy Co., a supplier of galvanized pipe and fittings for the residential HVAC industry, the goal is to help installers provide the most efficient solution possible for their customers. This year, the company added laser-cut technology to its manufacturing process, which has provided precision fit and proven performance to the company’s product portfolio, said Harold Pinkston Jr., senior vice president, marketing and sales, Snappy Co.
“Energy efficiency is always of concern to residential homes and commercial establishments,” he said. “Snappy has taken a proactive measure to test our products for superior application in durability and performance.”
At Advance Cutting Systems, which sells sheet metal and steel fabrication machines, the trend is moving toward in-house ductwork fabricating. “With the HVAC industry, the smaller contractors are starting to pick up in volume versus the larger companies,” said Clinton Ray Jr., national sales manager, Advance Cutting Systems. “We’re also replacing a lot of competitive machines in the marketplace. One of our big claims to fame is we don’t use any proprietary parts or controls; all of our plasmas are off-the-shelf Hypertherms — we’re a big Hypertherm integrator.”
The company recently introduced the iFold, which features a small footprint and a price tag that puts it within reach of smaller companies.
“It’s available for less than $100,000,” Ray said. “The iFold is really becoming one of our hottest-selling products just due to its small footprint and price — it’s the lowest-priced machine we have. We came out with it when the economy started slowing down to develop an entry-level machine for our customers who don’t have the big pockets to spend. They need something to put in their shops that’s simple to use and doesn’t consume a lot of power, and we came up with the iFold.”
On the commercial side, fabric ductwork is gaining traction, largely due to its ease of installation. DuctSox Corp. recently introduced its SkeleCore Pull-Tight™ solution — a tensioning system that creates a perpetually inflated and wrinkle-free appearance at all times while also eliminating the sounds associated with fabric ductwork during air-handler startups.
“It has the internal framework inside of it, and it’s really redefining the industry,” said Nick Kaufmann, director of manufacturing and engineering, DuctSox. “We started with this by listening to our customers, who didn’t like the way our DuctSox looked when they were deflated. And, when it opened up again, it did have a noise that could startle somebody. So, we came out with this new system.”
Pull-Tight is a patent-pending, value-engineered product utilizing a combination of tensioning baskets and internal hoops to support, streamline, and tension the fabric system. Pull-Tight is suspended from either a tension cable or track suspension system. The tensioning locks, which are attached to the tensioning baskets and suspension system, tighten and lock the fabric externally into a taut, smooth appearance, the company said.
Kaufmann said the biggest advantage of installing fabric duct-
work is the time it saves. “We’re seeing people latch onto how fast they’re installed,” he said. “We have a national account that’s telling us they’re opening up a store two weeks faster because the ductwork went up quicker, and they don’t have to scrub it, prime it, paint it, etc. If you open up 25 stores a year, that’s like having an extra store open for the entire year. Time is money in construction. If you can shave time off of it, that’s a wonderful thing.”
While fiberglass insulation manufacturers still have the corner on the duct insulation market, bubble product solutions are reaching higher efficiencies than ever before, which is creating some competition within the market.
Covertech Fabricating Inc. recently introduced the rFOIL Big-8 Reflective Duct Insulation, which increases system efficiency and reduces energy usage and utility bills, said John Starr, vice president, Covertech.
“We’ve been making duct insulation for the longest time,” Starr said. “The R-values around ductwork insulation continue to grow; they were R4, then R6, and now R8. For a long time, bubble insulation manufacturers couldn’t get to the R8 value, but we’re marketing a bubble product with a value of R8. Most are using a fiberglass or a non-fiber insulation that goes around the ductwork, but some don’t want to use fiberglass because of the itch factor.”
The increasing popularity of duct insulation has helped boost Covertech’s sales over the past few years, Starr said. “People are choosing our product because it’s clean and easy to work with,” he said. “We are growing at a 20 percent rate annually, which is very, very good in a downturned economy.”
Seal it Up
Perhaps the most widespread trend in the ductwork market revolves around the development of sufficient duct-sealing products. Though the concept is not new, manufacturers continue to introduce innovative products to help prevent duct leakage in both residential and commercial applications.
Last year, Shurtape Technologies LLC introduced three new “classic” ShurGRIP duct tapes: PC 589, a 7-mil duct tape designed for light-duty applications; PC 593, an 8-mil duct tape for medium-duty applications; and PC 599, a 9-mil duct tape for heavy-duty applications. They join the company’s UL-listed DC 181 Film Tape, PC 857 Duct Tape, and SF 686 ShurMASTIC® Butyl Foil Tape for HVACR applications.
“Inspection and enforcement continues to expand across the country,” said Glenn Walter, product manager, building and construction, Shurtape. “Using our tapes is an avenue to guarantee you’re in compliance. If a building code compliance officer comes out and inspects the HVAC system based on the code book, it commonly stipulates that a UL-listed tape be applied.”
Walter predicts Shurtape’s sales, which follow building and construction industry trends, will be strong in 2015. “The first half of 2015 is generally expected to have fairly strong building and construction growth followed by a flatter second half of the year,” he said. “We’re basing our expectations for tape sales on that.”
From the Inside Out
While tapes and other duct-sealing products seal ductwork from the outside, Aeroseal LLC has been solving duct-leakage problems from the inside out. Aeroseal’s duct-sealing process puts escaping air under pressure and causes aerosolized polymer particles to stick first to the edges of a leak, then to each other until the leak is closed, the company said.
“Over the past 12 months or so, Aeroseal has documented a sharp increase in interest from large/tall building owners in duct-sealing implementation,” said Tom Holmes, director, building performance, Remediation Specialists Inc. (RSI). “This is attributed to a few main factors: increased awareness by building owners and property managers of the role duct leakage plays in energy costs and building performance, the availability of a solution to the problem, and industry reports of building owners regularly saving tens of thousands of dollars each year on reduced energy costs through duct-sealing projects.”
To meet that increasing demand, the company recently released SmartSeal 4.0, the newest version of Aeroseal’s commercial duct-sealing project management software. “SmartSeal 4.0 now provides before-and-after results for single air handlers or for the entire project in separate or combined reports,” said Neal Walsh, senior vice president, Aeroseal. “If duct leakage is low and sealing is not required, the new software will allow the Aeroseal technician to print a pre-seal certificate for the building owner’s records.”
Additionally, the new software helps contractors meet Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) standards and includes faster processing, an improved user interface for Windows 7 and 8, and improved graphics. The software improvements help Aeroseal customers save energy and money.
“The DOE believes virtually all existing buildings today suffer from severe duct leakage,” Walsh said. “The problem has been ignored for years because there simply wasn’t a solution. New technologies, such as Aeroseal, provide viable solutions, and building owners are beginning to take notice.”
Publication date: 2/23/2015