Most HVAC contractors know duct leakage in commercial buildings is a big issue. And if the recent survey from Aeroseal LLC and the Building Commissioning Association (BCA) is correct, building professionals see the problem — and guess who they are holding responsible?
The results from the December 2015 survey jump off the page:
• 73 percent of responding engineers and other building professionals believe most U.S. buildings today have significant duct leakage;
• 75 percent of respondents believe leaky ducts contribute substantially to energy loss in commercial buildings;
• 72 percent have found significant duct leakage most prevalent in existing buildings; and
• 25 percent have found significant duct leakage prevalent even in new buildings.
A HUGE PROBLEM
Survey respondents were all BCA members employed as engineers, commissioning agents, facility managers, etc.
I am sure the results do not surprise many, as most commercial contractors are aware of this problem in the field. Obviously, the big issue with leaking ducts is the loss of energy. I have seen some reports that say duct leakage is the cause of nearly $25 billion annually in energy losses. However, it also leads to IAQ issues, health problems, and loss of productivity.
John Villani, who sits on the international board of directors for BCA, sees this as a huge problem, and he is pointing the finger directly at HVAC contractors.
“Systems are going in all over the country, and, in many cases, lots of projects are not commissioned,” Villani said. “The level of quality control is moderate, at best. Basically, the contractors bolt up the ductwork, put the clips on, and they move on. Sometimes a low-level person comes through with a duct sealant that is a paint brush and a can. That is what you get as your duct-sealing system. Where is the quality control in that?”
For better or worse, that is the perception out there. Are you doing it the right way? If so, there is a big opportunity for those types of contractors to differentiate themselves from their peers.
HVAC contractors are always looking for a way to differentiate themselves. Addressing duct leakage is a big opportunity. This is something building professionals are concerned about, so it should be an area of focus for contractors.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) ranks duct sealing third among all HVAC-related upgrades available to commercial building owners for significant energy savings. The agency’s Federal Energy Management Program also ranks duct sealing as one of the 10 most effective energy-saving strategies for both new and existing buildings.
“I see the sealing of ductwork from the inside as the easiest way to seal ductwork. I see that as a huge benefit to tackling a problem that could not be tackled any other way,” Villani said. “I don’t believe contractors, as a whole, are familiar with products like Aeroseal or have the awareness that these options even exist. It’s often still new to contractors.”
As with anything, the key is to do it right the first time. In order to have a happy client, ductwork should be installed correctly. Like most installations in the HVAC industry, many contractors are doing an excellent job while others are falling short and giving the industry a bad name.
The other part of the equation is the large number of commercial buildings that are currently out there with leaky ductwork. Those are opportunities for new business. Prove that you can solve the problem and make the building both more comfortable and energy efficient and you are telling a compelling story. Figure out what the best tool is to fix this problem and use it. Your company will benefit.
Publication date: 6/13/2016