We've received a lot of calls of (panicked) HVAC contractors on this new code requiring duct leakage testing. Can anyone shed some light on this?  Do the requirements vary state - state?  Can anyone perform the test or is there a specific certification/training required (or does this vary by locality too)?  Any insight is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Tracy & Matt

CSC

Tags: code, duct, leakage, testing

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State by state, municipality by municipality - here are a few I know about

Georgia it is state wide & you must be a DET verifier, RESNET Rater or BPI certified (which is funny as they don't teach it unless you hit the HVAC cert)

Alabama it doesn't kick in state-wide until July 1st, 2013 & no one knows who on who is going to enforce it yet or the possible reqs. - Vestavia Hills already does require it & it can actually be completed by the company but most call in a specialist.

http://alagbs.com/duct-testing-alabama is my main page about the program which includes links for HO's & Contractors to get more info 

Thanks for the info Sean!  If I get any calls from your area I'll be sure to pass your page on. Training has been the biggest concern for our new customers.

Thanks again!

Tracy

Keep in mind this also applies for IECC 2012 and also references ASHRAE 90.1.  

So far only Maryland uses 2012.  

Depending on where you are in the country is to call your local building code compliance office.  As Sean stated it is very different from local (state, county, municipality, etc).  DET is GA specific and I have seen other standards being used at all levels of government.  It is really the wild west right now.

Jason Kaylor

AC Tool / Net Zero Tools

480-528-4045

Thanks Jason!

Tracy

Is the test leakage only or is there a requirement that they be sized properly also? Finally eliminating that one hot/cold room every house seems to have sure would be nice...

Bob, yes total duct leakage (rough in) and duct leakage to the outdoors (finished) are used as well as Manual J.

In conjunction with Retrotec we are trying to stay on top of this as much as possible.  It is changing very fast...sometimes (North Carolina for example) it can change in a few weeks.  I am hoping to have a newsletter that will be updated as events happen in the coming month.  There are a handful of governments (states mainly) that will be bringing on board 2012 IECC in the coming months.

Jason Kaylor

AC Tool / Net Zero Tools

480-528-4045

HVAC contractors should not be panicking. They should buy and use duct blasters and seal their ducts, and/or start talking to builders and architects about locating the ducts inside. Here in WA we now have duct testing requirements in the state energy code, and a simple certification is all that's required to perform and sign off on the test (at least where I work).

Last year, there was a series of energy code and duct testing trainings around the state. At the duct testing training I attended, the class was taken out to a house under construction to do some actual testing. The HVAC installers were there for the training, and their work was tested by the class... and it failed by a wide margin. Since then I have seen some definite improvement in the market as contractors figure out what they need to do.

This really isn't a hard process at all. The ductblaster and manometer are great tools. Just as in construction and the lack of detail going into the process, the same theories apply to  duct systems. Just as colanders don't hold water, a leaky duct system won't hold conditioned air. Once HVAC techs learn the process of sealing a system, this will all become second nature. The challenging part of all of this is on the retrofit end of things when we have existing systems that we are trying to locate leaks and actually get to the leaks to fix them. It would be my guess that a product will be developed that can be sprayed into a duct system that will seal it once it dries. I've worked with some HVAC techs just teaching them how to do duct testing without going through all sorts of certifications or long drawn out training. I'm in CT, and I work with contractors in CT, NY and MA and will be happy to help assist any in this area if needed. The biggest issue of all here is that tougher codes have not be in effect sooner, which is why we have so many problems now.

Why not use PVC pipe for ductwork? It would be water tight, zero air leakage. With tight building construction, you could put a 4" duct where a conventional system would have needed a 6". Since pipes would be smaller they would be easier to get into the conditioned space instead of leaving them in a hot attic.

Bob,

The issue is not the product. The issue is the installation.  I've seen holes in ducts, and those holes would be there in PVC, if it were used for ducts.  Someone would incompletely glue a joint, and air would leak!  As for trading sizes, that would be the manual D requirement.  Finally, your take offs with off the shelf PVC would actually hurt air flow process; not to mention the non-smooth inside of joints.

Glued joints on PVC pipe would be more "idiot-proof" vs metal/flex than needs to be taped/mastic to be effectively sealed. Take offs could be 45 degree Wye connectors, no different than used with metal ductwork designs. The real key would be engineering the PVC pipe into to conditioned space, getting ductwork out of hot attics is essential to a high performance design IMHO.

Flex seems to be king in our neck of the woods. It's rarely an engineered design, most of the time low paid installers just guess what goes where based on what is on the truck that day. Little if any effort is made to reduce ductwork surface area or put ductwork in conditioned space. Little consideration is made for length of ductwork vs. size, far rooms get the same size as close rooms. I suppose using PVC or even metal wouldn't fix these issues, just make them harder to resolve..

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