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AIR CONDITIONING & HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS
A/C - HEAT PUMP CONTROLS & SWITCHES
AIR CONDITIONER COMPONENT PARTS
AIR CONDITIONER TYPES, ENERGY SOURCES
AIR FILTER EFFICIENCY
AIR FILTERS, FIBERGLASS PARTICLES
AIR FLOW MEASUREMENT CFM
APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY RATINGS
BLOWER DOORS & AIR INFILTRATION
BLOWER FAN CONTINUOUS OPERATION
BLOWER FAN OPERATION & TESTING
BOOKSTORE - Air Conditioning "How To" Books
CAPACITORS for HARD STARTING MOTORS
CLEANING & Legionella BACTERIA
CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS
CONDENSATION or SWEATING PIPES, TANKS
DEFINITION of Heating & Cooling Terms
DEW POINT CALCULATION for WALLS
DEW POINT TABLE - CONDENSATION POINT GUIDE
DIAGNOSTIC GUIDES A/C / HEAT PUMP
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-BOILER
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-FURNACE
DUCTS - Asbestos
DUCT INSULATION, Asbestos Paper
DUCT INSULATION for SOUNDPROOFING
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
DUCT SYSTEM NOISES
DUCTS, Asbestos Transite Pipe
DUST, HVAC CONTAMINATION STUDY
ELECTRIC MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH
EVAPORATIVE COOLING SYSTEMS
FAN LIMIT SWITCH
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
HEAT LOSS (or GAIN) in buildings
HEAT LOSS (or GAIN) INDICATORS
HEAT LOSS R U & K VALUE CALCULATION
HEATING SMALL LOADS
INSPECTION CHECKLIST - OUTDOOR UNIT
INSPECTION LIMITATIONS, A/C SYSTEMS
LEED GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION
LOST COOLING CAPACITY
LOW VOLTAGE TRANSFORMER TEST
MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH
MOLD in AIR HANDLERS & DUCT WORK
OPERATING COST, AIR CONDITIONER
OPERATING DEFECTS, AIR CONDITIONING
REPAIR GUIDES A/C / HEAT PUMP
REPAIR & DIAGNOSTIC FAQs for A/C
THERMOSTATS, HEATING / COOLING
THERMOSTATIC EXPANSION VALVES
WATER COOLED AIR CONDITIONERS
WINDOW / WALL AIR CONDITIONERS
WINDOW / WALL A/C SUPPORTS
This HVAC ductwork article describes the inspection of the defects in return air registers & ducts for heating or cooling systems (HVAC) to help detect duct defects like missing air conditioning cool air supply or return air registers, undersized air conditioning duct openings, improper cooling duct routing, cooling (or heating) air duct corrosion, leaky air duct connections, defective heating or cooling ductwork materials.
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The photograph at page top shows a single central return air duct located outside of the apartment which the duct system intends to serve. This installation prevents recirculating of air through the air handler for heating or cooling and results in poor air flow and increased heating and cooling costs for the apartment owners.Also see our safety warnings at INCREASING RETURN AIR.
Basement Air Handler, No Return Air Ducts, All Return Air Taken at Air Handler
One-Way Cooling or Heating Systems
Some retrofit HVAC installers simply cannot figure out where to place return ducts, so they are just omitted such as shown in the two photographs here. For example a basement or crawl space air handler may be found with no return duct connections at all.
Rather you'll see that the return plenum is simply open to the basement or crawl space. The second photograph confirms that wet, possibly moldy debris enters the HVAC system at this single point basement air return to the blower unit. In the foreground of the photograph you can see our Burkard (TM) air sampling machine being used to take a look at what the basement is sending into the home's ductwork and living space.
This forms a "one way" cooling or heating system - 100% of the air is drawn from the area around the air handler, cooled (or heated) and blown "one way" into the occupied space. This is the most inefficient design possible as well as possibly a dangerous one (see "Flue Gases" above).
Preferably return air is drawn from the heated or cooled space. Taking "new" makeup air from an unheated space, heating it, and blowing it "one way" into the heated area has to be a more costly way to heat a building. For better indoor air quality and as recommended by ASHRAE, commercial and large residential heating and cooling systems may include apportion of outdoor fresh air input to the duct system as well.
Attic Air Handler Air Conditioner Return Duct Defects
HVAC Return Air Duct Leaks & Obstructions - Theory & Practice
Pressure losses due to friction in the air duct system
Technical note: The D'Arcy-Weisbach equation for pressure and head loss can be used to calculate the actual pressure loss due to friction in a building piping or air duct system. The Engineering Toolbox provides the D'Arcy-Weisbach formula: Δp = λ (l / dh) (ρ v2 / 2) where Δp = pressure loss (Pa, N/m2), and l = length of duct or pipe (m) and dh = hydraulic diameter (m) and finally, ρ = density (kg/m3).
These Practical Considerations May Overcome Calculated HVAC Duct Pressures
Watch out: But keep in mind that even this apparently accurate calculation of the effect of piping on air pressure and airflow loss will not include the effects of obstructions in the building return air or supply air duct system such as the duct defects listed below.
Suspended Ceilings & Drop Ceilings Used as Return Air Plenums
A suspended ceiling is often used as a huge return-air plenum in commercial HVAC installations as well as in some older homes in which HVAC ducts were added as a retrofit project and/or where high ceilings were "lowered" in an effrot to reduce heating or cooling costs and to provide a passageway for supply air ducts.
But concerns arise in the suspended-ceiling return air plenum design, including
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Technical Reviewers & References
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