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ATTIC CONDENSATION: Out of Sight-Out of Mind?

Attic Condensation
Reading Time: 3 minutes

One of the biggest expenses a home owner can face is the inevitable need to replace the air conditioner in their home. While we know on the average an air conditioning system is going to need to be replaced every fifteen years or so, we give very little thought to the duct work that delivers the air throughout our castles until there is a problem. Typical duct systems are original to when the home was built and are often times thirty to forty years old when they start giving you problems.

Let’s start with an example we can all relate to. If you take an ice cold can of soda out of the refrigerator and set it on the patio table what happens? It of course starts to form condensation on the outside of the can because the can is cold in a very hot environment. One of the very first signs that you may need to take a look at the condition of the duct work in your home is if you see moisture or condensation starting to form on any of the supply vents. Again, the ducts are probably leaking cold air out into the hot attic environment and you get the unwanted wetness.

Ducts-in-insulationNext up, are the ducts hung properly in the attic? If the straps that hold the duct work suspended in the attic have failed and the duct work is laying in the insulation you can get condensation issues. This is because the bottom of the duct gets very cold as it is touching the insulation and the problem begins. Below is a thermal image of a duct laying in attic insulation, and all the purplish blue is the extra coldness causing the condensation problem.

In homes that were constructed during the 1960’s to the 1980’s we often find metal duct work. Back in the day metal was the go-to-material for duct work. It was then wrapped in batted fiberglass insulation and the seams were then sealed with roof tar. This method was primitive however it was effective for the time. The issue with the old metal ducts is that the seams eventually begin to deteriorate due to the Death Valley like extreme heat conditions of the attic, and the exposed metal then begins the condensation process. Very often we cannot reseal the ducts due to the way they were originally installed and because of the tightness of the duct system to the trusses in the attic. At that point, there is no option other than complete duct replacement.

Duct systems are often ignored (out-of-sight = out-of-mind) and one of the greatest disservices an air conditioning contractor can do is to not discuss the duct work with the client when installing a new air conditioner. The power and efficiency of today’s air conditioner is much different than it was even twenty years ago, and hooking up to old duct systems will inevitably result in problems. The best analogy I can give you is if you took a 1973 Pinto and tried to put a Ford 457 HP V-8 engine in it. Probably not going to work the way you want it! As always, I am a phone call away if you think you are having issues with ducts in your home. We can offer and provide a wide variety of solutions to not only improve the overall cooling in your domicile, but we may even save you a little money in the process.

In the world of useless trivia, a friend of mine texted me the other day asking, “Did you know there are a million ants in the world for every one human?” I know I have strange friends!

House Whisperer out!!


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