There are many factors to consider when you’re installing HVAC ducts. Each installation site has unique challenges, including the size and location of the building, the thermal integrity of the facility, the timeline and budget for the project, and more. One component you must keep at the forefront as an installer is maintaining compliance with appropriate regulations and building codes for each project you complete. There’s no worse feeling than wrapping up ductwork on a site only to discover the installation isn’t up to code. You face the prospect of fines and penalties for being out of code if the site comes under inspection, and there’s also wasted time and resources if you need to go back and correct the installation so it’s compliant. To keep your projects running smoothly and efficiently, it’s best to know before you start a project what the building codes are. Construction code is complicated, and it can be difficult to know who to consult as a source of authoritative information for code requirements for duct installation.
Table of Contents
- Are There Federal HVAC Code Requirements?
- State and Local Code Compliance for HVAC Ducts
- Residential Duct Installation Code Requirements
- Commercial Duct Installation Code Requirements
- Best Practices for Installers
Are There Federal HVAC Code Requirements?
The United States does not have a national code that applies to HVAC duct installation and insulation. These codes fall under the governance of individual states, which each decide how to regulate building construction requirements within their borders.
However, the Department of Energy (DOE) is involved in evaluating and providing feedback to publications from two industry organizations — The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The DOE requires that states review their commercial and residential building codes by July 28, 2023, and certify that codes meet or exceed the energy standards outlined in ASHRAE’s ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2019 and the IECC. If you’re an HVAC installer, you may already be following these standards. Some states you operate in may have codes that already meet or exceed the recommendations of these publications. However, it’s best to review your state’s codes and these guides to ensure you’re ready for any changes that could impact how you conduct business.
State and Local Code Compliance for HVAC Ducts
Each state determines its own building codes and how it will enforce and implement them. As such, it’s important to consult the appropriate state department or authority when you’re looking to ensure you’re following code requirements for installing HVAC ducts. Some states don’t have a statewide building code and instead allow local jurisdictions to determine the codes they’ll enforce for building, such as return air duct code requirements. In these instances, you’ll need to consult the local authority for construction code to ensure you’re compliant with code requirements for duct insulation.
If you install HVAC ducts in multiple states, you may be tempted to reference an online resource that lists the codes for every state. Be careful when relying on these sources. Building codes are always subject to change, and these online publications aren’t required to provide the most up-to-date information.
Instead, it’s best to visit the website of the state where you’re conducting duct installation. Navigate to the appropriate department’s page for the most accurate information, or locate the appropriate contact information for that department and speak with someone who can help you understand the codes that apply to your project.
Residential Duct Installation Code Requirements
Some states and local jurisdictions have duct installation code requirements for residential buildings. Because these are determined at the state level — and in some cases the local level — there are many different potential sources of HVAC code. Furthermore, states and jurisdictions can legislate and add or remove codes or amend existing ones.
As such, there is no comprehensive resource that lists every residential HVAC code requirement. You’re best off consulting with the local building inspector when you’re trying to maintain residential compliance. While it isn’t a legal code, The International Energy Conservation Code outlines energy-efficient standards of building for residential projects and should be on your radar if you’re installing ducts in homes.
The DOE will require states to certify that their building codes meet or exceed the IECC by 2023.
Commercial Duct Installation Code Requirements
ASHRAE’s ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2019 for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings is a widely accepted industry publication that outlines standards of energy-efficient building practices for commercial facilities.
Among other construction considerations, Standard 90.1-2019 provides energy best practices for commercial buildings. It’s not an enforceable code requirement for commercial duct installation, but it’s definitely a standard you should keep in mind as you’re installing ductwork. The DOE requires states to certify by 2023 that their building codes meet or exceed Standard 90.1-2019 for commercial buildings. This makes Standard 90.1-2019 an important consideration for duct installers, even though it is not technically a legal code. There are other commercial duct installation code requirements, but these are determined by the state and occasionally by local government and can vary in applicability to a given project.
Best Practices for Installers
There’s a lot to consider when you’re installing HVAC ducts and systems. Code requirements are just one part of the responsibilities you have when working on an HVAC project. Here are a few best practices to follow when adhering to the HVAC code:
- Follow industry publications and organizations: Organizations such as The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) regularly meet, publish technical and business guidance for HVAC professionals, and provide accurate and timely information regarding industry standards and regulations.
- Do right by your customers: Completing safe, high-quality, energy-efficient, well-insulated and environmentally conscious HVAC projects is an easy way to align with many typical residential and commercial HVAC installation and insulation codes. It’s also an excellent way to establish and maintain a strong reputation as a business or contractor.
- If you don’t know the answer, know where to find it: Before you start a duct installation, know what local, state and federal jurisdictions enforce building codes in that area. Ensure your project is code-compliant by following the appropriate information channels these government departments and agencies use to inform construction companies and contractors of new and existing codes.
Choose Hennemuth Metal Fabricators for Your Ductwork
Between ensuring your project is up to code and satisfying the HVAC needs of your client, the last thing you need to worry about is the quality of your ducts. Our experienced team is ready to fabricate ducts to meet your needs for your next residential or commercial project and provide the pipes and fittings to match.