ASHRAE, ADI launch duct size calculator

by Brianna Crandall — February 8, 2017 — A new duct size calculator from global building technology society ASHRAE and the Air Distribution Institute (ADI) allows HVAC air distribution system designers to more accurately size ducts, especially flex ducts under varying amounts of compression, based on research results.

The Duct Size Calculator is a quick reference tool for approximating duct sizes and equivalent sizes of sheet metal duct vs. flexible duct. The calculator uses information from ASHRAE Research Project 1333, HVAC Duct Efficiency Measures, and was developed with funding support from ASHRAE and ADI. ASHRAE Technical Committee 5.2, Duct Design, sponsored the project.

Chris Van Rite, developer of the calculator, explained:

While the calculator resembles a wheel similar to those used during the days of slide rules, it incorporates three new fields for equivalent duct sizing. These new fields help demonstrate the significant loss of airflow due to improper installation of flexible ducts.

The sizing calculator includes fields for 4, 15 and 30 percent compression in flexible ducts.  Van Rite notes that the calculations used to create these size references are based on straight line compression as performed in the laboratory on a flat surface.  Field-installed flexible ducts with bends, kinks and excessive lengths will have additional resistance, which will result in diminished airflow.

Van Rite continued:

The use of this tool allows duct designers to account for less-than-optimum installation and gives a more accurate design to installed performance correlation.

ASHRAE research has quantified the effects of compressing (not stretching) flexible duct, which increases the roughness and therefore the friction loss inside a flexible duct.  Airflow testing follows protocols prescribed by ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 120-2008, Method of Testing to Determine Flow Resistance of HVAC Ducts and Fittings.

Testing at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and at Texas A&M University along with data analysis by Tennessee Technical University has quantified the adverse effects of compression on airflow. Those correlations agreed closely with the equations published in Chapter 21 of the 2013 ASHRAE Handbook, Fundamentals, so the equations were used to create the new calculator, he said.

The Duct Size Calculator features inch-pound (I-P) units on one side and the International System of Units (SI), or metric, on the other. To order ($34 for ASHRAE members, $40 for non-members), visit the ASHRAE Bookstore.