When we talk about duct leakage, it is important to know that every cubic foot of leaked out air should be made up by a cubic foot of air blown in by the fan. That is why we need to measure its amount of air moving through the fan in order to quantify the duct leakage at the test pressure.
To test it, the standard pressure used is 25 Pascals, that is close to the operating pressure of a typical duct system. The number obtained will be an estimate of how much air leaks out of the duct system while it is functioning.
Two types of duct leaks can be identified which for understanding purposes they are going to be named “benign” and “ malignant” respectively. The first leak is the one inside the conditioned space, and the latest is the one that sends conditioned air into unconditioned spaces or suck unconditioned air into the system (we should pay closer attention to the last one)
Since each duct leakage represents different problems, they would require two different tests. The malignant leak tends to occur in ducts that are outside of the conditioned space, or outside the building envelope, in building science jargon. Therefore, its test is called the ‘outside leakage test’ or the ‘leakage outside the envelope test.’ The other one (for “benign” leaks) is the “total leakage test.”
As regards the way in which leaks can be found, there are several forms to do so. Some of them are more recommended than other considering effectiveness.
- Using a duct leakage tester and blower door together,
- Using a flow hood,
- Using a blower door and pressure pan, which is mostly used for diagnosis,
- Using a blower door only which is not recommended.
The main ideas behind using a duct leakage tester might be:
- Use a calibrated fan to pressurize the duct system.
- Measure the airflow through the fan with the duct system at pressure.