Technical Corner: The Value of Coating HVAC Insulation

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Most air conditioning systems built over the last thirty years have air distribution pathways, or ducts, lined with fiberglass insulation. Unfortunately, insulation absorbs dirt and other matter, including microbial spores, greases and even oils. These particles penetrate the insulation, becoming entrapped and inaccessible for removal.

Due to particle entrapment, it is common for insulation to get dirty, and downright nasty in some cases. Even a slight bang on the duct work or unit sidewalls could send a cloud of dust and other matter into occupied areas. Listed below are a few of the problems commonly experienced:

1. Mold entering through the air stream is responsible for most objectionable odors encountered in systems. Entrapped mold spores eventually grow, due to the presence of humidity and nutrients within the insulation, causing undesirable consequences for building owners.

2. Organics, such as oil, can enter duct work if an air handler is located near a truck loading dock. The incoming air from around the dock usually contains diesel exhaust and other fumes. Some of these particulates, or fumes, may become lodged within the porous insulation, eventually becoming a source of odors.

3. Over the years fiberglass may lose its integrity. This results in small fiberglass particles being released into the air stream. In some cases, building owners can actually see black specs on desktops, which are later identified as being fiberglass particles.

Because of these problems HVAC contractors and NADCA duct cleaners often recommend cleaning and coating the duct work and insulation. As stated above, uncoated fiberglass insulation contains dirt and other matter that cannot be successfully cleaned. However, coated duct work is smooth and easily cleaned just by wiping the surface of the material. Additionally, sealing ducts with a coating eliminates the release of fiberglass emissions into the airstream.

Purchasing and recommending coatings can go a long way towards protecting your, or your customer’s investment, significantly reducing odors and emissions into occupied areas. For most building owners and contactors alike, it’s a win-win situation.

Lynn Burkhart is the founder and president of Controlled Release Technologies, Inc. located in Shelby, North Carolina. More information about the company, and its products, can be found at and by calling (800) 766-9057.

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