Your ductwork is one of the most important HVAC components in your house, office, factory or business environment. But without proper care, there can be some problems with your ductwork, especially with regards to noise, loss of heat or cold, and even condensation.
To address this, you’ll need a form of insulation and a duct liner and duct wrap are the two most common types available out there. But, which is better and how do they each work to provide needed insulation for your duct? Let’s explain each of them before we move on.
A duct liner is a fiberglass insulation material that is lined on the inside of ductwork.
Most of them are made with elastomeric foams which offer both thermal and acoustic protection, preventing the loss of heat or cold (as the case may be) and also helping to reduce noise.
Whether it’s motor and fan noise or noise caused by structure or airborne vibration, a duct liner is one effective option that helps to check it. Also, condensation control is one of the benefits of a duct liner.
On the other hand, a duct wrap is not lined on the inside of the duct but is an elastomeric foam wrapping on the outside of the duct. A duct wrap is often used when, perhaps, it is too late or practically impossible to open up the duct and line it.
It is mostly installed as an afterthought when the ductwork has already been completed and there’s a need to insulate against noise, thermal loss, and condensation problems, among others.
Duct Liner Vs Duct Wrap
While a duct liner and a duct wrap have similar benefits, they are quite different in application and use. We’ll explore these similarities and differences shortly.
What you need the insulation material for goes a long way to determine which you should get. Whether it’s a duct liner or duct wrap, the purpose of the insulation materials is to provide thermal protection, condensation control and noise reduction.
However, duct liners tend to be better suited for acoustic enhancement than duct wraps.
There is also a level of disparity in performance between a duct liner and a duct wrap. This is mostly seen in acoustic performances where a duct liner comes on top.
The noise reduction coefficient (NRC) is the most popular way of measuring acoustic performance, ranging between 0 and 1 (with zero meaning no absorption and 1 meaning complete 100% absorption).
The NRC value measures just how well a material is able to absorb sound frequencies.
Most duct liners have an NRC value of 0.55 to 0.85, compared to duct wraps that only manage between 0.35 to 0.60, but many manufacturers of duct wraps do not even reveal the NRC for their products, and the reason is simple- they do not offer sufficient NRC.
But, if noise reduction is not a factor for you, you can certainly use duct wraps, because they offer as much performance in the other areas.
Cost is another area of comparison here. Duct wraps are cheaper overall. The duct wrap material is way less expensive than duct liners, but this does not consider the cost of installation and labor which might vary based on the type of ductwork you have.
Generally, duct liners are pre-installed before the duct arrives at your location. If you want an insulated duct, this lining is installed during the fabrication of the duct and so they arrive that way.
On the contrary, duct wrap is wrapped around the duct after installation. This is a post-purchase process and would cost you some extra installation fees. You’d require not just installation but also insulation.
The mode of installation, as you should have figured out already, is different for the two duct insulation types. While the duct liner is lined on the inside of the duct, the duct wrap is wrapped around the duct.
The duct liner is factory fitted and comes preinstalled when requested, but the duct wrap has to be handled by you or a professional after the duct must’ve been installed.
In terms of effectiveness, you should have a problem with any of them. Although they may differ in performance in specific areas, their overall effectiveness is not in doubt.
It is obviously easier to maintain a duct wrap because it is easily accessible, but this also means it is easier for it to get damaged because it is exposed.
With a duct wrap, you can fix tears, dents or other forms of damage that could occur on your insulation without the need to open up your duct system.
Due to its protected nature and inaccessibility, duct liners tend to last longer and offer more value to users. As long as issues like humidity are properly taken care of and the thermal condition within the duct is right, they should outlast duct wraps.
Which Is Better? Duct Liner Or Duct Wrap?
It depends on what parameter you consider. If you’re all about effectiveness, performance, discretion, and lifespan, we’d advise you to go for a duct liner.
Have a duct liner pre-installed before taking delivery of the ductwork to save you the stress of uninstalling your ductwork to have it lined; this would be practically impossible.
However, if you’re more concerned about the cost of purchase, easy maintenance and have no need for high acoustic performance, a duct wrap may just be what you need.
In the end, it is largely impossible to say one is better than the other if you have not considered these parameters. Also, the brand is an equally crucial factor here.
Even if you decide on a duct liner ahead of a duct wrap, it won’t make any sense if you buy a poor-quality product. The trick is to know what you want your insulation to do for you and get the right product.
When Should You Use Duct Liner? When Should You Use Duct Wrap?
If you’re yet to buy and install duct work and you suspect you may need to insulate, it is best to get an already lined duct system. This will save you a lot of stress.
Also, if acoustic performance is a big deal for you, the duct liner is what you should use because they perform better at absorbing the noise by up to 65% in some cases and keeping things quieter in your home.
However, if you’re on a budget, it may be wiser to go for a duct wrap instead, because it is cheaper to install. Furthermore, a duct wrap is an equally high-performance insulation material, especially if acoustic performance isn’t a top priority.
Beyond that, a duct wrap is the easier choice if you have existing ductwork that’s not insulated.
As an afterthought- or due to a future need- if you desire insulation for your duct to protect against condensation or thermal loss, a duct wrap is the easier choice, because it will be difficult- if not impractical- to install a duct liner in an existing duct.
If you’re battling with too much noise from your ductwork, especially if you’ve installed an inline duct fan, or you need to secure thermal energy, whether cool or warm air, as well as control condensation, insulating your duct is one of the best and most practical ways to do it.
By following this guide, you should know which insulation product is best suited for your situation; whether it’s a duct liner or a duct wrap. Whatever the case, it is important you get it done properly to enjoy the best results.