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If you have central air conditioning or forced hot air in your home, you likely have ducts running throughout your home. Ducts allow air to flow through your home from your HVAC system to the vents in each room. Without ducts, air could not travel consistently to all areas of your house at once. Many factors impact your project costs, such as the home size and layout and whether you are replacing or upgrading existing ducts versus installing new ducts in a home without them. In general, replacements are easier and less costly than new installations. But depending on the layout and duct type, there can be a wide range of costs.
The national average cost for installing ductwork is between $1,900 and $6,000, with most homeowners spending around $4,000 for the professional installation of 300 linear feet of replacement aluminum ducts, insulation, and 10 vents and 2 returns. The low cost for this project is $550 for the installation of 50 linear feet of new aluminum ducts in an addition with one vent. The project’s high cost is $12,000 to install 300 linear feet of new ductwork retrofit into an existing home with no previous ducts, including 10 vents, 2 returns, and insulation.
|Ductwork Installation Costs|
|National average cost||$4,000|
The project type and service you choose impact costs. A new installation in an unfinished home has a different cost than a new installation in an existing home. Replacement costs also differ depending on the duct location and accessibility. And if you only have a section repaired or replaced, this has another set of costs. The home size also plays a role in how much ductwork you require and your overall costs. The costs below are based on the average needs for a 2,000 sq.ft. home. Homes that are larger or smaller may have different costs.
|Project||Average Costs (Labor Included)|
|Adding a Vent to Existing Ductwork||$150 - $250/vent|
|Installation in an Unfinished Home||$1,900 - $4,000|
|Replacement||$3,000 - $6,000|
|Installation in an Existing Home||$12,000 - $18,000|
The cost of adding a vent to existing ductwork ranges from $150 to $250 a vent. Adding a vent is a great idea if you do not receive adequate heat or cooling to a room. Sometimes, this vent may need to be a return vent as well, meaning that it facilitates the air returning to your HVAC system. This helps it run more efficiently. The total cost of your new vent is determined mostly by how long the run is, from the main system to this new branch. How your system is configured plays a role in how far this new branch needs to travel.
The cost of installing ducts in an unfinished home averages $1,900 to $4,000. In new construction, installing new ducts is fairly straightforward because the ducts can be put in before the walls and floors are finished, making the installation easy. If the home will have ducts, space can be left for them, which makes installation easier. In a finished home, there is often no space for the ducts, making it costly. But in an unfinished home, the ducts can be planned from the beginning. This means you can have a more efficient and optimized system, with ducts that are large enough to handle more air than may fit in an existing home.
The cost to replace existing ducts is between $3,000 and $6,000 on average. In a replacement, you usually remove old ducts that may be leaking and replace them with new ducts in the same configuration. This is usually faster than installing ducts in a home that has finished interiors but no existing ducts. You know if a replacement is needed if you have increasing energy bills, rooms are not as comfortable - warm or cool - as they once were, differing room temperatures, or rooms in your home are increasingly dusty. These are all signs that your ducts may need repair, sealing, or replacement.
The cost to retrofit ducts into an existing home ranges from $12,000 to $18,000. Installing ducts in a home with finished walls and floors, but no existing ducts, is a more involved process. Holes for vents and returns must be cut in walls, floors, and ceilings. Ducts often need to be run through and under floors, and if this is not possible, the installer may need to go through attics, crawlspaces, closets, and beneath stairs. This can raise the installation cost significantly. It may also be difficult to get ducts of the right size. Larger ducts handle more air, but they also take more space. Often in retrofits, the ducts need to be smaller than optimal to make space for them.
Ducts come in several types and materials. Not all are suitable for every home. Many people opt for aluminum, which is flexible and easy to install, but materials like fiberglass can be a better insulator, losing less energy. Most installations require several different duct types, sizes, and shapes. Flexible ducts should be secured into place with straps or saddles, so they do not sag.
|Materials||Average Costs per Linear Foot (Installed)|
|Flexible Non-Metallic||$6.50 - $10|
|Flexible Aluminum||$6.50 - $11.50|
|Fiberglass Duct Board||$6.50 - $13.50|
|Sheet Metal||$11.50 - $19.50|
Flexible non-metallic ducts cost between $6.50 and $10 a linear foot installed. This material can be made of numerous substances. Some can be made from insulated, recycled material that can be used to get LEED credits for a home. Others can be inexpensive non-conductors. This ductwork can be used for branches, tight spaces, some exposed ducts, and ducts in uninsulated areas like attics. These ducts come in several very bright colors, depending on the manufacturer. While they can be used for exposed areas, they are not always the best choice.
The cost of aluminum flexible ducts averages $6.50 to $11.50 a linear foot installed. There are many aluminum duct types, including uninsulated and insulated flexible ductwork. These can be used for branches, tight spaces, exposed ducts, and ducts in uninsulated areas. This is one of the more common materials since it is easy to work with and readily available. The insulated material helps achieve LEED credits. The duct shape plays a role in how and where exactly it will be used.
The cost of fiberglass 1 duct board ranges from $6.50 to $13.50 a linear foot installed. This material can be installed in place of sheet metal ductwork. It is usually rectangular, but some oval exists. This material is used for the trunk of the ductwork system. The trunk is the area that connects directly to the HVAC and runs to all the branches, which then feed off to the vents. Fiberglass ducts are insulating and can be used to gain LEED credits in some areas.
The cost of sheet metal ductwork is between $11.50 and $19.50 a linear foot installed. This is what the trunk of your system is made from. When the air leaves your HVAC, it heads out in a large rectangular or oval trunk, with the shape being dictated by the area and size. From here, it branches out. That is when more flexible materials are used. Sheet metal can be oval or rectangular, and it may be insulated, depending on the type.
The home size plays a role in how expensive the project is. Larger homes require more linear feet of ductwork to reach all the rooms and areas to be heated or cooled. Smaller homes need less ductwork. The layout also plays a part. Two homes of the same square footage, but with different layouts, may have different amounts of ductwork and costs. The amount of ductwork you need is not necessarily tied to your square footage, and there is no direct conversion. Instead, it is tied to several factors, including climate, airflow, and the size of your ducts and HVAC system. Therefore, one home can have a range of sizes and costs. Below are the average costs for installing ductwork in a new home, replacing ductwork in a home, and retrofitting an existing home with new ducts.
In general, installing ductwork in a new home will cost less than the costs of adding ducts to an existing home. This is because the walls are not finished, and the workers are more easily able to run the ducts, lowering the labor cost. Because the walls and home are not finished, there are no added costs for having to cut into a wall or having to make patches or repairs later on.
The home size is tied to the number of linear feet necessary for the job. Therefore, there is not a direct cost per square foot, but rather a cost per linear foot that is tied to the total amount of ducts necessary for a home of that size. Below are the average costs for ductwork for homes of varying sizes.
|House Size||Linear Feet of Ducts||Average Costs (New Home Installed)|
|1,000 sq.ft.||80 - 120||$800 - $1,560|
|2,000 sq.ft.||180 - 300||$1,900 - $4,000|
|3,000 sq.ft.||280 - 375||$2,800 - $4,875|
|4,000 sq.ft.||350 - 500||$3,500 - $6,500|
The cost to replace existing ductwork is always going to be more than the cost of ducts in new construction. This is because you will have costs related to the removal and disposal of the existing ducts. Depending on where they are located, your labor costs could be higher or lower as well, simply because the ducts can be easy or difficult to reach, remove, and install. Like in new construction, each home size will have a range of duct lengths, dictating the costs. Below are the average costs for replacing ducts in homes of varying sizes.
|House Size||Linear Feet of Ducts||Average Costs (Replacement Installed)|
|1,000 sq.ft.||80 - 120||$1,333 - $2,400|
|2,000 sq.ft.||180 - 300||$3,000 - $6,000|
|3,000 sq.ft.||280 - 375||$4,665 - $7,500|
|4,000 sq.ft.||350 - 500||$5,831 - $10,000|
Retrofitting an existing home with new ductwork is the most expensive method of duct installation. To run ducts in an existing home, you often have to make paths for them through closets, beneath stairs, and through the attic. This can be difficult, requires a lot of careful planning on the part of the installer, and may require opening of existing walls, as well as patching and refinishing at the end. This can lead to a wide range of costs for the project.
Like in other ductwork installations, there can be a range of linear feet of ducts needed for homes of different sizes. Because ducts are installed by the linear foot, the average number of feet used in a home of different sizes is what will impact the total project cost. Below are the average costs to install ducts in homes of varying sizes.
|House Size||Linear Feet of Ducts||Average Costs (Retrofit Installed)|
|1,000 sq.ft.||80 - 120||$5,332 - $7,200|
|2,000 sq.ft.||180 - 300||$12,000 - $18,000|
|3,000 sq.ft.||280 - 375||$18,665 - $22,500|
|4,000 sq.ft.||350 - 500||$23,331 - $30,000|
Depending on the home type, your ducts may be visible, hidden, or a combination. It is common for homes to have at least some exposed ducts in the basement or utility room because they move from your HVAC system to the finished rooms of your home. From there, the ducts become concealed in floors, walls, ceilings, closets, and other spaces. In some homes, such as lofts, all the ducts may remain exposed. The cost of installing new ducts fluctuates depending on whether the ducts are exposed or hidden. Hidden ducts are harder to reach, increasing labor costs.
On the other hand, hidden ducts are usually made of thinner, flexible materials, costing less. This may mean that the overlap between the costs can be significant in some cases. You likely will not be billed separately if your home has both exposed and hidden ducts. The entire project will be billed at one averaged rate.
|Type||Average Cost per Square Foot (Installed)|
|Exposed||$6.50 - $17.50|
|Hidden||$6.50 - $19.50|
The cost of exposed ductwork averages $6.50 to $17.50 a square foot. This includes the system trunk and the branches that reach the vents. Exposed systems are easier to reach but often have a nicer finish than hidden systems. More care needs to be taken if the system is exposed throughout the home, rather than just in utility spaces. Depending on how much of your system is exposed, your costs could be on the higher end for the entire project. In case you choose to have your ductwork exposed, Bob Vila recommends inverting in copper ducts, as they create a warm and elegant look. Moreover, since all homes have a section of exposed ductwork, the costs tend to even out when combined with the thinner materials used elsewhere.
The cost of hidden ductwork ranges from $6.50 to $19.50 a square foot installed. Most single-family homes have some hidden ductwork. While the beginning of the system is exposed, when it leaves your HVAC equipment, it will be hidden as it approaches the various vents. This means there can be a wide range of costs, mostly due to the different material types and how difficult the ducts are to access. Homes with a lot of insulation or ducts fed through tight spaces can be more difficult to work on, driving costs up. Some areas may be easier to reach, reducing costs.
Your ductwork may be run through many areas of your home, including the attic, basement, and crawl space. Depending on the home type, you may have different duct types or setups to consider. These things, along with the installation size, ultimately impact the replacement cost. Whether you need to replace the ducts only in a specific area or throughout your home, your costs vary depending on multiple factors.
|Location||Average Cost (Installed)|
|Attic||$500 - $900|
|Basement||$500 - $900|
|Crawl Space||$600 - $1,000|
|Mobile Home||$1,200 - $2,400|
|House||$1,900 - $6,000|
|Old House||$4,000 - $7,000|
The cost to replace only the ductwork in the attic of a home is between $500 and $900 on average. Attic ductwork is a common method of getting air to the upper floors of a home. It is also a good choice for retrofitting homes or for smaller spaces where the air conditioner needs to be installed on the roof. This ductwork is usually fairly easy to access and is often exposed. It can be of many different duct types and forms. This depends on whether this is a branch or the main trunk of your line.
The cost to replace the ducts in your basement averages $500 to $900. Ducts in the basement are very common. Many homes have their HVAC system located in the basement, so the ducts originate there, and then move through the rest of the home. Because of this, the ducts are usually exposed. They may be a combination of materials, depending on the job size, or they may only be the trunk portion of the installation and made of sheet metal. The project costs depend on the number of installed ducts there.
The cost of replacing ducts in a crawl space ranges from $600 to $1,000. Crawl spaces are also a logical place to install ductwork, particularly in smaller homes. This space is fairly accessible, although a little bit harder to reach than the attic or basement ducts. This means that the cost to replace ducts in this area is a little higher. Depending on the HVAC system location, you may have one or more branches moving through the crawl space. Rarely, you may also have the main trunk of the system.
The cost to replace the ductwork in a mobile home is between $1,200 and $2,400 on average. Mobile homes do not use returns the way traditional homes do, mostly due to their smaller size. The entire system is smaller, so the HVAC can take air from the outdoors, rather than needing it to circulate back to the unit. This means you need fewer ducts than a traditional home of the same size. In addition, mobile homes tend to be much smaller than the average stick-built home. This, combined with the smaller system, leads to much lower costs.
The cost to replace air ducts in a home ranges from $1,900 to $6,000. Many homes of all types and sizes have air ducts. This is true whether you use forced hot air or central air conditioning in the home. These ducts are usually a mixture of materials, both exposed and hidden. Depending on the home size, duct location, and material used, this can have a very wide cost range. The more difficult the ducts are to reach and the larger the ducts need to be, the higher your overall costs.
Replacing ductwork in an older house averages $4,000 to $7,000. Older homes are frequently more difficult to access than newer homes. The ducts may be retrofitted into the home after it was built, depending on its age. This means they will be placed wherever they can be, inside closets, under stairs, the attic, crawl spaces, and other tight fits. This makes the replacement more time-consuming than in homes where the ducts were put in when the home was built. In addition, in older homes, walls must sometimes be opened to reach the ducts. This can mean higher repair bills to restore the walls once the ducts are in.
Ductwork can be used for several purposes in a home. The same ducts carry both forced hot air and air conditioning, depending on the time of year. That is why it is easier to install central air conditioning in a home that already has a furnace - the ductwork is in place. Therefore, whether you use a furnace, air conditioner, or geothermal heat pump 2 that circulates forced hot air rather than forced hot water, you will use the same ducts.
However, air source heat pumps do not use ducts. They use tubes and separate air handlers instead.
The following costs are for installing new ducts in a 2,000 sq.ft. existing home - retrofitting them - and installing them in a 2,000 sq.ft. unfinished home.
|Project||Total Costs (Existing Home)||Total Costs (Unfinished Home)|
|Central Air||$12,000 - $18,000||$1,900 - $4,000|
|Furnace||$12,000 - $18,000||$1,900 - $4,000|
|Geothermal Heating||$12,000 - $18,000||$1,900 - $4,000|
The cost of installing ductwork for central air conditioning is between $1,900 and $4,000 in new construction. For an existing home, costs range from $12,000 to $18,000. To install ducts in an existing home, they need to be fit into any area that can handle them. This may include attics, crawl spaces, closets, and beneath stairs. It can mean a lot of finish work as well because walls, floors, and ceilings need to be opened. In new construction, the ducts can be planned for and installed more easily, so the cost is much lower.
The cost of installing ductwork for a furnace averages $1,900 to $4,000 in new construction. For an existing home, costs are between $12,000 and $18,000 on average. The cost of a furnace averages $2,000 to $11,000. Installing ductwork in new construction is much easier than in a retrofit. In new construction, the home is entirely open, and the ducts are planned for. In a retrofit, the ducts must be fit into any area that can hold them. This means the work is more invasive and costlier. If the ducts are already in place, replacement is much simpler and less expensive.
The cost of installing ducts for a geothermal heat pump ranges from $1,900 to $4,000 in new construction. For an existing home, costs average $12,000 to $18,000. Geothermal heat pumps take energy from the ground. They can be used with a furnace or boiler to produce forced hot air or forced hot water. When used with a furnace, you need ducts. Installing ducts in an existing home without them is very invasive and expensive. This is because walls must be opened to fit the ducts into spaces like closets and beneath stairs.
The labor cost for ductwork installation ranges from $5.35 to $7.75 a linear foot for most projects. For retrofits, installation costs can be roughly 3 times the cost, between $15 and $21 a linear foot, due to the extensive work needed in opening joists and finding the correct way to run the ducts.
Installing ductwork is a difficult and labor-intensive job that should be done by a professional. In addition to the installation, part of that labor is understanding the best positions for the ducts and vents and how many returns are needed to allow air to circulate back to the HVAC unit.
Every installation begins with a computer-generated plan that calculates how many ducts, vents, and returns are necessary for the home. If this is a new installation, the ducts are roughed in by cutting the necessary holes for vents and in joists to make room. In a replacement, the old ducts are removed, and then the areas are evaluated to ensure the new ducts can be installed there. If not, any rough work is done to modify it.
The ducts are installed beginning at your HVAC unit or furnace, attaching the ducts to the start collars. The ducts are run according to the plan, with flexible sections and using tape to seal and accommodate the ducts. They are attached at each vent or return, and vent covers are glued into place using silicone.
The ducts are sealed as needed to help prevent air leaks, with each piece folding back over itself, depending on the duct type used, and caps placed over the ends. Elbows are used to allow branches to move off the mainline and for returns to carry air back to the HVAC system.
The entire process can be very time-consuming, taking 2 to 3 days for a whole-house installation, particularly if this is a new installation and not replacing existing ducts. The replacement may take 1 to 2 days, assuming no major modifications must be made.
Ductwork is what carries the heated or cooled air from your HVAC system to the rooms of your home. Each branch of the ductwork terminates in a vent. This vent is what is visible within the room. It may appear as a grate, decorative covering, or a simple vent that can be opened and shut to control airflow. Vents cost $6 to $25, with large and decorative vents costing more. The vent size is determined by the size of the duct or return reaching that area. Returns tend to have larger vents than those used for blowing the heated or cooled air.
Insulating your ductwork helps reduce your overall energy costs. Many new ducts are already insulated, helping them be more efficient over time. Ducts that run through unheated spaces should be insulated, even if they are older ducts, as uninsulated ducts tend to lose heat. This means that some of the energy in the heated or cooled air they carry may leak out through the duct. Therefore, your HVAC system needs to work harder to produce the desired air temperature.
Insulation can be found in several forms, although the most common are fiberglass, mineral wool, and foil-backed mineral wool. The cost to insulate all the ducts in a home averages $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the level of insulation you choose.
|Insulation||Average Costs per Square Foot (Installed)|
|Fiberglass||$0.95 - $1.37|
|Mineral Wool||$1.45 - $1.85|
|Foil-Backed Mineral Wool||$1.50 - $2|
Rerouting or relocating ductwork costs between $35 and $55 a linear foot for materials and labor. Costs are determined by the ductwork type and its current and future locations. The more difficult the ducts are to move, the higher your total costs. In addition, when rerouting through areas that are inaccessible or require you to cut open the walls or ceilings to install the new ducts, your costs will be higher than if the areas are easy to reach. Finally, the amount of ductwork you plan on rerouting also plays a role in your final project costs.
Most ductwork does not require much maintenance from the homeowner. Keep your vents clean and free of any debris, and change the filter on your HVAC system regularly. Doing both of these things helps keep your ducts clean and in good working order. If you have construction in your home at any time, you may want to have your ducts cleaned afterward because construction dust and debris can clog them.
Otherwise, they only need to be cleaned about every 5 to 10 years. If you notice any mold growth, pests, or something blocking the duct, the EPA recommends to have the system cleaned. Moreover, during this cleaning, have them inspected and sealed if necessary to keep them in good condition.
Many different types of ducts may be used in an installation. It is very common for some installations to use more than one duct type. Two of these are flex ducts and metal ducts. Metal ducts make up the trunk of your ductwork. They are what attach to your HVAC system and begin the run to the many branches that will carry the air to the rest of your home. From there, the branches may be made of flexible materials, including aluminum and some types of insulated, recycled plastics. Flexible ducts are good for fitting into narrow areas, bending around corners and obstacles, and feeding through joists. Metal ducts are good for handling larger amounts of airflow at once. In most cases, you will find that your ducts need a combination of both to work efficiently.
If you want to install air conditioning in large areas of your home or the entirety of your home, you have two options - ductless and central air systems. Ductless systems use a separate condenser and air handlers 3 that are connected by tubes. These are also referred to as mini-splits. They are a type of air source heat pump that provides cooling. They are not as efficient at cooling in very hot temperatures as central air, but they are a good fit for homes in moderate climates.
Central air conditioning uses ducts to transfer cooled air to each room of your home. The system relies on ducts, so if you do not have ducts, you need to have them installed, which can dramatically increase the project costs. If you already have ducts, they can be used for your air conditioner without modification.
Of the two, ductless systems can be less expensive. However, if you have a very large home, you may need to install multiple units to cool it evenly.
|System||Average Costs (Installed)|
|Ductless||$3,150 - $9,000|
|Central Air||$5,000 - $12,000|
Depending on the type of pressure system your HVAC uses and the placement of your ducts, you may find that your home uses round ducts, rectangular ducts, or even a combination of the two.
Round ducts are often preferred by both installers and homeowners. They work best in high-pressure systems. They do not leak as much and can save you money over time. They are also fast and easy to install, so they cost the least.
Rectangular ducts, however, work best in low-pressure systems. They can also be shrunk to fit into more spaces than round ducts, which will always be the same diameter. You can change the length and width of a rectangular duct to help it better fit into small spaces.
Some homes use a mixture of both types, particularly when retrofitting and needing to move into a smaller space. In general, a rectangular duct can cost considerably more than round ducts, but very large round ducts may have larger costs as well.
|Shape||Average Costs (Installed)|
|Round||$2.50 - $12.85|
|Rectangular||$6.25 - $11.50|
If your air ducts seem clogged, you had recent construction, or have not cleaned them in a while, it is a good idea to have them cleaned and inspected. Doing so can improve their efficiency and identify potential issues. The average cost of cleaning is between $350 and $1,000 on average.
Duct Armor is a rubberized liner that can be installed or sprayed inside your ducts. It helps prevent air leaks and the transmission of allergens like dust. Costs range from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the size and condition of your ducts.
If your ducts are leaking air, they could be losing energy or causing your HVAC system to work too hard. Sealing your ducts helps prevent this and may make your system more efficient. It costs around $350 to $600 on average to seal your ducts.
If you have exposed ductwork, one way to conceal it while making sure it is still readily accessible is with a suspended ceiling. Dropped or suspended ceilings use a grid with ceiling tiles suspended in it. To reach the ducts, the tiles are removed. The average cost of this ceiling is between $955 and $1,510.
The average ductwork installation can take 1 to 3 days, but it may take longer if this is a new installation in an existing home.
This depends on the ductwork type and can be done by folding the ducts onto one another, using tape, connectors, or sealants. Most commonly, tape or sealant is used around the joins in the ducts.
You should have your ducts tested for efficiency. If they are very leaky, rusting, or have other issues, then it is time to have them replaced.
You may suspect you need new ducts if you notice that your energy bills are climbing while it becomes harder to heat and cool your home. An inspection and test of your ducts can tell you if this is the case.
This depends on the layout of your ducts, whether this is a trunk or branch, and how big the crawl space is. In most cases, yes, it can be used in this area, but it depends on the situation.
Not necessarily. Your ducts should be inspected when installing the new unit. If they are old and leaking, they may need to be replaced.