Comparison of fabric and metal air duct

Nowadays, the ventilation equipment industry did not yet stopped to develop, and constantly moves forward, as a result of which literally annually new technologies and developments appear that allow improving air distribution systems and processes. So, now fabric ducts are increasing popularity in the HVAC market, which are gradually displacing metal ones. And below you can find a detailed comparison of metal and fabric air ducts, as well as a discussion of the differences and features of the both systems.

Ducts designs and materials

The air duct is a special channel system. Its design assumes the presence of valves that support the movement of air in the desired direction. There are the air ducts for moving air to the room (supply ventilation system) or out of the room (exhaust). Supply ones made for the constant supply of fresh air, and exhaust ones for the timely disposal of the used air.

As a rule, there are two types of air ducts – metal and fabric. They differ not only in the way of manufacture, but also in the features of installation and operation.

Fabric ducting

Fabric ducts are made from the hi-tec fabrics with special physical and chemical properties that are selected for each specific project in accordance with the purpose and operating conditions of the system. Fabric air ducts, depending on the customer’s requirements, can be made in different lengths, shapes and colors. The use of fabrics in the construction of air ducts began about 30 years ago, and such solutions began to be widely used for the last 10 years.

Metal ducting

Metal is a traditional material for the producing of air ducts for ventilation systems both in industrial facilities and in residential building. Usually steel is used for their production (black, galvanized, stainless). Black steel is most often used for the industrial air ducts, because this material stands out for its high indicators of fire resistance and durability. The physical properties of this metal guarantee high rigidity of the structure, and the tightness of such an air duct is ensured by welded seams.

Comparison of the features of metal and fabric ducts

Let’s check the duct’s features for the making the most efficient choice between the fabric and metal ducting.

Feature for the comparison Fabric air ducts Metal air ducts
Air distribution The even distribution of air is an important feature of fabric air ducts. Air flows are evenly distributed throughout the room through the diffusers due to the ability to apply perforations of various diameters over the entire surface of the duct. The size and area of the perforations are calculated based on the characteristics of each specific room. There is not ability to manage the air velocity through standard diffusers in the steel ducts.
Drafts of air One more important feature of the fabric air ducts is no ability for drafts of the air, because micro-perforation are applied to the textile air ducts, through which the air passes at a very low speed. Drafts of the air on the manufacture is the reason for the uncomfort and health threat of personal. So this kind of drafts is the real difficulty of the metal ducts using.
Use and maintenance For the cleaning of the textile diffusers, just take off them and wash in a ordinary industrial washing machine. The fabric does not lose its features and characteristics after washing. Metal systems are very difficult (and expensive) to uninstall and install for every cleaning, and also you have to be sanitize it when it hanged. For such work, you need to apply chemical to the inner walls of the duct under conditions of high pressure. This kind of work is doing by specially trained staff with using high-cost gear, which significantly increases the cost of servicing of the metal air duct.
Assembly and disassembly Light weight of the structure is the reason that fabric ducts are mounted on cables or guide profiles, which allows them to be fixed to various surfaces without changing the structural elements of the building.

The fabric air duct is connected to a cable or guide with a special fabric suspension, which allows you to adjust the installation height of the system in any area. Special plastic holders allow you to move the system along the entire length of the room and carry out installation and dismantling of the structure from one point.

Due to their heavy weight, the metal air ducts are mounted only to load-bearing structures or to structures reinforced with metal reinforcement, that creates an additional load on the building. Before installation of the metal air ducts, you need to be sure that the surface, the system will be attached is reliable enough. The weight of the ventilation structure itself makes more difficult all the processes of delivery and installation.

If metal air ducts are already installed, then removing them from the ventilation system will be an extremely time-consuming operation. Unlike textile air ducts, metal ones cannot be removed from one convenient point.

Custom design Textile air ducts are able to fit the interior design. This is another advantage of TEXAIR systems. Depending on the interests of the customer, we can provide a choice of various design options and a wide range of colors. And our air ducts with neon illumination are able to give your object an element of exclusivity by their unique look. This design solution will undoubtedly provide increased attention of visitors to any room. Metal air ducts are featured by a monotonous “lifeless” look, capable of awakening the emotions of melancholy and despondency. Any options for creative or even artistic visual design of such air ducts are close to zero.
Expenses Having fabric ducts, you don’t need traditional grilles as textiles already include custom air distribution elements without any unnecessary noise effects.

Delivery of textile air ducts to the installation area also requires significantly lower financial costs than in the case of metal ones

The work with metal ducts increases the costs relative to textile options at the each stage of the work.

It includes the cost of each component of the system, and the cost of installation, delivery and all other operations for the installation and maintenance of the duct.

Weight The textile air ducts have a much more light wight than metal ones.

The maximum density of the material is about 600 g/m², and that’s the reason why the average weight of a running meter of air ducts usually does not exceed one kilogram.

It allows ducts to be attached to self-supporting structures, where the use of traditional systems is unacceptable.

The relatively heavy weight of the metal duct makes it difficult to transport, assemble and install on site.

Plus, heavy air ducts put additional stress on the roof of the building.

Condensation and associated problems Another advantage of fabric constructures is that there is no risk of condensation. Due to the properties of the fabric and the perforation, moisture does not form on surfaces, which is a soil for the appearance of various microorganisms. Condensation in metal pipes is a big problem. Due to the nature of the structure, condensation forms on the surfaces of steel diffusers, which, over time, leads to corrosion and the appearance of microorganisms. If your manufacture is associated with the need to equip a clean room, then experts do not recommend the installation of metal air ducts.
Corrosion resistance For the manufacture of its air ducts, TEXAIR uses materials that are chemically resistant and inert to most components in the air. And for use in aggressive environments, or in enterprises where increased requirements for the characteristics of materials are imposed on equipment, TEXAIR uses special fabrics. Despite the fact of trying to use alloys that are the least susceptible to corrosion in metal air ducts, this problem of corrosion has not been completely overcome.
Noise generation Fabric air ducts are primarily distinguished by the absence of hum and vibrations during work. Metal air ducts are featured by vibration and their special hum during work, and it does not go in the best way for affect the condition of people in the close to ducts of the air ducts. And vibration damages buildings and reduces the reliability of the duct itself.
Noise suppression The noise created by the fan and the air flow is canceled by the textile ducts themselves, due to their noise absorbing properties. The metal is not able to absorb the noise generated by the air flow and the ventilation unit. So it is not recommended to install such diffusers in rooms where people work.
Fire resistance The air duct can be made of flexible fire-resistant material with a special silicone coating that can withstand temperatures up to 380 ° C Metal air ducts, despite the fact that they do not burn, can still deform under the influence of fire.
Hygiene friendly Textile air ducts can work with higher air velocities than metal ones and have a smooth inner surface. That’s the reason why no dust layer is formed in the air ducts during use. The fabrics used in production have a hygienic certificate, tested and approved, do not cause allergic reactions, and, respectively, are completely safe and are suitable for use in various facilities. A potentially dangerous situation is that a metal duct system creates an area where rodents or insects can settle. This often happens if you do not carry about regular sanitization.Plus, pests can easily move around the premises through the metal “corridor”.
Temperature range From -50°C to +380°C From -30°C to +200°C
Life time The service life of textile air ducts is more than 10 years if you follow the rules of using. Metal air ducts begin to rust after 3-5 years of active use.
Resistance to physical damage The fabric air duct can be easily damaged with a sharp object. Metal ducts have high mechanical strength
Easy-to-repair Despite the strength of the fabric, mechanical damage may happen during work of the air duct. In this case, it will be enough to simply sew up the damaged area, and the system will continue to operate normally. If a metal duct section is damaged, then it is necessary to disassembly the structure and repair the damage, and sometimes change the damaged section.

Comparison of the cost of textile and metal air ducts

According to the statistics, we got by comparing ventilation projects at various enterprises, the prices for the metal ductwork is 30% higher than for the similar fabric ductwork. The prices includes installation work, accessories and the product itself.

Metal ducting can be cheaper than textile ones only if cheap metal is used, the thickness of which is less than 10 mm.

Metal or fabric air duct – which is better to choose in the final?

As a result of a comparative analysis of metal and textile air ducts, obvious advantages are on the side of textile air distribution systems. Fabric air ducts are an excellent replacement for old-style bulky metal structures. Due to the properties of fabric, lightness of construction, ease of installation and maintenance, you can get a unique system that in almost all parameters is many times superior to metal structures and reduces financial costs. And this is even though not all the advantages and features of fabric and metal diffusers have been considered.

And the experience of the world’s leading brands – manufacturers of various products, which are constantly deciding the issue of equipping their facilities with new ventilation systems – confirms the fact that today textile air ducts have won the competition with metal ones in all directions of the comparisons.