In the HVAC world, the average homeowner is likely to encounter a variety of unfamiliar parts. While a damper is used in a variety of commercial air handling applications, they are also found in millions of residential homes. Simply put, there is more than one style of HVAC damper and we’re going to break down the most common styles in this guide.
What are HVAC Dampers?
A damper, in any form, is a device that’s used to help regulate airflow. Most have a simple design that consists of only a few moving parts, but their purpose remains the same. Dampers can be used to cut off airflow to an unused part of your home, and are far more effective than closing the vents off in a series of rooms.
Using a damper properly throughout the summer and winter will help you save a significant amount on your energy bills while ensuring heat and cool air go where they are needed. It’s also something you won’t find in every abode, although common with multiple-story homes. With that in mind, all dampers fall into one of two categories with manual and automatic HVAC dampers.
Types of HVAC Dampers
Every damper found in air conditioning, heating systems, or other air-handling devices is either controlled manually or automatically. The type of damper not only has an effect on the price but can also impact performance.
A manual damper is the most common type of HVAC damper used in residential homes today. They are straightforward to use with only a small lever or nut that allows you to manually adjust the airflow. These dampers can be located on the branches of an air handling system, but may not always be easy to access.
A big advantage to manual dampers is the fact they are cost-efficient, which gives you more control over zones in your home without breaking the bank. Quality is key, however, or you could end up with a noisy damper or broken handle after a year of steady use. For ductwork with exterior insulation, you’ll want a manual damper with a stand-off handle like this one from The Sheet Metal Kid.
Dampers that are automatic or motorized are often referred to as zone dampers. On high-end systems, there may be a damper and thermostat in each zone along with a control panel to tie it all together. This type of damper automatically opens and closes the dampers based on your settings, and can provide optimum comfort in any section of a home.
Motorized dampers are more expensive up front and can be pricey to install as well considering pressure relief needs to be taken into account via a bypass damper or other methods. Barometric dampers technically fall into this category as well. While not motorized, a small weight will adjust the damper when a set point of barometric pressure has been reached.
HVAC Damper Design Types
While all dampers are essentially manual or automatic, the design of the damper itself has an impact on performance and how it functions. There are around a half-dozen styles in production today, and the simplest is the most basic style on our list.
- Volume Damper – The most basic style of damper used in residential homes today is called volume or. These louver dampers are affordable, simple to operate, and generally made from galvanized steel. Volume dampers can handle large volumes of airflow on any branch in your system.
- Butterfly Damper – Whereas a volume damper is simple, butterfly dampers take things one step further Also referred to as a backdraft damper, they can prevent air from flowing backward by completely cutting off airflow with one or more blades. They are more effective in blocking airflow than a volume damper, which makes them ideal for applications where fire is a concern.
While those are two of the most commonly used dampers in residential HVAC installations, there are other options available in the commercial field like guillotine and inlet vane dampers. Regardless of what type of damper is used in a home, it’s important to keep the materials in mind along with the gauge thickness for maximum efficiency.
HVAC Damper Price and Installation Cost
If you don’t have a damper in your home or are simply considered a more efficient replacement, the price table will give you an idea of the damper cost. Replacing an existing damper is fairly straightforward provided it’s the right size, but things can get tricky if you plan on adding a new damper to a branch.
Sheet Metal Kid
12” x 8”
Unless you’re familiar with industry standards and things like maximum
While thermostats help control the temperature in your home, a few high-quality dampers will give you total control of the airflow. Choosing the right style for your needs is crucial, however, or you could experience ineffective or noisy dampers.
Q: Do I need an HVAC damper in my home?
A: Dampers are typically used in multi-story homes, and crucial in zoned HVAC systems. They can be highly effective in any home where you want to divert or cut-off, not restrict airflow.
Q: Should you have a damper on every vent?
A: In most cases, it’s not necessary but something that an HVAC professional decides depending on your needs and system.
Q: Where are HVAC dampers located?
A: Dampers are usually located on the branches of an HVAC system in an attic or basement of traditional homes.
Q: How long will a damper last?
A: It depends on the type of damper. Mechanical dampers have very few parts, most of which can be easily replaced if needed. Automatic dampers can experience motor failure as well, so longevity usually comes down to the installation and thickness of the metal used.
Q: Can dampers be installed vertically and horizontally?
A: Yes, but only if it’s a damper designed for use in both types of installation.