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The Key to Airflow Control: A Dive into Various Types of HVAC Dampers

In the world of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, ensuring optimal airflow is critical. Without airflow being balanced, different rooms or areas in a distribution system will receive too much or too little airflow. Unbalanced airflow leads to areas that are too hot or too cold and leaves occupants uncomfortable. When a crisis occurs, stopping airflow is also critical to slowing down fires and saving lives.

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One key component in ensuring HVAC systems keep buildings consistently comfortable and safe is the damper. These critical devices regulate and control the amount of air that flows through your HVAC system, and helps to maintain your desired indoor climate while maximizing efficiency. This article provides an overview of the various types of dampers utilized in HVAC systems.

What is a Damper?

In the simplest terms, a damper is a critical component in an HVAC system that controls the flow of air. HVAC systems use ductwork to distribute conditioned air throughout a building. Dampers are placed in the ductwork to regulate and fine-tune the airflow movement. Balancing airflow ensures smooth and efficient climate control. By controlling the amount of heated or cooled air passing through the HVAC ducts, dampers work to deliver the desired air quality.

Common Types of Dampers

There are a variety of dampers, each that serve different purposes and applications. The two most common types are manual and automatic dampers, and each has its unique benefits and use in HVAC applications.

Manual Dampers

Manual dampers are controlled by levers located outside of the damper body. The dampers in a manual system are designed to allow operators to intuitively control airflow through the system. They tend to be straightforward in design, relatively durable, and maintenance-free. When setting up a new HVAC system, manual dampers are adjusted to ensure proper airflow throughout the building.

However, manual dampers do not offer the precision control that their automatic counterparts do. They cannot be operated remotely, which can create challenges in facilities where HVAC systems are mounted on or near ceilings. Manual dampers are often set once and then not revisited unless a problem occurs.

Automatic Dampers

Automatic dampers, on the other hand, utilize different motors to open and close the damper. The main difference between automatic and manual dampers is that systems can be controlled remotely and can self-regulate with some types of damper.

Specialty Dampers

In addition to manual and automatic dampers for controlling airflow, specialty dampers are available to address specific situations. Common specialty dampers include:

  • Fire dampers
  • Smoke dampers
  • Combination fire/smoke dampers
  • Blast dampers
  • Backdraft dampers

Fire and smoke dampers are similar in their purpose, but work a bit differently. Fire dampers are activated by heat and often have a thermal fuse that melts when exposed to certain temperatures. After melting, the damper slams shut and prevents airflow, or fire, from spreading through the ductwork. Fire dampers are often used at wall penetrations to maintain the fire rating of a wall.

Smoke dampers react not to temperature, but to the presence of smoke. Smoke dampers help keep smoke from being distributed throughout a building by the HVAC system. When smoke occurs, HVAC systems must shut down quickly to keep people safe. Blast dampers work similarly to keep building occupants safe. When an explosion occurs external to the building, a shockwave travels that can enter ductwork.

Blast dampers are spring-loaded and when the pressure from a shockwave is stronger than the spring force, the blast dampers are closed. Many industrial buildings have blast dampers to keep their buildings strengthened against machinery failures.

When fan failure occurs or simply when HVAC fans are turned off, backdrafts can occur where air tries to flow in the reverse. Backdraft dampers are typically spring-loaded to operate. Air is allowed to flow one way through a backdraft damper and is then closed if the airflow stops, to prevent backdrafts.

United Enertech: Your Damper Experts

Dampers play a critical role in the optimal functioning of an HVAC system. Whether manual or automatic, they provide invaluable service in the regulation and control of airflow, and will contribute significantly to the efficiency and effectiveness of your heating and cooling needs.

United Enertech offers a broad array of dampers for commercial and industrial applications. Their selection includes UL-listed dampers, balancing/regulating dampers, and standard dampers.

If you're looking to upgrade your HVAC system or need high-quality dampers for your next project, contact United Enertech. With their extensive range of dampers, they are well-positioned to meet and exceed your specific requirements. To learn more about which dampers are right for your application, reach out to the team of damper experts at United Enertech today!