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How to choose the right duct tape for HVAC systems?

How to choose the right duct tape for HVAC systems?

The HVAC industry is one of the greatest consumers of tape in the world. This is because the industry comprises of different materials and environments, with a superfluity of tape applications where you will never find one tape solution that will fit every job.

As an HVAC technician or a DIY enthusiast who is keen on trying out some projects involving HVAC, it pays to know the right kind of tapes to use. 

Poor knowledge of the correct tape to use will not only end in an undesirable result, but time and money may be wasted in the process as well. Since there are many different types of tape with varying applications in this field, it is also easy to get confused on which tape to choose.

To clear up any doubts you may have, we have compiled a list of the various types of tapes used in this field and their respective applications so that you may have a quick reference every time you need to use a tape.

We have also included some of the factors you need to consider when you are choosing a tape so that you can always end up with the right tape. Read below to find out more!

Foil Tapes

Foil tapes are extremely common in the HVAC industry. They are usually the preferred tapes for joining and sealing joints, connections, and seams on either rigid duct boards or flexible air ducts. They are extremely robust, a feature that can be directly attributed to how they have been manufactured.

These tapes have a metal foil backing that helps to make the tapes malleable, rugged, and conductive. They have been designed with traits that give them the ability to easily cling to surfaces owing to the inclusion of durable, pressure-sensitive adhesives in the tape’s construction.

Some of the industries which see the majority use of these tapes include appliance manufacturing, motor vehicle manufacturing, metal finishing industry, and the aerospace industry.

It should be noted that foil tapes are primarily designed for thermal or electric conducting and shielding. Most of these tapes will therefore feature acrylic adhesives that may or may not be conductive. They also offer UV protection and temperature resistance.
Though most foil tapes will exhibit these features, their particular application will mainly depend on the type of carrier or adhesive it has been made with.

Why choose foil tapes?

Apart from the already mentioned features of foil tapes, there are other several benefits of using foil tapes which make them one of the highly preferred tapes for HVAC applications. Some of these benefits include:

  • Stellar performance in both low and high temperatures –> if you need a tape that you can rely on for sub-zero temperature conditions or boiling temperatures, then you will find foil tapes to be very versatile in such applications.
  • They offer a great alternative to mastic – one of the outstanding features of foil tapes is that they are not messy. It is unnecessary to use other equipment along with it, such as gloves, paintbrushes, eye protection, drop clothes, etc. With foil tapes, you also won’t need additional fasteners or drywall mesh for sealing large areas.
  • They can hold up for a very long time – one of the reasons for the abundant use of foil tapes in the HVAC industry is the fact that they are able to hold up with longtime use and they cannot be easily replaced or repaired once they have been applied. This is due to the acrylic adhesive technology which accords them the cohesion, adhesion, and thermal capabilities for which they are well-known.

Film Tapes

Film tape is another popular type of type in the HVAC industry. They are mostly used for sealing certain types of industrial materials—primarily because of their unique features. These tapes tend to be highly conformable and can easily be torn by hand.

This feature has made them quick and easy to use, making them a vital addition to any technician’s toolbox.

It should be remembered that foil tape is normally the most preferred backing type of HVAC tape due to its robustness and durability. However, the use of film as a backing for HVAC tapes is also fairly common because of the tape’s own set of traits that make it a suitable substitute for foil tape in certain applications.

It is also worth noting that film tapes give the best conformability to uneven or rough surfaces in a way that is not possible with foil tapes. This simply means that film tapes will conform well into the nooks and ridges of surfaces that are uneven, making it possible to achieve maximum surface contact between the adhering surface and the adhesive of the tape.

One example where you may want to use film tape over foil tape is reflective insulation. It is always a challenge for HVAC technicians to get any other tape to stick to reflective insulation owing to the fact that such surfaces usually face many thermal cycles in unconventional spaces.

This is simply because reflective insulation usually features ridges that make it difficult to achieve maximum adhesion with other types of tape. But since film tapes are known to be more conformable, they give maximum adhesion to such surfaces. Therefore, they are the preferred option for sealing reflective insulation.

Other than conformability, film tapes share lots of features with foil tapes.

General Purpose Duct Tape

Just from the name, you can easily tell that this is the tape you go to when you need a tape for just about any kind of application, including HVAC applications. General-purpose duct tape is made of a low fabric count, thin polythene film, and has low weight adhesive.

They are mostly used for short-term applications where they will later be removed, often during long-term repairs. For most HVAC technicians, this is one of the tape types that will never be missing from their toolbox.

Though it may not be ideal for sealing ducts, it is the tape you will always want to turn to when bundling materials or making minor or temporary.

Also, it is an ideal tape for waterproofing. When using this tape, however, always ensure that it is for non-critical aspects of the job or is being used in conditioned spaces. The reason for this is because the tape is not typically constructed to sustain extreme temperatures or to be used for an extended period of time against numerous thermal cycles.

Electrical Tape

Not all HVAC technicians may have to work around electrical cables and conduits but it is always a good idea to have a roll of electrical tape on hand. Just as the name suggests, this tape is primarily used to protect, insulate, and shield wires and cables that could be carrying electricity.

It may sometimes be referred to as insulating tape, or thermal insulation tape, with applications both in professional and domestic environments.

Electrical insulation tapes are available in a wide variety of widths, sizes, and lengths, owing to the equally wide range of applications that they have. You will also find them in a multitude of colors and materials to allow for optimal insulation characteristics which will aid in precise color coding of different kinds of wires or cables.

It should, however, be noted that apart from applications in the electrical field, electrical tapes still have many other uses. These include but are not limited to:

  • Applications in sports – electrical tapes are usually used on hockey sticks to protect them from the effects of moisture build-up. When used as such, the hockey sticks become more durable. The tapes are also commonly used for tennis and badminton players to provide additional cushioning and better grip for the racket handle.
  • Applications in home decorations – electrical tapes can also be used for home decorations. If you have walls that appear too shabby or covered with wallpapers, you can easily use electrical tapes to create temporary stripes or designs on the walls to give them some life. Additionally, electrical tape is also useful when setting up Christmas decorations.
  • Uses in labeling – electrical tapes are available in a variety of colors, and this makes them very convenient in labeling a variety of personal objects. For instance, they can be used for labeling envelopes, cabinets, switches, and kitchen tools. Furthermore, the tape can be used to color-code cups at parties, shows, and exhibitions.
  • Electrical tapes in music – this is another environment where you will find electrical tapes being used. In music, you will often find it wrapped around drumsticks to prevent slippage, blisters, breakage, and splinters. This also makes the drumsticks more durable.
  • Electrical tapes in theatre production – theatre producers also have lots of uses for electrical tapes. This is usually their preferred tape for markers. For example, when doing rehearsals, the tapes will tell the performers where they need to stand for various scenes. The lighting and sound systems on the stage also require a lot of wires to remain organized. With colored electrical tapes, performers will avoid tripping over the wires and will keep them safe.

Masking Tape

When you have a job or a project that demands temporary adhesion without damaging or leaving residues behind, then masking tape will always be the right type of tape.

It is always a great tool to have handy even when working on HVAC projects due to the temporary adhesion it can provide while you think about the permanent solution. These tapes are available in a variety of types and colors, with the common ones being:

  • Rubber-based masking tapes – these tapes are mostly used for general applications. They are extremely reliable and boast strong sticking properties making them a favorite choice for most applications. The only problem with them is that they have a lower level of temperature resistance compared to other tapes.
  • Acrylic-based masking tapes – these tapes are ideal for use in extreme temperature conditions and in other challenging environments. They are extremely versatile and adaptable, making them ideal for use in environments with fluctuating temperatures ranging from sub-zero temperatures to temperatures way over the boiling point of water.
  • Silicon-based masking tapes – this is another choice for applications under high-temperature conditions. Of all the tapes in this category, silicon-based masking tapes have the best temperature resistance. So long as the backing material is not made of crepe paper or its flammable variants, you can use these tapes for temperatures as high as 260 degrees Celsius, making them highly recommended for several HVAC applications.

This guide should aid you in choosing the right type of tape based on the specific application you desire or the nature of the project you are working on.

Some of the factors you should consider when choosing the correct tape include: the tape material, the adhesive used, the temperature rating, the conductivity of the tape, the water-resistance of the tape, and the HVAC regulation compliance, depending on how and where you intend to use the tape.

If you are still uncertain of the type of tape to use, don’t hesitate to ask the pros.

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