06. May 2007 · Comments Off on Why Is Duct Tape Like the Force? · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, General

Because it has a light side , and a dark side, and it binds the Universe together!

And also does a pretty good job on ducts, too. Which is why I remembered that joke: I’ve been up in the attic crawlspace, possibly my least-favorite place in my house, although flat on my back with an adjustable wrench in my hand trying to remedy a persistent malevolent leak under a bathroom sink is in neck-and-neck competition.

Did Martha Stewart ever do a show, or a magazine article about replacing lengths of AC duct? I seriously doubt she ever has; it has all the charm and appeal of a DIY septic tank pumping. About all that can be said in favor is that replacing lengths of ducting yourself is significantly cheaper than paying someone, even an illegal alien to do it for you. I was actually briefed on how to do it, by a client six or seven jobs ago, who did HVAC as a side-line. Being that my house is fairly new, and everything about it is standard and bought by the contractor truck-load, swapping out any elements, from door-knobs to the kitchen sink is a pretty straightforward one-for-one exchange with stuff on the shelf at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

See, this came up because I had the yearly maintenance inspection done a couple of weeks ago, and the technician said the AC unit is fine and functioning as well as could be expected… but that the ducts were well beyond anything but last rites… there were in fact, gaping holes in the inner layer of the largest ducts, where the plastic outer layer had disintegrated, and the fiberglass insulation layer had also dissolved. This must have developed late last summer, or perhaps over the winter… as I said, the attic crawlspace is not my most favorite place in the house. It does explain why the air emerging from the vents in some rooms was coming out as a less-than-frigid blast, even when the thermostat was set really, really low.

And this is South Texas, where air conditioning in the summer is absolutely positively essential. I don’t even live in one of those old-fashioned houses, which they used to build in the days before routine installation of AC… you know, the sort of houses with deep verandahs, thick walls and a good cross-breeze through tall windows on all sides? We flirted with the thought of patching the broken places by wrapping them with layers of heavy plastic trash bags and a lot of duct tape… but how would we know if there were other breaks, in places we couldn’t see them? It was just easier and probably cheaper in the long run to buy three boxes of different-sized ducting, two packages of plastic ties… and lots of duct tape, and spend a lot of uncomfortable time scrambling around in the rafters.

With luck, I will manage to replace all the segments running from the central unit to the various registers without putting a foot through the ceiling. I can’t spend too long up there at a stretch; either… it gets too hot, now that I have stopped up most of the cool-air leaks!

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