Understanding the Different Air Duct Materials and What It Means for Your Home

Your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is an integral part of your home. But the comfort you experience wouldn’t be possible without an air duct.
If lifespan and system efficiency are important to you, it helps to consider air duct materials.

The Importance of Air Ducts in HVAC Systems

Without an air duct, air wouldn’t be able to move through your HVAC system and your home.
Your system’s air duct is responsible for circulating cool or warm air and ventilating your home, creating a comfortable living space. It also ensures that airflow is evenly distributed.
Lastly, your air duct helps prevent contaminants such as dust and pollen from reaching the inside of your home, which is why it’s so important to regularly service your HVAC system.
What’s more, a poorly maintained system can drive up your energy bills and result in a greater carbon footprint.
Along with maintenance, your air duct’s materials also play a role in how well it integrates with your home and requirements.

Understanding the Different Types of Air Duct Materials

Here are some of the most common types of air ducts that are available for your home.

Sheet Metal

Duct material - image 1
This is generally the most common type of air duct material. Sheet metal is either aluminum metal or galvanized steel that’s fashioned into different shapes. Oval, round, and rectangular shapes are all common.

Aluminum is a popular material for air ducts because it can withstand movement more easily.
Some of the reasons why homeowners opt for sheet metal air ducts are because they’re inexpensive, lighter, and can be customized to match your home’s interior. And, because it’s non-porous, mold and fungi can be avoided.

Unfortunately, water can be an issue though as sheet metal is prone to rust.

Stainless Steel

Another popular choice among homeowners in Charleston is stainless steel air ducts.
Even though it’s a more expensive material, it is more flexible and durable, which means you can expect your air duct to last longer. It’s one of the reasons why stainless-steel air ducts are the preferred choice for commercial buildings.

Many of today’s construction companies will opt to install stainless-steel air ducts when undertaking new home builds.


The next type of air duct material is fiberglass, which is basically a sheet metal duct with an internal or external fiberglass liner.
This liner helps prevent air loss and condensation by insulating the duct. An added benefit is that fiberglass can reduce the noise of your HVAC system.
Unfortunately, fiberglass does have a tendency to deteriorate more quickly than other air duct materials. There’s also a chance of harmful particles being released into the air, which can cause health problems. For this reason, fiberglass air ducts are no longer a top choice for homeowners.


Air ducts made with fiberboard contain a compressed resin that’s bonded with organic glass fibers.
Fiberboard air ducts usually have a foil exterior, which can be made to look like other air ducts. There’s also the option of painting them to match your home’s décor.
The fact that fiberboard air ducts provide greater insulation and drown out unnecessary noise is what makes them a good choice for homes. It’s also known to be more resistant to insects and rodents.

Another reason why fiberboard tends to be a popular air duct material is because it can be tailored to your home in terms of size and configuration.
Unfortunately, fiberboard isn’t known to last as long as other materials, so you may find yourself replacing your air duct more often than you would like to. You also won’t be able to use it in any areas with excess moisture.

Spring Steel Wire Helix

A flexible air duct is made with a spring steel wire helix that’s fitted inside polymer plastic, making it a much lighter option.
This is one of the newer types of air ducts on the market and comes with a much lower cost. Flexible air ducts are also ideal for areas where metal wouldn’t work, allowing you to fit it around corners and bends.

These are some of the easiest air ducts to install. However, you want to make sure you’re using an expert with the necessary experience for your installation. They will ensure there aren’t any gaps that could cause air loss and contamination.

Pre-Insulated and Fire-Rated

These are some of the least common types of air ducts because they’re so expensive, but they’re worth mentioning. Pre-insulated ducts are made with polyurethane (PU) or polyisocyanurate (PIR), which is what drives up the cost.

Fire-rated ducts are specifically used for pressurization and smoke spill purposes within the HVAC system, allowing them to stay fire-resistant for up to two hours.

What Type of Air Duct Material Is Best?

Overall, sheet metal air ducts are the best choice for homes. Not only are they more affordable, but because they’re less prone to mold and bacteria, they create a safer environment for you and your loved ones.

Sheet metal air ducts with fiberglass are not recommended, purely because of the risk of deterioration and harmful particles getting into your air.
If you are dealing with limited space in your home, a flexible air duct is also a good choice. It’s affordable, easy to install, and effective, provided you get a professional to assist you with the installation.

What About Air Duct Cleaning?

Overall, rigid ductwork, such as those made with sheet metal, is easier to clean. This is thanks to the hard, flat surfaces and 90-degree angles. However, the exception is fiberglass air ducts. The elaborate construction is what makes cleaning fiberglass air ducts more complicated.

Flexible ductwork can be slightly trickier to clean due to the construction and materials used. However, the right expert will have the knowledge and experience necessary to assist you.
If you require any assistance with air duct cleaning, contact Air Duct Charleston today! We have extensive experience with all types of air duct materials.

Contact Us


Here at Air Duct Charleston, we’re always ready to assist you for your Air Duct and Dryer Vent Cleaning Service in Charleston, SC. We can help you with any Air Duct and Dryer Vent Cleaning Service, please call us at (843) 608-8042 or get a Free Online FREE Estimate