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Air Ducts Sizing

The ductwork of ventilation systems are often sized with either the Velocity, the Constant Pressure Loss (or Equal Friction Loss) - or the Static Pressure Recovery Methods

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Sizing of duct-works in ventilation systems can be done by the

  • Velocity Method
  • Constant Pressure Loss Method (or Equal Friction Method)
  • Static Pressure Recovery Method

The Velocity Method

Proper air flow velocities for the application considering the environment are selected. Sizes of ducts are then given by the continuity equation like:

A = q / v                                      (1)


A = duct cross sectional area (m2)

q = air flow rate (m3/s)

v= air speed (m/s)

Alternatively in Imperial units 

Ai = 144 qi / vi                                    (1b)


A = duct cross sectional area (

q = air flow rate (cfm)

v= air speed (fpm)

A proper velocity depends on application and environment. The table below indicate commonly used velocities:

Type of DuctComfort SystemsIndustrial SystemsHigh Speed Systems
Main ducts 4 - 7 780 - 1380 8 - 12 1575 - 2360 10 - 18 1670 - 3540 
Main branch ducts 3 - 5 590 - 985 5 - 8 985 - 1575 6 - 12 1180 - 2360
Branch ducts 1 - 3 200 - 590  3 - 5 590 - 985 5 - 8 985 - 1575

Be aware that high velocity close to outlets and inlets may generate unacceptable noise.

air duct velocity diagram

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The Constant Pressure Loss Method (or Equal Friction Loss Method)

A proper speed is selected in the main duct close to the fan. The pressure loss in the main duct are then used as a template for the rest of the system. The pressure (or friction) loss is kept at a constant level throughout the system. The method gives an automatic velocity reduction throughout the system. The method may add more duct cross-sectional changes and can increase the number of components in the system compared to other methods.

The Static Pressure Recovery Method

With the static pressure recovery method the secondary and branch ducts are selected to achieve more or less the same static pressure in front of all outlets or inlets. The major advantage of the method are more common conditions for outlets and inlets. Unfortunate the method is complicated to use and therefore seldom used.

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  • en: duct sizing
  • es: dimensionamiento de conductos
  • de: Kanal Dimensionierung
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  • Engineering ToolBox, (2003). Air Ducts Sizing. [online] Available at: [Accessed Day Mo. Year].

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