All Things Backdraft Dampers

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If you’re not in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) business, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not too familiar with the various types of fire protection products. Regardless of your profession, it’s essential to have basic knowledge of how your home or office responds in the event of an emergency. Understanding the different types of fire dampers, such as smoke and backdraft dampers, can help you react accordingly in case of emergency.

What Is Fire Protection? 

Although it sounds like a question with an obvious answer, understanding how your home or office’s structural components can protect you in case of an emergency can help minimize the damage to people and property. Fire protection is the term used to describe how professionals study and implement ways to prevent destructive fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire protection “involves the study of the behavior, compartmentalization, suppression and investigation of fire and its related emergencies, as well as the research and development, production, testing, and application of mitigating systems.”

There are three components of fire protection:

  • Passive fire protection: This component includes installing firewalls, fire dampers, and backdraft dampers to suppress the spread of high temperatures, smoke, and flames in the event of a fire.
  • Active fire protection: Active fire protection includes water sprinklers, firefighters, and manual smoke alarms. This component requires action to work.
  • Education: Properly informing people about the importance of fire protection is the most crucial part. The educational element of fire protection involves understanding how fire and backdraft dampers work, what you should do in the event of an emergency in your home or office, and other ways to keep yourself safe. 

What Are Fire Dampers? 

The first step in understanding fire protection is to understand the critical components that make it functional. Fire dampers are one of the essential types of products available on the market today, and one of the first things you should understand when educating yourself about fire protection.

Fire dampers fall under the passive fire protection component of fire protection and are a part of HVAC systems. Contractors install these dampers within the HVAC system ductwork of a home or office building to prevent the spread of fire, smoke, and other gases. A fire damper involves metal blades inside a frame that sits within air ducts. The frame can be round, square, or rectangular, depending on the duct style.

How Do Fire Dampers Work? 

When we think of the spread of flames, we tend to assume that they spread room to room the way we travel — through the doors. However, one of the fastest ways that fire can spread is through a building’s HVAC ducts. This is where fire dampers come into play.

Let’s say you work in an office building with three floors. Each floor has several offices that share a central heating and air conditioning unit. Imagine an office on the second floor catches on fire. If smoke and flames can gain access to the ductwork, that fire will spread much faster than if it had to tear through one wall at a time.

A few small flames can take less than 30 seconds to transform into a catastrophic fire. Fire dampers come into play by creating a barrier between the damaging effects of smoke and fire and the rest of the HVAC ductwork. Typically, a fire damper activates when the temperature around it surpasses 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat melts a link that causes the blades within the damper to close, which prevents the smoke and flames from spreading.

What Are Backdraft Dampers? 

A backdraft damper is similar to a fire damper in that it features blades within a frame, but the purpose of these dampers differ. Backdraft dampers allow air to flow into or out of a space in one direction while preventing a return flow.  These dampers are activated when there is a pressure differential strong enough to lift the blades and allow air to flow into the lower pressure zone.

Who Uses Backdraft Dampers? 

In addition to fire prevention, you can use dampers in a variety of other applications:

  • Air purification
  • Smell reduction
  • Temperature control

Contractors utilize backdraft dampers to help ensure purified air within a space. Think about sharing a home or office with a group of people. If your home ventilation system doesn’t include backdraft dampers, the air could include germs, pollen, bacteria, and all sorts of undesirable particles. If you don’t ventilate the air within a home or office correctly, people with sensitive immune systems may experience allergies and sinus infections.

Ensuring a consistent flow of air prevents unpleasant smells from building up in places like restaurants or in climates that are very humid. Restaurants utilize backdraft dampers to keep the smells from within the kitchen or cooking area from spreading into the dining space. Dampers can also be an asset for vacation homes or spaces where there is stagnant air for long periods. Trapped air in places such as an attic, laundry room, or basement can become musty and collect dust. Adding backdraft dampers to spaces where stale air accumulates can help prevent stuffy smells.

Backdraft dampers are also useful in keeping your home or office comfortable in terms of temperature. In the winter, these dampers are a fantastic way to prevent cold temperatures outside from permeating the warmer air inside. One of the few downsides of backdraft dampers is that they aren’t as useful in situations where you’re attempting to increase the amount of cold air in a space.

Installing Backdraft Dampers

Believe it or not, installing a backdraft damper can be a do-it-yourself project for some people depending on the space that you are placing the damper. In other situations, only a certified professional should install dampers to ensure that the components of your HVAC unit are working correctly in conjunction with the installation.  

At Lloyd Industries, our team of experts works to ensure contracts around the country are supplied with the best ventilation products available. We offer a wide variety of products, such as air control dampers, CRD boots, louvers, and smoke dampers. No matter where you call home or the size of your project, our team has you covered! Shop our website here to see the rest of our fire protection products.