Kool Air

Parameters for ducting are sent by contractors via computer to Kool Air Manufacturing. (Tom Leyde/Contributor)

There’s more to HVAC ducting today than sheet metal — a lot more. Just ask Jim and T.J. Zarling, owners of Kool Air Manufacturing in Tucson.

The father and son, who also own Excel Mechanical, were introduced to Kingspan KoolDuct in 2016. There are so many benefits to the cutting-edge product that it’s a wonder more building contractors don’t use it, they said.

Developed in the United Kingdom, KoolDuct doesn’t replace galvanized sheet metal ducting entirely, but it can be used in every way that sheet metal is utilized. HVAC ducting hadn’t changed since the early 1900s. Then KoolDuct was introduced.

What is it?

KoolDuct is a pre-insulated rectangular HVAC ductwork system installed in a single fix. Among its benefits are:

• It weighs less: 72% lighter that galvanized sheet metal ducting.

• Fabricated ducting can be installed in sections up to 13 feet in length, while sheet metal can only be installed in 5-foot sections.

• It is 16% less expensive because of faster installation and less labor required.

• Air leakage is less than 3%, reducing energy costs.

• Ducting configurations are easily modified.

• Kool Air Manufacturing offers a complete product line through a single supplier.

• It’s easily integrated into sheet metal fabrication shops.

• It’s pre-insulated with a closed celluar foam.

• It’s space saving.

• It’s water and fire resistant.

• It’s noncorrosive and easy to clean. It doesn’t expand or contract like sheet metal does in hot and cool temperatures.

• It’s UL tested. It’s the first and only phenolic pre-installed ductwork to be UL 181 listed as a Class 1Air Duct.

• It’s LEED approved. LEED is the world’s most used green building system.

The Zarlings were introduced to Kingspan KoolDuct in 2016. Behavioral Health Systems was constructing its Palo Verde building and the CEO wanted the ducting system installed. He approached Excel Mechanical.

“We were hesitant at first,” Jim said. “We had no clue what it was.”

“The (building) owners came to us and said, ‘We really like this product and we’d like to use it in our project,’” T.J. recalled.

The Zarlings agreed to experiment with the system for one and a half years. It meant an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars and being trained on fabrication and installation at company headquarters in Ohio.

Once that step was over, the Zarlings set up a fabrication shop in a building they owned on Tyndall Avenue in Tucson. “Machinery was one of the biggest investments, T.J. said.

They bought a CNC machine for cutting out parts, bending implements and some hand tools. The new venture also needed space for storing materials.

The father and son then went out to sell the system to building contractors. They set up meetings with contractors in Phoenix to explain the benefits of KoolDuct. Not everyone was convinced, especially those entrenched in sheet metal ducting.

“I wish people would get over the old school attitude,” Jim said. That’s changing slowly. “Once guys try it, they never have a complaint,” T.J. said.

At the fabrication plant last week, a message from a ducting contractor using KoolDuct came over the computer. “We (two guys) hung more than 200 feet of ducting in under four hours,” the sender said.

Wendy Whitehair, operations manager, smiled. She gets that sort of reaction often from businesses using the system.

Whitehair, who has a construction background, can do everything when it comes to creating a KoolDuct system. An order comes in from a contractor with all the perameters needed to complete a ducting job.

The 13- x 4-foot sections of material are cut into precise pieces by the CNC machine with very little waste. Other parts are cut and bent as needed. The parts are then taped together using a special metallic tape and sealed with a special sealer. Metal connectors keep the parts connected.

Installers use wire to easily hang the ducting. This makes it easier to and faster to make adjustments.

Kingspan’s headquarters in Ohio gave Kool Air Manufacturing exclusive right to sell KoolDuct in Arizona. But it can sell anywhere in the West. In the Tucson area the system has been used at Tucson Medical Center, Bombardier, City of Tucson Sun Link Facility, The Mark apartments and Sunnyside Point Villas.

Kool Air Manufacturing sells a lot of KoolDuct systems to contractors in the Prescott and Cottonwood areas, Jim said.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed production down considerably, Jim said. To compensate for that production stopped for a time and the company rented out 45% of its building to an electrical contractor.

The company is kind of in a holding pattern now, Jim said, but interest in KoolDuct is increasing. “We made it through six years and we’re happy,” he said.

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