Troubleshooting HVAC Inefficiencies
A properly working, efficient HVAC system is key to an energy-efficient home. It not only keeps you comfortable inside, but also saves a significant amount of money on utility bills. To keep your HVAC system performing its best, here are solutions to the most common problems.
PROBLEM (HEATING): Dirty or improperly adjusted burners.
PROBLEM (AIR-CONDITIONING): Improper refrigerant charge.
SOLUTION (FOR BOTH): A professional tune-up. “First and foremost, get an annual inspection to ensure that all equipment—especially combustion equipment—is operating safely and efficiently,” recommends Mike Rogers, vice president with GreenHomes America.
PROBLEM: Leaky ductwork and supply vents. “On average, air ducts can leak as much as 30 percent of the conditioned air (air you’ve paid to heat or cool) to the outside,” Rogers says.
SOLUTION: Whether you’re tackling this project yourself, or hiring a pro to perform the fix, Jason Raddenbach from Chimney Balloon USA says that two tools are needed to seal ductwork and tighten supply vents: a nontoxic smoke pencil to find the leaks, and good-quality mastic to seal the gaps when you find them.
PROBLEM: Dirty air filters. “This is something many homeowners forget about, and, when left unreplaced, they can harm indoor air quality and cause higher energy usage,” says Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s home expert.
SOLUTION: During cold-weather months, replace your furnace’s filter monthly.
PROBLEM: Improper distribution, including ducts that are too small or too large.
SOLUTION: Rogers recommends having a contractor test and balance the distribution system to make sure air is being delivered properly.
PROBLEM: Excessive humidity in the home during warm-weather months.
SOLUTION: Either repair leaky ductwork, or replace the air conditioner. “A poorly operating air conditioner or one that is not properly sized for the home can contribute to excessive humidity,” says Bill Cunningham, a home cooling and energy efficiency expert with Lennox. “Leaky ductwork can also cause humidity problems.” Discuss the problem with a reputable home-cooling contractor to determine the proper fix.
Set it and forget it
A programmable thermostat can significantly decrease your heating and cooling costs, and can keep you comfortable without continual temperature adjustments.
➤ In the winter, drop the temperature 8 degrees when you’re away from home or asleep.
➤ In the summer, raise the temperature by 7 degrees while you’re away, and by 4 degrees while you’re asleep.
—Chris Spencer, home comfort and energy-efficiency expert with Lennox, www.lennox.com
Facts & figures
➤ 85% of heating and cooling contractors say the No. 1 thing they do to improve their home’s energy efficiency is change air filters on a regular basis.
➤ 39% of heating and cooling contractors say the most common misconception when shopping for a new heating and cooling system is that a bigger system is always better.
➤ 70 degrees is the average temperature at which heating and cooling contractors set the thermostat in their own homes during the winter months.
—Lennox Industries, www.lennox.com
A common culprit for air leaks, a fireplace with chimney flue can be a problem area when it comes to HVAC efficiency. Enter: the Chimney Balloon. Also known as the Chimney Pillow, this specially engineered, three-ply poly-membrane fireplace damper outperforms a metal damper, which can warp or break over time. Its flexible material seals the flue, stopping airflow, odor and debris from flowing through the chimney.
—Chimney Balloon USA, www.chimneyballoon.us