When you’re living in a home with an HVAC system, it’s easy to forget how much work the system is doing. You flip a switch, and the temperature feels just right. But there’s more to your air conditioning and heating than meets the eye. The steps that can be taken on your own are important for prolonging the life of your unit for as long as possible.
Steps to ensure your HVAC system is Operating Efficiently and Effectively
HVAC systems work by moving air through the house to dilute these allergens so they do not build up to irritating concentrations. The following are some steps you can take to ensure your HVAC system is operating efficiently and effectively:
Keep Ducts Clean:
– Keep your ducts clean, ensuring that there is no mold inside the ductwork or on the evaporator coil housing outside of the furnace. Keeping filters clean will also help remove dust and other allergens.
Change Air Filters:
– Change the air filter every month during the heating and cooling seasons, or as directed by your system’s manufacturer. A dirty filter can lead to decreased airflow across the evaporator coil, which will reduce system performance and lead to increased humidity levels in some cases. If you have allergy symptoms when you turn on your furnace, change the filter first.
Prevent Energy Loss:
– Seal all ducts with mastic tape before adding insulation to prevent energy loss through substandard seals. This will make it easier for your HVAC unit to distribute heated or cooled air throughout the house because there is no unnecessary pressure drop-off at joints or seams in ductwork due to leakage. Mastic tape is an inexpensive, self-adhesive material that can be purchased at a home improvement retailer.
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HVAC System Properly Sized:
– Make sure your heating and cooling system is properly sized for the space you want to heat or cool. Improper sizing can lead to poor airflow across the evaporator coil which will reduce performance and may extend run times. This may also lead to increased humidity levels as well as possible freeze-up of evaporator coils if your units are not designed with defrost controls. In addition, an undersized unit will struggle to keep up on those hot summer days when everyone has their air conditioning cranked up to the full blast.
Don’t Block Return Air Vents:
– Don’t block return air vents in rooms that won’t be heated or cooled by the HVAC system. Blocking return air will make the system work harder to distribute heated or cooled air throughout the house, leading to increased energy consumption and higher utility bills.
Properly Design Ductwork:
– Make sure your ductwork is designed correctly for your home. For example, homes built with cathedral ceilings should have short runs of ductwork in order to optimize airflow throughout that space. You can check to see if you have too much “stubbed-up” ductwork by checking the square footage of all vertical runs of supply and return ducts. The total square footage should be less than about 500 square feet if you want optimal performance from your HVAC system. Stubbing up too much ductwork could lead to reduced airflow across the evaporator coil, making it hard for your system to keep the house at the desired temperature.
Low Airflow across Evaporator Coil:
– Be aware that low airflow across your evaporator coil can cause ice damming, which is when water backs up due to its melting point being below the freezing point of your heating liquid (antifreeze). If this builds up enough it can drip down into the furnace and short out the combustion blower, causing a blown breaker or open heater element which will need replacement.
Air filters are another important consideration with HVAC systems. Besides trapping dust mite allergens on their fiber matrix, they also act as an insulator for your system’s blower motor by minimizing airflow across its moving parts, reducing noise levels while improving efficiency. They also help to reduce or eliminate backdrafts through your chimney or furnace flue which can cause sooting and corrosion. This is especially true if you have a water-based heating system since wet air naturally holds more moisture than dry, so any condensation that occurs will be much greater near the firebox where moist air exits the home through the chimney/flue.
You should consider installing an electronic air cleaner for your furnace, as they are now available to fit just about every type of heating system on the market today. There are different types available with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on how well your HVAC unit is designed to accommodate them. Electronic filters are easy to install in most cases by simply attaching a prefilter to your existing blower unit.
You should also avoid vents that are located in kitchens or bathrooms, as they may introduce a lot of moisture into the home during the heating season which leads to increased humidity levels and potential problems with mold growth. In addition, if you have a gas-fired furnace, placing your vent in front of an oven door will cause lint build-up on your burner ports which can affect performance. It’s best to place them in an inconspicuous location away from doors and windows where they won’t be easily blocked by furniture or children’s toys.
Upgrading your Thermostat
Finally, consider upgrading your thermostat to an electronic model that allows you to set temperature limits for different periods throughout the day: i.e. a high limit for when you’re home and a low limit for when you’re away. That way, your system will shut off before it reaches that temperature. If the unit is equipped with a battery backup, then there’s no need to worry even if it loses power during an outage, as your settings will remain stored inside until the power comes back on.
Heating and air conditioning represent about 50% of the typical energy costs in your home, so reducing those bills can make a big difference at those times of the year when money gets tighter. The more efficiently you run your system (i.e., keeping airflow high enough to avoid excessive condensation or too much ice-damming), keep your filters clean, and install an electronic air cleaner, the longer your system will run without needing repairs and you’ll spend less time worrying about how to pay for it.
If you want to ensure your HVAC system is operating as efficiently as possible, then make sure to get an annual tune-up from a local company like K2 Mechanical. Our professionals can provide maintenance and repairs for any problem you may be having with your system. We’re always happy to help!
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