With summer coming to an end, are you beginning to think about those cold/drafty rooms from last fall and wondering what you can do now to prevent them this year? Kudos to you for thinking ahead and realizing you don’t have to put up with uneven temperatures in your home.
Identify your duct leaks and have them sealed:
The Department of Energy states the typical duct system loses an astounding 25 to 40 percent of the energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump or air conditioner. In addition to putting a strain on your monthly budget, this energy waste causes discomfort. If the conditioned air is leaking out of the ducts, it is not getting to where it’s needed.
To determine if your duct system leaks, and how badly, ask your HVAC contractor for an Infiltrometer blower door test. The test typically takes an hour to perform and the result is an exact measurement of the home and duct system air-tightness. The precise location of the leaks and cold drafts are pinpointed. The test has been featured in National Geographic magazine, Popular Science, This Old House, and other TV shows.
If your ducts are leaking, have them thoroughly sealed using Aeroseal (An aerosol process to seal the ducts from the inside), or Mastic, a special paint-on fiber-reinforced elastomeric sealant, not duct tape! Simply sealing duct leaks usually makes a dramatic improvement in evening out temperatures --and pays for itself through lower utility bills.
Have Your Duct System Tested and Air Balanced:
Very few duct systems were properly engineered or adjusted when the home was built. Ask to have the “static pressure” in your ducts tested. Just as with blood pressure, the pressure in your airducts must not be too high. Renovations to the duct system may be needed to add balancing dampers and eliminate restrictions. Your contractor can use an air flow capture hood to measure and adjust each register to the proper air flow.
Correct Missing Insulation and Thermal Bypasses:
Proper air flow is only part of the challenge. Insulation also plays a key role in making each room comfortable. Missing insulation or not enough insulation is very common. This is especially a problem with rooms adjacent to attics, or over garages. Ask about getting an “infra-red camera scan” performed. You should have insulation levels inspected and have thermal bypasses (hollow cavities behind walls) check for. Having thermal bypasses pinpointed and sealed saves energy and makes individual rooms much more comfortable.
Also consider a zoned damper system: After implementing the above recommendations, if the temperatures are still not even enough, ask your contractor for a proposal on a zoning system. Motorized dampers are installed in the ducts and tied to thermostats in all areas. If one area needs more cooling or heating, the necessary dampers open, and others close off to help balancing.
Consider A New SMALLER Furnace or Air Conditioner:
Many homeowners (and even some contractors) mistakenly assume that if there are uneven temperatures, a larger unit is needed. In fact, the exact opposite is true. If your current system is oversized, it comes on, runs for only a brief period and then shuts off. The blast of heating or cooling from an oversized unit typically satisfies the thermostat before the farthest reaches of the home are heated or cooled. A new properly sized unit runs gently for longer periods, resulting in more even temperatures, much greater summertime humidity removal, and lower utility bills. Ask about variable speed fans and two speed furnaces and air conditioners that adjust their output as needed to extend the run times. Although a new unit is a big investment, done properly the comfort levels will greatly improve, and lower utility bills will pay for it over time.