We’ve discussed many aspects of comfort systems in the past and their impact on efficiency and comfort. Each directly relates to maintaining the proper airflow through the equipment, the duct system and, ultimately, delivered to the conditioned areas of your home. The key to your comfort and your system’s energy efficiency is proper airflow.
There are two separate areas of concern when it comes to airflow – the configuration of your system and the actual operation. In the recent past, many contractors looked at the equipment as a box – you pull out the old box and install the new one. In the recent past, there has been so much research aimed at improving efficiencies which has put us light years ahead of where the industry was even just 10 years ago.
In configuring a system, understanding the effects of sizing, location of supplies, air leakage and resistance in transitions is integral. You should have exactly the same amount of air being pushed through the supply side as you have on the return side. In many homes, we find this isn’t the case and, more often than not, there are significant variances in the airflow. When the duct system is accessible, we can modify the ducts. When its not accessible, we must make alterations to the system, and sometimes the equipment, to compensate for the differences. Recognizing the inadequacies in the duct system can mean the difference in spending thousands on a new system that results in higher energy costs and makes your home more uncomfortable – not at all the idea of a smart purchase.
The duct modifications are only the first part. Once the new system is installed, you must ensure that it is actually operating appropriately in each application. Every ‘box’ isn’t the same and won’t perform the same in every home. Only after it’s installed and operating can you determine what further adjustments are necessary to maximize your energy efficiency and comfort.
The newer systems provide a thermostat which allows us to change operational settings based on several factors that are constantly monitored by the system. Dehumidification in the summer, humidification in the winter, even temperatures throughout the home and improved energy efficiency can only be reached if the system is adjusted based on how the new equipment operates with the existing duct system in your home. Fan speeds in each mode can be set differently dependent on the temperature, humidity level and cycles to improve the efficiency and the system’s ability to accommodate your preferences
Heating and cooling your home properly is definitely not rocket science, but it is a science. When you upgrade your comfort system, you should see improvements in energy efficiency and comfort. To do so, you have to be able to recognize the challenges in the existing system and understand the necessary adjustments to allow the new system to compensate for those. The good news is that many of the comfort problems in your home can be addressed now.
Even with an existing system, there are things you can do to ensure the best possible performance from your system. I can’t stress the importance of good, clean air filters. They should be changed regularly and they should be good quality filters. Not only do air filters clean the air in your home, but they protect the system components. If dust and debris reaches the equipment, it is building up on the blower and the evaporator coil. This restricts airflow, increases energy costs and will ultimately decrease the life of your system.
Make sure the supply and return registers aren’t blocked. There should be several inches of clearance if you have furniture in front of wall registers and keep any floor registers clear as well. The resistance will affect the entire system and compromise the delivery of air to the entire home. Visually inspect any duct work that is accessible. You wouldn’t believe how many instances we find where connections have simply come apart, especially in attic and crawl spaces.