Staying on top of general HVAC maintenance is one of the best things that you can do to cut your home heating and cooling bills. However, many Grand Rapids residents are looking for solid strategies that will further reduce their carbon footprints and keep their overhead costs low.
If you’ve been thinking about closing HVAC air vents in unused upstairs rooms, it’s important to know just how this measure can affect the efficiency and integrity of your entire HVAC system. The following are six ways that closing air vents throughout the building can actually wind up costing you more money than it ultimately saves.
1. Increased Air Pressure Can Lead to Damaged Ductwork
Surprisingly, even something as simple as closing off an air vent in an unused room can cause serious damage to your HVAC system. This is especially true when it comes to your HVAC air ducts. Closed vents cause pressure to build up in duct systems. When this extra pressure is prolonged, it can result in cracked ducts and other forms of harm. Worst of all, having vents closed off doesn’t limit the amount of work that your heater or air conditioner has to do. Instead, it actually increases it.
2. Closed Ducts Can Cause Air Leaks That Are Difficult to Detect
Knowing that closed vents can result in leaky ducks is one thing. Being able to identify where these leaks have formed is another. If you’ve been closing your upstairs air vents in an effort to lower your home energy bill, you may want to schedule a comprehensive air duct inspection.
Even minor air leaks can result in significant increases in your home cooling costs, and most air leaks develop in areas where they aren’t easy to detect. Once these leaks exist, heated or cooled air will be deposited behind the drywall in your home and outside of the actual living area. Not only will your HVAC system have to work harder because air vents have been closed, but it will work even harder still to overcome the air loss that leaky ducts are causing.
3. You Could Get Stuck With Costly Heater Repairs
Excess air pressure can also take a toll on your heating and cooling equipment. This is especially true for your furnace. Extra air pressure can result in a damaged heat exchanger. When this component cracks or breaks in any other way, the entire household is at risk of carbon monoxide exposure.
To prevent illness and potentially fatal injuries, furnaces are designed to shut themselves off as soon as heat exchanger problems are detected. Closing your upstairs air vents now could leave you without a functional heater right when you need one most. More importantly, the costs of replacing a damaged heat exchanger will greatly exceed any short-term savings that closing upstairs air vents is able to produce.
4. Get Ready for Increased Indoor Humidity
Your HVAC system does a lot of things for your home. It warms or cools the indoor air as needed, filters out airborne particulates, and regulates indoor humidity. Closing vents won’t just prevent conditioned air from getting into unused upstairs rooms. It will also eliminate the benefits of humidity regulation and air filtration in these spaces. This is quite problematic when it comes to humidity regulation. Without heating or cooling, your upstairs rooms could become extremely moist. Having moisture collect on window frames and on other indoor surfaces will make these spaces prone to both mold and mildew development.
In addition to causing pervasive, musty smells, these growths will lower your indoor air quality. As soon as vents are reopened in upstairs rooms, mold spores will be able to enter the HVAC system. Once they do, they’ll be cycled throughout the entire building interior indefinitely. This can lead to mold problems in other areas. It can also both cause and exacerbate a number of common respiratory conditions.
5. Home Comfort Will Decrease
A harder-working HVAC system due to closed air vents won’t necessarily result in increased comfort for residents. In fact, your heater or air conditioner will likely struggle to create the desired temperature in any room. Central HVAC systems that aren’t zoned to selectively heat or cool occupied spaces are designed to heat all rooms uniformly. When you close upstairs air vents, you may have to wait far longer for the temperature that you’ve set at the thermostat to be reached in any area.
6. Closed Vents Will Decrease the Lifespan of Your Entire HVAC System
One of the biggest drawbacks of closing off air vents in spaces that don’t get a lot of use is that doing so can greatly decrease the lifespan of both your heater and your air conditioner. The cost of having to replace this equipment far sooner than expected is never worth the meager, short-term savings that closed vents generate.
Shed Layers and Raise Your Thermostat Setting
If you’re hard-pressed to shave your home energy bill but don’t want to invest in HVAC system upgrades, consider raising your thermostat setting by just 1 or 2 degrees and shedding a few layers. In winter, bundle up and lower your thermostat setting by 1 or 2 degrees.
When you keep a consistently moderate setting at the thermostat, these small changes can provide savings that really add up over time. Moreover, everyone in the home will gradually become acclimated to the new standard and be more prone to putting extra layers on or taking them off as needed.
Always Keep Your HVAC System Properly Maintained
To enjoy significant savings on your home energy bill, you have to start by installing efficient heating and cooling equipment. If you have an old, outdated air conditioner or heater, paying to have it replaced can make a world of difference. Most heaters and air conditioners lose more than half of their efficiency after just 10 to 12 years of consistent use. They also experience continued efficiency losses throughout the remainder of their lifespans.
Simple steps like changing out your HVAC air filter once every 30 to 60 days can help as well. Dirty, clogged air filters cause heating and cooling equipment to work harder and use more energy. Scheduling regular inspections and tune-up services will keep your HVAC system performing at optimal levels for far longer. This way, even when you’re having to heat or cool rooms that aren’t in use, you won’t be paying through the nose to use this equipment.
Two HVAC Upgrades That Will Provide Long-Term Savings
There are also two HVAC upgrades that may be well worth considering. Having a smart, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat installed can help you better regulate indoor temperatures according to the residents’ behaviors and preferences. Smart thermostats are always learning. These devices record user data and then use it to program themselves accordingly.
The other upgrade is to have your central HVAC system switched over to a zoned setup. Zoned HVAC systems have multiple thermostats throughout the building. You can adjust temperatures in each zone or room individually without placing undue stress on your heating or cooling equipment.
At Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling, we’re all about helping homeowners in Grand Rapids, MI and the surrounding area save money. We provide top-rated heating and cooling services all throughout West Michigan. We also offer planned service agreements, energy audits, and geothermal heating solutions. Call us today to find out how we can help you cut your home energy bill and reduce your carbon footprint.