Tall ceilings can help your Grand Rapids home feel larger and allow you to add beautiful decorative elements. However, as beautiful as tall ceilings can be, they do come with their challenges. Beyond the obvious problem of removing cobwebs from your ceiling, those tall ceilings can potentially affect the efficiency of your HVAC system. To understand the relationship between ceiling height and HVAC efficiency, and to determine how to overcome any issues, check out this article from your friends at Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling.

Basic Math

When you install a new floor in a room, you only need to know the length and width of that room. However, when you’re figuring out the HVAC requirements for a room, you have to know the length, width, and height of the room to make an accurate determination. That’s because an HVAC system has to fill the complete cubic volume of the room with conditioned air. While a room with a standard-height ceiling will have a manageable cubic volume, the cubic volume of a room with a tall ceiling will quickly grow to the point that it can make it difficult for your HVAC system to keep up. After you add in other environmental factors, it’s easy to see why many HVAC systems don’t perform as expected after they’re installed.

Summer Versus Winter

One unique thing about having a room with tall ceilings is that it can cause the efficiency of your HVAC system to vary throughout the year. During the summer, tall ceilings can help improve your air conditioner’s efficiency, especially if your vents are located at ground level. That’s because the heat in the room will rise to the ceiling, far above where it will have a detrimental effect on the comfort of the room. In the winter, the opposite effect occurs. The heat your system produces tends to rise to the ceiling, regardless of vent placement, meaning that the actual living space tends to become cooler, requiring your furnace to run longer to maintain comfort.

Living Space or Wasted Space

There’s an important caveat to the summer and winter comfort calculations that Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling would like to point out. If your tall ceilings are attached to a second story of your home, it can change the efficiency of your HVAC system. In winter, although you’ll lose some of the heat on the first floor, that heat will rise and help make the rooms on the upper level feel warmer. Therefore, if you’re spending an extended period of time on the upper level, you will likely be able to operate your HVAC system less frequently. Again, the opposite effect occurs in the summer, when heat rises and makes the upper-level rooms uncomfortably warm.

A Good Contractor

A good HVAC contractor understands the significant effect that tall ceilings can have on HVAC efficiency, and they will take this knowledge into account when repairing or replacing your system. These calculations are especially important when replacing your system to ensure the system that’s chosen is large enough to keep your home comfortable. A home with tall ceilings will need a more powerful HVAC system than a home that’s similarly sized with standard-height ceilings. If you’re currently experiencing high utility bills, it’s potentially because the contractor that installed your HVAC system didn’t take into account the considerable cubic volume of your home, meaning your HVAC system has to run more often and use more energy.

Proper Air Circulation

When you have tall ceilings, Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling wants you to know that proper air circulation is key. Good air circulation can help prevent the previously discussed layering effects that can reduce your system’s efficiency. One simple way to maintain air circulation is to install ceiling fans in any room in your home with tall ceilings. Depending on the size of the room, you may need more than one ceiling fan to provide adequate circulation. In most cases, you won’t need to run the ceiling fan at a higher speed setting, because even gentle circulation can help prevent air layering so that your room stays comfortable for longer. Most ceiling fans have reversible motors so that you can continue to use them during the winter without lowering the temperature of the room to an uncomfortable level.

Windows Make a Difference

If your home takes advantage of your tall ceilings by having tall windows, it’s important to factor these in when thinking through your HVAC system’s efficiency. Large windows let in extra sunlight that can make your home too warm in the summer. In the winter, if your windows have any air leaks, cold air from the outside can take the place of the warm air inside, making your home uncomfortable. In either case, these temperature swings will make your HVAC system less efficient, meaning that you need to take extra care if you have a large bank of windows in your home. Use window coverings to keep out excess sunlight in the summer, and make sure that your windows are properly insulated to keep cold winter air outside.

Good Temperature Readings

In any HVAC system, a good thermostat is critical for maintaining good system efficiency. This is especially true if you have tall ceilings in your home. Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling recommends that you choose the location of your thermostat carefully so that it’s reading the temperature in the main living area instead of the large empty space created by the tall ceiling. Otherwise, the thermostat’s readings will consistently be incorrect, causing your HVAC system to work harder to keep you comfortable. To better understand the thermal behavior of the open space in a room with a tall ceiling, you can install a remote temperature sensor so that you can see the difference between the temperatures in the upper and lower portions of the room to see if you need to make any changes.

Remove Humidity

Whether it’s summer or winter, some warm air in a tall room will inevitably gather near the ceiling. This is true even if you have good air circulation in the room. The problem with having warm air in a single location is that warm air can hold more water vapor than cool air. Over time, this humid air can cause mold to begin to grow on the drywall. Mold can cause some nasty illnesses in members of your household, so this is something you want to avoid. Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling recommends installing a whole-home dehumidifier for the best results. A whole-home dehumidifier regulates humidity levels throughout your entire HVAC system, allowing the HVAC system to run more efficiently and keeping you and your family healthy.

HVAC Advice You Can Trust

At Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling, we’ve been providing common-sense HVAC advice since our founding over 60 years ago. We take pride in the services we offer, which include furnace repair, air conditioner installation, thermostat replacement, geothermal installation, and much more. Through the years, we’ve been able to grow because we’ve been able to earn the trust of our customers thanks to our integrity and skill. These same qualities allow us to maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and consistently earn five-star customer reviews. To learn more about making the most of your HVAC system, contact the pros of Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling today.

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