Tips and Tricks

Simple Ways to Improve Duct Performance

Ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems. In typical houses, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holed, and poorly connected ducts. This results in inefficient HVAC systems, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.

Common duct problems include:

  • Leaky, torn, and disconnected ducts
  • Poorly sealed registers and grills
  • Leaks at furnace and filter slots
  • Kinks in flexible ductwork restricting airflow

Because ducts are often concealed in walls, ceilings, attics and basements, repairing them can be difficult. There are things you can do to improve duct performance in your house. Start by sealing leaks using mastic sealant or metal (foil) tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access such as those in the attic, crawlspace, basement, or garage. Do not use “duct tape,” as it is not long lasting.

Also make sure the connections at vents and registers are well sealed where they meet the floor, walls and ceiling. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

A Word About Windows

Windows are an important part of your home’s envelope. Installing more efficient windows will help you save money and use less energy. Your estimated savings will vary depending on current heating and cooling costs in your area.

Energy-efficient windows do more than just lower energy bills; they help keep your home’s temperature consistently comfortable. In the winter, the glass stays warmer and in the summer, the windows reduce the heat gain into the home without reducing the visible light.

If your house needs new windows, consider ENERGY STAR-qualified models. The ENERGY STAR guidelines for windows are tailored to four climate zones. For example, windows in the North are optimized to reduce heat loss in the winter, while windows in the South are optimized to reduce heat gain during the summer. For optimal results, select ENERGY STAR-qualified windows that are appropriate for your climate zone.

What to Look for in a Programmable Thermostat

Every programmable thermostat comes with four pre-programmed settings and maintains those settings within two degrees. Many qualified models also come with additional features, such as:

  • Digital, backlit displays
  • Touch-pad screen programming
  • Voice and/or phone programming
  • Hold/permanent/vacation features
  • Indicators that tell you when it’s time to change air filters
  • Indicators that signal malfunctioning of heating/cooling systems
  • Adaptive recovery/smart recovery features-control features that sense the amount of time it will take to reach the next set-point temperature, and reach desired temperatures by the set time

To decide which model is best for you, think about your schedule and how often you are away from home for regular periods of time. Then decide which of the three different models best fits your schedule: the 7-day, 5+2 day, or the 5-1-1 day.

  • 7-day models are best if your daily schedule tends to change. They give you the most flexibility, and let you set different programs for different days-usually with four possible temperature periods per day.
  • 5+2-day models use the same schedule every weekday, and another for weekends.
  • 5-1-1 models are best if you tend to keep one schedule Monday through Friday and another schedule on Saturdays and Sundays.

Thermostat Installation

Your programmable thermostat should be installed on an interior wall, away from heating or cooling vents and other sources of heat or drafts (e.g., doorways, windows, skylights, direct sunlight or bright lamps). If you’re replacing an older programmable thermostat, be sure to read directions carefully and take the proper safety precautions.
Programmable thermostats are a low-voltage wiring installation and involve anywhere from two to 10 wires, depending on your type of heating and cooling system. The electricity should be shut-off during any replacement. The previous attachment points will reconnect your new unit.

It’s a good idea to upgrade an old manual thermostat to a programmable unit if you’re replacing a central air conditioning or heating system. Programmable thermostats are far more accurate and will maximize efficiency of your new system. Heat pumps may require a special unit to maximize energy savings year-round.

Call Pepper Air Conditioning and Heating, Inc. 940-648-2692 to ensure proper installation.

Still Have Rooms that are Too Hot or Too Cold?

If you’ve sealed the leaks and ductwork in your home and you have adequate insulation and reasonably efficient windows, yet you are still experiencing rooms that are too hot or too cold, it could be the result of:

  • The Home’s Construction:  homes built on slabs tend to be colder, while two-story and split-level homes tend to have colder lower levels and warmer upper levels.
  • The Room’s Direction: A south-facing room gets more sun and is likely to be warmer that a northern-facing room.
  • Windows: The number of windows in the room and the direction they face can have a huge impact. Changing the window coverings might help; if the room is too cold, add heavier drapes. If it is too hot, use sheer coverings.
  • Air Return Ducts: In some cases there are not enough air return ducts in the house. If this is the case, closed doors can cut off air supply and create a pressure imbalance throughout the entire house, affecting the comfort of all rooms.