Five New Solutions To Cold & Drafty Rooms
With cold winter weather now upon us, are you suffering from rooms that are cold and drafty? Many mistakenly assume that this is unavoidable, since every home they ever lived in had uneven temperatures. Others say they can understand why they have the problem, since the problem area is the farthest from the furnace or air handler, but you don’t have to put up with these problems! New government, industry and utility company research on uneven temperatures finds there are now economical permanent solutions. Here are some common causes, and solutions: Identify Your Duct Leaks and Have Them Sealed: The Department Of Energy states that 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. This is a new computerized diagnostic instrument, invented by the Department Of Energy (see photo). The test typically takes an hour to perform. 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, and on This Old House and other TV shows. Many heating and air conditioning contractors offer the test as part of a “Whole House Health and Comfort Checkup” that also checks insulation levels and overall duct system performance. If your ducts are leaking, have them thoroughly sealed, using special paint-on fiber-reinforced elastomeric sealants, 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. The “engineer” was usually the lowest paid worker of the lowest bid heating and cooling contractor the builder could find. Ask your HVAC contractor to check the “static pressure” in your ducts. Just as with blood pressure, the pressure in your air ducts 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 if your contractor can perform an “infra-red camera scan” as part of a Whole House Checkup. He should inspect insulation levels and also check for Thermal Bypasses (hollow wall cavities in the home behind sheet rock walls). Insulation over the top of them does little to reduce heat transfer. Having thermal bypasses pinpointed and sealed saves energy and makes individual rooms much more comfortable. Consider A Zoning Damper System: After implementing the above recommendations, if the temperatures are still not even enough, ask your contractor for a proposal for a zoning system. Motorized dampers are installed in the ducts, tied to thermostats in all areas. If one area needs more cooling or heating, the dampers to it stay open and others close off. Consider A New SMALLER Furnace Or Air Conditioner: Many homeowners (and even many 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 short 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 your contractor about new 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. For more information, visit www.energystar.gov and www.comfortinstitute.org. Print out the free Comfort Institute reports “Tips and Secrets To Buying A New Heating and Cooling System” and “How To Identify A Good Heating and Cooling Contractor”. Call or email me with any questions.