Some HVAC problems are beyond what I know, so when [email protected] offered answers, I took the opportunity to share them with you. Here’s what they say:
What’s best for one house may not fit another house on the same block. For that reason, we answer a lot of unique questions about HVAC systems for homeowners every week. However, there are some universally recurring questions, ones that get asked by owners of homes of all shapes and sizes. Below are answers to five of our most popular questions.
1.) How do I balance the heat when I only have one zone on my HVAC system? If I make the living room tolerable, my bedroom is too hot!
The easy, less effective solution: Install a manual zoning method. For forced air systems (those using a furnace to heat the home), this means an air register with a damper that you can close. You can also use an air guide to direct the airflow where it is most needed. In a hydronic system (those using boilers and radiators), installing thermostatic control valves on your radiators allows you to adjust each radiator’s individual temperature at the unit.
The slightly-less-easy, much-more-effective option: Zone your home. This can sound daunting and expensive, but it can actually be a relatively painless way to improve both the comfort and efficiency of your home. You’ll need a thermostat for each zone, a zone controller, and zoning devices. Zoning devices are either automatic air dampers for forced air or mixing valves/pumps for hydronic systems. By splitting your home into zones, you’ll receive more accurate comfort, and you won’t have to worry about wasting money heating or cooling unoccupied zones. Since the zoning system is handling the work, all you have to do is program the thermostats!
When it comes to uncomfortable rooms, lots of homeowners question whether renovation is right for their HVAC systems or if they should add a mini split system as a supplement. The answer to this question is highly dependent on the composition of your home. Both of these are perfectly viable options, so it’s necessary to dig a bit deeper. If your HVAC system runs great and adding a branch duct to your kitchen is a one-day job, the answer will differ from a situation where your furnace is already struggling to keep your home comfortable or you’d need to pull three walls down for the new ducting.
Presuming your system can manage the additional load, our advice in this situation is to schedule a ductwork inspection and price out mini splits online. Compare the costs and see which fits your budget better. In many cases, a home’s ductwork is the least efficient link in the HVAC chain. If you can replace leaky ducts while you expand to the underserved room, you could not only see an increase in your home’s comfort, but also a decrease in your utility bills. On the flip side, mini splits are remarkably easy to install, and usually substantially more efficient than a central system. If you’re looking at a complicated renovation to add ducting, it’s possible that the efficiency gains from new ductwork will never help you recoup the difference in installation costs.
3.) Why are my ducts making noise? I hear a whoosh every time my HVAC system turns on. It sounds like a vacuum cleaner is running!
It is likely that your airflow velocity is too high. This can be a result of either undersized ducting or an oversized furnace blower or air handler. In homes with excessive airflow velocity, background noise can be constant when the HVAC system is on. Adjusting the speed settings on your blower or air handler is the best way to mitigate this noise – just make certain it won’t compromise the heating and cooling capabilities of your system first.
Insufficient return air is another cause of high airflow velocity. If your system isn’t getting enough return air, the pressure increases and it has to work harder to provide circulation in your home.
4.) Is a central HVAC system efficient in a zoned home, or should I convert to a mini split system?
Central HVAC equipment can be perfectly acceptable in a zoned system, but there are some things to look out for.
In order to ensure optimal efficiency, you will want multi-stage equipment. If you are using a furnace or boiler, look for one with a two-stage, or ideally modulating, gas valve. For air conditioners and heat pumps, you’ll want two-stage compressor operation. This allows the equipment to vary its performance based on demand, reducing energy use and your utility bills.
In forced air applications, your air handler or blower also plays an important role in zoned efficiency. Like multi-stage equipment, a variable speed fan motor will scale its output to the needs of your home. The result of a system with these components is consistent, efficient zoned comfort from a central system.
All that said, mini split systems can reach efficiency ratings upwards of 30 SEER (the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), compared to central systems that tend to max out at 18 SEER.
Provided that it is installed properly and adheres to all local codes and regulations, there is nothing wrong with an attic installation for a gas-fired furnace. If you follow the mandated clearances for combustible materials, there is no additional fire hazard from installing your furnace in your attic. There are, however, a couple things of which to be mindful.
If your attic is ventilated, you need to be sure that the furnaces will not be at risk of freezing. If your attic is sealed, you need to make sure that your furnace is receiving enough combustion air and can vent properly. Your installer should address both of these concerns before beginning an attic installation.
This article was written by Myles Kleeman, a Brand Specialist and writer at eComfort.com, one of the leading online retailers of HVAC and plumbing equipment. If you have any questions about your current or future HVAC system, give our experts a call at 866-554-HEAT or email us at [email protected] and bring some Unmatched Expertise to your home improvement project.