Few things affect the overall energy efficiency of your home like the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. Studies from the Energy Information Administration have found that 6.2% of annual energy costs come directly from cooling your home and 41.5% comes from space heating. In warmer areas of the south and west these costs may be more balanced, but at the end of the day the HVAC system still accounts for roughly half of your total energy expenses.
Investing in a new SEER 13 or higher system is a guaranteed way to green up your home’s heating and cooling. But if you don’t have the means to invest in a new system, there are still ways to significantly increase the efficiency of your current HVAC unit through regular maintenance. A few HVAC repairs have to be handled by a professional, but you can DIY most of your HVAC upkeep.
The first step is analyzing your HVAC performance to look for signs of inefficiency.
HVAC Inefficiency Sign: Airflow Out of the Vents is Limited
Solution: Fix Duct Leaks & Kinks
Turn on your HVAC system, and hold your hand up to one of the open vents. Do you feel air flowing out? When the airflow is weak that suggests there are leaks and kinks in the ductwork. It’s one of the most common problems that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of the system. The HVAC unit is working away, but the cooled or heated air is being lost in crawl spaces. Sealing duct leaks, straightening kinks, cleaning and insulating the ductwork can improve energy efficiency by 30%.
HVAC Inefficiency Sign: The System Runs but the Air Doesn’t Cool
Solution: Inadequate Refrigerant Levels
An HVAC repair or maintenance will require the assistance of a professional because only they can handle the refrigerants needed to recharge the system. The full service will include measuring refrigerant levels, testing for leaks, adding refrigerant as needed and disposing of the old material. Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning notes that these types of professional services from a license technician can help prevent up to 85% of all HVAC repairs.
HVAC Inefficiency Sign: The System is Running Full Blast All the Time
Solution: Programmable Thermostat
An operable, programmable thermostat gives you more control over your HVAC system so that the home can be kept comfortable, but energy isn’t wasted while you’re away. If you don’t have or utilize a programmable thermostat, using one to set up a schedule can reduce energy consumption by up to 10%.
HVAC Inefficiency Sign: The Air Quality Seems Poor
Solution: Change or Clean the Filters
The easiest way to ensure your HVAC unit is running efficiently is to replace or clean your air filters at least once every two months. The filter helps to remove air particles, which keeps the unit cleaner and will improve air quality.
HVAC Inefficiency Sign: The Inside of Your Home Seems Humid
Solution: Unclog the Condensate Drain
One way that HVAC systems make a home more comfortable is by removing humidity from the air. The system’s evaporator removes the humidity, but if the condensate drain has become clogged the humidity won’t be able to escape. This makes your system run harder in an attempt to dehumidify the air. A stiff wire can be used to clear out build up in drain channels before they become clogs.
There are other smaller signs of wear and tear that HVAC systems will show over time that suggest things aren’t running as efficiently as they could. The big fixes above can increase efficiency by as much as 40%, which means even if you hire a professional to do the work it will pay off in the end.