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9 Tips for Improving the Efficiency of Your HVAC System

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During the scorching summers and chilly winters, it can be tempting to keep your household HVAC system running constantly to stay comfortable. But when you rely too heavily on your heating and cooling appliances, it’s easy to accidentally let your monthly energy bills get out of hand. As a result of this, you end up having to choose between maintaining the comfort of your home and keeping your bills reasonable. However, it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too. If you’re willing to improve your household habits and be proactive, you can greatly improve the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. That way, you won’t have to sacrifice your comfort just to keep your bills from skyrocketing. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most effective tips for improving HVAC efficiency.

#1 – Schedule Professional Maintenance

Scheduling professional maintenance every year is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your HVAC system. If you have a heat pump in your home, you should only need one tune-up per year. Alternatively, if you have a furnace with a separate AC unit, you’ll typically want to have both systems serviced every year. In that situation, it’s ideal to schedule AC maintenance during the spring and furnace maintenance during the fall. That way, you’ll be ensuring that each system is running at peak performance and efficiency during the time of year that you need it the most.

So, why is HVAC maintenance so important? Whenever your HVAC system is running, the equipment is accumulating wear and tear. This is akin to your car’s engine accumulating mileage. After a certain amount of mileage, you need to have your vehicle serviced to keep it running smoothly; HVAC systems are very similar. At Ace Mechanical, our skilled technicians will be happy to handle your heating and cooling maintenance. During this service, we’ll clean the appliance, check the status of its important components, and inspect for any mechanical problems or concerning red flags. If necessary, our team will make adjustments to improve the performance of the unit. And if they find any problems, they’ll be able to fix them before they become more serious.

After being tuned up, your HVAC system will be able to circulate air more consistently and without using as much energy. That means your comfort will improve, your monthly energy bills will be reduced, and the odds of a system malfunction or breakdown will decline significantly.

#2 – Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

Unless you have a ductless HVAC system, then your home’s air ducts play a crucial role in keeping your living space comfortable. Essentially, the air ducts are passageways that are used by your heating and cooling systems to distribute air around your household. The furnace or air handler pushes the warm or cool air through the ducts, where it’s routed to the different parts of the home. Over time, though, the inside of your ductwork tends to accumulate contaminants, including dust, dirt, mold spores, random debris, and even pest droppings. At least once every few years, it’s important that you have these pollutants cleaned out by professionals. 

If enough contaminant particles are allowed to build up inside your air ducts, they can start to form obstructions. That leaves less space for your HVAC system to push air through, forcing it to work harder and use more energy. This can also negatively impact your indoor air quality, home comfort, and the overall health of your HVAC system. However, if you have your ductwork cleaned periodically, you can keep those pathways nice and clear for your heating and cooling units. If it has been more than a few years since you scheduled this service, doing so now would be an effective way to improve the efficiency of your HVAC system immediately.

#3 – Clean Your Air Vents

After the air from your HVAC system passes through your ductwork, it must flow through your home’s air vents to reach your living space. Much like the inside of your air ducts, though, the inside of your vents can become packed with a variety of contaminants. And when enough dust, dirt, and small debris builds up inside your air vents, it can start to block the flow of your heating and cooling systems. To successfully push through the registers, your HVAC unit will need to increase its air pressure, which will worsen its efficiency and put more wear and tear on the equipment. Plus, many of those contaminants inside your vents will end up in the air you and your family are breathing.

If you simply clean your air vents once every month or two, you can avoid these issues and help your HVAC system maintain peak efficiency. You’ll need to use a screwdriver to remove the protective covers from each air vent. Then, you should be able to clear the contaminants out with a vacuum cleaner’s extension hose.

#4 – Replace Your HVAC Air Filters

Your heating and cooling units are equipped with air filters, which are responsible for catching airborne contaminants. That way, the dust mites, pollen, mold spores, and other pollutants are trapped in the filter before they can be cycled into the HVAC system and around your household. HVAC air filters only have so much space for contaminant particles, though. And eventually, they become clogged, which can make it difficult for the system to consistently circulate air. This forces your HVAC unit to work much harder, worsening its efficiency and increasing the risk of a malfunction or system breakdown. Plus, leaving dirty HVAC filters for too long can significantly worsen your indoor air quality.

If you want to keep your HVAC system running as efficiently as possible, be proactive about replacing its air filters. Although there are several factors to consider when deciding how often to switch out your air filters, you typically shouldn’t wait more than two or three months. If you’re not sure, you can always perform a visual inspection to evaluate the condition of the filters. If an HVAC air filter is still clean, you should be able to see light shining through when you hold it up to a light. If you can’t, that typically means it’s time to replace the filter.

#5 – Find and Seal Air Leaks

If your HVAC system isn’t running as efficiently as you’d like, it could be partially due to air leaks around your home. Although you may not see them, even a few small openings around your doors and windows can lead to quite a bit of wasted energy. For example, when your heating system is circulating warmth during the freezing winter, air leaks will allow quite a bit of that air to escape your household. This has several negative effects. For one, it takes much longer for your dwelling space to become comfortably warm. And since the heater needs to run for longer, it requires more energy, which directly impacts your monthly heating bills. Plus, that additional strain on your HVAC system can worsen its overall health and shorten its life expectancy. Every now and then, it’s important to search your home for air leaks and seal any that you find. Typically, the openings will show up around the edges of windows and doorways, and once you find them, you can use caulking and weather stripping to thoroughly seal them.

#6 – Invest in a Smart Thermostat

If you have trouble conserving energy in your home, investing in a smart thermostat may be an effective solution. Modern thermostats, which can be controlled directly from a remote or an app on your smartphone, offer a variety of useful features. These features are generally aimed at improving your comfort, helping you conserve energy, and making your day-to-day life more convenient. For example, you can program your smart thermostat to automatically shut off your HVAC system at certain times every day. That way, you won’t need to worry about accidentally leaving the AC running when you go to work or get in bed. Additionally, modern thermostats can track your household habits and provide enlightening data about them. This allows you to identify the areas where you’re regularly wasting energy and eliminate them. Ultimately, having a smart thermostat will ensure that your heating and cooling units only run when they truly need to.

#7 – Utilize Energy-Efficient Curtains

Did you know that using curtains strategically can help you save energy throughout the year? There are a variety of curtains and blinds on the market that work very well to help keep heat trapped inside or outside your household. For example, if you keep these specialized curtains closed during a winter evening, it will help prevent the warmth from your heating system from escaping through windows and glass doors. So, you should only need to have the heater on for a short amount of time before your living space is warm and cozy. Over the course of an entire winter, that additional rest for your HVAC system can not only save you a ton of money on energy, but it can also improve the system’s overall performance and health.

Even if you don’t have special energy-efficient curtains, you can utilize your standard ones to conserve energy—especially during the winter. During the day, leave the curtains open to allow the sun’s natural warmth to flood into your home. But when the sun goes down, close all of your curtains to keep that heat trapped inside.

#8 – Upgrade Your Attic Insulation

Having quality attic insulation in your home is crucial if you want to maximize HVAC efficiency. Without good insulation, there’s no real barrier between your attic and the rest of your home. So, during the winter, warm air generated by your heating system naturally floats up to the top of your household. As a result, it lingers in your attic or leaks through your roof instead of keeping you and your family warm. But when you have spray foam insulation or some other type of reliable attic insulation, it keeps the majority of that heat in the lower sections of your dwelling where it can actually benefit you. That prevents your heating system from needing to work as hard to do its job, reducing its energy usage and keeping it in good condition.

Having quality attic insulation can benefit you during the sweltering summer months as well. Although heat naturally rises, it also tries to occupy as much of your home as possible. So, without insulation, heat from outside can travel through your attic and into the rest of your home, actively working against your air conditioner. That will force your cooling system to strain itself to keep your living space comfortable, using lots of electricity in the process.

#9 – Clean Your Condenser Unit

Whether your home features a heat pump or an air conditioner, your HVAC system should include an outdoor unit. Also known as the condenser unit, this part of the system plays an important role in the cooling process. Typically, the condenser unit will feature condenser coils, which are metal fins around the outside of the unit. Because the condenser is exposed to the elements, it tends to accumulate dirt, debris, and random grime throughout the year. In many cases, much of the dirt will also become caked around the metal coils, which can hamper your HVAC system’s airflow and greatly worsen its efficiency and performance. Periodically, it’s important to check the status of your outdoor unit and spend some time cleaning it. You can use a broom or brush to clear away the dirt and debris, and you may also want to gently rinse the condenser coils.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, the majority of these tips are quite simple, yet they can make a huge difference in the efficiency, performance, and health of your HVAC system. Even implementing a few of these tasks into your routine can save you quite a bit of money and frustration in both the short term and the long term. And when you need dependable HVAC services in the Virginia Beach, VA area, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Ace Mechanical!

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