If you’ve ever wandered into a room in your home that feels colder or warmer than the others depending on the season, it can be a cause for concern. Adjusting the thermostat may not fix the problem and when you feel the vents, the airflow is weak or non-existent. If these phenomena sound familiar to you, there is a strong possibility that your HVAC system has airflow problems. In this article, we will take a look at six common airflow problems and how to fix them.
A Brief Primer
Before we begin, it’s important to understand the importance of airflow in your heating and cooling systems. There is a reliance on airflow to move the treated air throughout the home and when this is diminished the performance is compromised. Another serious problem is that the components rely on airflow to keep the system cool and running efficiently. If the airflow is reduced, it can lead to component failures and an unexpected repair bill. Poor airflow could be a sign that the compressor unit is failing or there may be air leaks wasting treated air somewhere in the duct work. There may be air balancing problems that are causing the airflow to be diminished. Some airflow problems are an easy fix for anyone with basic DIY skill and a little patience. Other problems can only be tackled by your local heating and cooling specialist.
1. Clogged Air Filters
The air filters are an inexpensive and simple component and they are often overlooked when people think about HVAC systems. But, the air filter is essential. When it’s clogged, it can lead to poor airflow problems and this is an easy problem to solve. If you cannot remember when you last changed or cleaned the air filter, it’s a good idea to do it now. When you look at the air filter, you may notice that the surface is covered with dust, debris, pet dander and other pollutants. When air cannot pass through the air filter, it can lead to a lack of airflow, overheating problems and even a shorter than expected HVAC system lifespan. The air filters should be changed every 3-4 months or more often if you live in a polluted area or have pets in your home. If you upgrade to a smart AC controller or thermostat, they will monitor the cleanliness of the air filters which can be helpful.
2. Outdoor Unit Debris
The outdoor unit is designed to work in a wide variety of temperatures and weather conditions. But this unit is prone to the usual leaves, branches and other debris that can be found in your yard. If you store outdoor furniture or other items around the outdoor unit this can prevent the unit from working properly. Another common problem is plant growth around the outdoor unit which will cause airflow and overheating problems. Clean the debris from the outdoor unit, trim back plant growth and store any items in another location.
3. Low Refrigerant Levels
Many people believe that their AC systems cool their homes, but this is not strictly true. It’s more correct to say that the air conditioning removes the heat from the home to make the indoor spaces comfortable. To facilitate this process, the air conditioning places refrigerant under pressure and moves it around the home in a circulatory manner. The refrigerant turns from a liquid to a gas and back again as it absorbs the heat and moves it outdoors. When there is a lack of refrigerant, the system loses efficiency and there will be a lack of cool air blowing from the vents. Locating and fixing a refrigerant leak or inspecting and fixing the compressor unit is a job for a HVAC technician. It may be tempting to recharge the refrigerant yourself, but it’s easy to make a mistake and mixing different refrigerants will further degrade the performance.
4. Incorrect HVAC Unit Sizing
The HVAC unit must be correctly sized for the home using a complex load calculation that must be performed by a heating and cooling specialist. If the unit is too large, it will turn on and off again rapidly which is known as short cycling. This degrades the airflow, it damages components and excess moisture will not be removed leading to humidity problems. If the unit is too small, it will run constantly in an attempt to cool the home which causes overheating and it leads to higher energy bills. Schedule a home energy audit to evaluate the performance and efficiency of your HVAC system.
5. Leaking Air Ducts
Misaligned air ductwork, cracks, breaks and broken seals all release treated air before it’s distributed throughout the home. This is a waste of money and it can allow dust and debris to enter the ductwork which degrades the air quality. In extreme cases, vermin and pests can enter the ductwork and nest there which contaminates the air. Locating a ductwork leak can be a challenge, but if you can find it, a temporary repair with duct tape is possible. But, a more lasting solution is needed and a HVAC technician can find any air leaks and fix them for you. If the ductwork is in bad shape, it’s often cheaper to replace it entirely and this is less expensive than you might imagine.
6. A Faulty Thermostat
The thermostat is the brain for the entire HVAC system and any errors in this unit will affect the delivery of treated air. There are a few possible causes, including: incorrect calibration, a dirty sensor, a failing battery or the unit is failing. Most thermostats are easy to open, vacuum the interior, change the batteries if it uses them and set an appropriate temperature. If this doesn’t fix the problem, it’s time to contact your local HVAC specialist. It may be possible to upgrade to a programmable or smart thermostat to get more control over your HVAC system if it’s compatible.
If you’re concerned about a lack of airflow from your heating and cooling system, contact your local HVAC specialist today.