If you’re visiting energy saving websites that are not authority sites, the chances are that you’ve read that you should close your air vents to save energy in winter. Unfortunately, this “helpful” tip can actually do more harm than good. So, here we’ll bust a few myths about HVAC air vents and the airflow and energy saving argument.
Airflow and Closing Vents:
There are vents throughout your home in the various rooms. These are in place to allow the conditioned air from your HVAC system to be directed around your home. There is a misconception that if you close the vents in one area of your home, it will allow the air to be redirected to another area.
For example, if you have a room or area in your home that you use infrequently, you may not want to fully heat it in winter. Unfortunately, closing vents will redirect the air, but it is not as simple as you may think.
When you close the registers, the air will back up in the ductwork, increasing the pressure in the system. This pressure will be exerted into the ductwork, leading to duct leaks. So, the air that you wanted to direct into more frequently used rooms in your home may actually be lost into unconditioned areas. Additionally, the increased pressure in the ductwork and duct leaks will force the furnace to compensate by running for longer periods, increasing your energy usage.
Will You Save Energy by Closing Vents?
You may have read that if you close air vents, you’ll save energy, but as we just touched on, it can actually lead to increased energy consumption. Your HVAC system was designed to heat your home entirely and the equipment size was calculated according to its size and characteristics. Your furnace does not recognize that you’ve closed vents, so it will continue to work to heat the space that it was designed for.
Will Closing Vents Help Airflow?
If you have unused rooms, you may have wondered if you can improve airflow by closing off those vents. This is not the case. The vital furnace components need a minimum volume of return airflow to maintain its optimum internal temperature. When you close supply air vents, you’ll reduce airflow and could potentially cause the heat exchanger to overheat. This is one of the most expensive components in a HVAC system, so it is costly to replace. Additionally, if cracks develop and the heat exchanger becomes defective, there is a safety hazard, since carbon monoxide could be allowed to infiltrate.
In summer, closing off the vents could lead to frozen coils in your AC system, which can damage the compressor.
So, whether it is summer or winter, closing off your air vents will not help airflow. In fact, it can cause damage to the system components, increasing your repair bills and potentially leading to early replacement.
Will Closing Vents Help in Other Areas of the Home?
Many people assume that closing off vents in less frequently used areas of the home will improve home comfort elsewhere. This is not true. Instead, you’re more likely to experience duct leaks, and equipment issues with no additional heating or cooling in other areas of your home.
In fact, cold rooms in an otherwise warm house will act as a heat sink. Heat will be naturally drawn from the warm areas into these colder zones. So, keeping rooms unheated will suck heat out of your frequently used areas via the uninsulated interior walls.
Additionally, the furnace will cycle more frequently to compensate for this heat loss. This will actually increase your energy costs and you will experience diminished indoor comfort.
What About Partially Closing Vents?
Although you should not close air vents fully, you could experience energy savings by partially closing a couple of vents furthest from your furnace. These vents will still allow proper airflow, so they won’t increase pressure in the ductwork or cause components overheating inside your furnace.
Should Basement Vents be Closed?
If you have a finished basement with vents, you should not close them. Your HVAC system has been designed to climate control your full home including this space. So, closing the vents will have similar negative effects as you would experience with closing vents in other areas of your home.
As with second story vents, if you’re not using your basement regularly, you could partially close the vents. This will reduce the energy usage without compromising airflow.
Genuine Tips for Energy Saving:
Now we’ve busted the most common energy saving myths, there are some genuine tips for energy saving, so you can reduce your utility bills without sacrificing home comfort.
Eliminate drafts: Check walls, windows and doorways for any cracks, gaps or crevices. These areas produce a draft that not only feels unpleasant if you’re sitting nearby, but they waste energy. These gaps introduce cold air from outside and allow warm air to escape. Any gaps can be remedied with sealant, weather-stripping, caulk or other weatherproofing materials.
Increase your insulation: Insulation provides a barrier that prevents treated air from escaping your home via the walls and roof. The recommendations for the optimum level of insulation varies according to where you live and the type of home. Just be sure to avoid blocking your ventilation system if you’re increasing the insulation in your attic. You should never cover the attic vents as it prevents moisture leaving the attic, which could lead to damp issues and water damage.
Have your HVAC system maintained: Your furnace should be maintained every two years at a minimum, but it is a good idea to have your equipment serviced before every winter. This will not only ensure that the equipment is operating at optimal efficiency, but also provides the opportunity for diagnosis of minor issues before they develop into a serious problem.
As you can see, there are plenty of HVAC myths around. Fortunately, you can rely on the expertise and experience of your local HVAC specialist to guide you through any issues.