Most homeowners want to keep their homes comfortable without spending too much on their energy bills. Many people decide to lower their bills by closing the vents in any unused rooms when it gets colder. At first glance, this seems to be a sensible idea, why heat a room that isn’t being used? But, this is a mistake, the energy required to heat your home could increase, and you may even cause damage to your HVAC system. In this article, we will examine why it’s not a good idea to close vents in unused rooms during the winter months.
Why is it a Bad Idea to Close Vents in Winter?
Although there may be rooms in your home that are not in use right now, they still contribute to the overall thermal profile of your home. When the vents in those rooms are closed, they will become colder because they are not receiving any heat. This lowers the general ambient temperature in the entire home. Our heating systems are not designed to interpret differences in temperature, and this equipment will continue to try and heat the entire home. This makes the HVAC system work harder than it normally would, and the system will struggle to heat up the whole house. This includes the rooms where the vents are closed, and the heat cannot reach those areas.
How Does This Affect Airflow and Ductwork?
The airflow in your home is incredibly important because it affects the air pressure that’s directed throughout the home via the ductwork system. Because the HVAC system is specifically designed to regulate the indoor temperatures in the entire home, closed ducts are a real problem. When we close the ducts in certain rooms, it can cause a build up of air pressure, and this air has nowhere to go. Eventually, this can cause damage to the ductwork and/or your heating and cooling equipment. When the ducts are closed, the HVAC system has to work harder in an attempt to compensate for the lack of heating performance relative to the temperature set on the thermostat. So, the equipment and ductwork are placed under additional strain, and the energy usage also increases, which drives up the cost of your energy bills.
How Can You Reduce Energy Usage Without Closing Vents?
As we can see, closing off the air vents that supply treated air to each room is not an effective strategy to maintain indoor comfort and save energy. So, what can we do to keep our homes cool or warm and save energy without damaging our HVAC systems? There are five main ways that you can reduce the energy spent on heating and cooling without compromising on your indoor comfort levels.
- Check for Air Leaks
It’s a great idea to check your attic, crawlspace, doors, windows, plumbing, and ductwork for air leaks. When treated air escapes, it’s a waste of energy and money; locating and fixing these leaks will lower your energy bill. This can be a long and drawn out task, an HVAC specialist can carry out an evaluation for you, and they have equipment to easily locate every air leak in your home quickly.
- Install Weather Stripping
Adding weather stripping to your windows is an ideal way to keep the cold and rain out of your rooms. But, this will also help to keep the treated air indoors where it belongs. When you spend money on energy to heat or cool your home, it’s wasteful if it simply leaks outdoors. If you have weather stripping in place and it looks old or tired, consider replacing it, and this will help you to save energy.
- Add Caulk to Doors and Windows
Another possible route for treated air to escape is around your doors and windows. These areas should have been caulked at some point in the past, but caulk can warp and crack over time to create holes where air can escape. If the caulk is in good condition, you may be able to add a little caulk where there are gaps. If the caulk looks worn, it’s a better idea to simply strip it off and replace it with new caulk instead.
- Install Thermal Insulating Curtains
We can lose a lot of heat through our windows, and installing some thermal insulating curtains in each room is a great way to retain heat. These types of curtains are relatively inexpensive, and the best ones last for many years. This is a very cost effective way to make rooms feel warmer without breaking the bank.
- Annual Servicing and Maintenance
Many people ignore the needs of the HVAC equipment, and they don’t schedule any annual servicing or maintenance. This is a big mistake; every year, your HVAC system loses a little performance and energy efficiency. Over time the equipment will cost more to run, and it will deliver far less performance than when it was new. A well maintained system is less likely to fail because smaller issues can be detected and fixed before they develop into more serious problems that cost more to fix.
Warming the Entire Home is the Best Approach
Hopefully, we’ve shown that it makes better sense to heat up the entire home rather than shutting off infrequently used rooms. At first, it may seem counterintuitive, but even if your attic, spare room, or basement are not in regular use, it’s a good idea to heat them up with the rest of the home. The energy savings made from the five suggestions shown above would more than compensate for opening up the vents in these spaces. In fact, most homes would use far less energy if the air leaks were sealed, and the insulation levels were adequate.
Scheduling some annual HVAC maintenance at the beginning of each heating season is a great way to boost performance and save energy. It’s also worth asking your local certified HVAC specialist about servicing deals for regular customers to save even more money.