Heating and air conditioning systems have undergone many changes and improvements since the concept of using a centralized unit to heat and cool family homes became popular back in the 1970s. Today's heating and air conditioning systems (HVACs) offer families more comfort, efficiency and affordability than ever before. However, even these may not be able to provide comfort to homes where certain problems or conditions exist. If your home's HVAC system is in good condition and fully operational, yet your home does not feel as comfortable as it should, the problem may be caused by something other than your central heating and cooling appliances.
Design and air flow issues
According to information published by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the median age of owner-occupied American homes is listed as 35 years of age, with this number increasing to more than 50 years of age in the northeast, where winters are typically very cold. By the time most homes are three to five decades old, many have undergone at least some sort of expansion or renovation project. While some of these projects are well designed, many may not be, such as when rooms or additions are added on without considering air flow needs inside the home.
If your home has an adequately sized, well-maintained HVAC system, yet the interior temperature is not comfortable during very hot or cold weather, it may be time to examine your home for potential air flow issues. To do this, first examine each room and area inside the home to locate all existing HVAC vents when the blowers from the HVAC unit are running.
Feel the air from each one to see if the air flow and temperature feel similar or if one or more seem to offer a reduced amount of air flow. In addition, look for rooms that may not have any vents at all and any that seem to have too few to serve the room properly. If you note vents that are not putting out an adequate flow of conditioned air, there are several things that may be causing this problem, including:
- the vent may be blocked by debris in the ducts
- the vent may be served by ducts that are have been constricted or crushed during past remodeling projects
- the vent may be located too far from the central unit to be efficient
Further do-it-yourself air flow testing can be done by using common materials such as a cardboard box, trash bag and duct tape to create a homemade air flow hood and then measuring the actual flow with a readily available air flow meter, called a handheld digital anemometer.
Interior layout issues
Another issue that plagues older homes, especially those that have undergone additions or remodeling, is the layout of the rooms and the impact it can have on the way air moves throughout the home. If you have rooms or areas that always seem to be colder in winter and hotter in summer than the remainder of the home, chances are that they do not receive proper interior air flow.
To improve air flow in poorly served areas, homeowners can:
- install one or more ceiling fans to help pull additional conditioned air into the room from other areas of the home
- keep the room door open to allow better air flow or install grates in the existing doors
- add additional insulation to the walls, ceilings and floor of the room or area to help make the room more comfortable
If you cannot locate the problem, HVAC contractors can inspect the existing HVAC system, including the ducts, vents and cold air returns to ensure there are no obstructions and that the ducts are in good condition and properly sized for the home's size and design.