Great indoor comfort is why you have evenly distributed central air. Careful design of your HVAC system air distribution is an important part of installing ductwork or mini-split heads. Without expert airflow design, your system will have many issues including uncomfortable variations in your room’s temperature. If your thermostat is located in a hot spot or cold spot where there are airflow issues, you could even experience frustrating variations in your home’s temperature. By ensuring even airflow and temperature distribution, air balancing keeps your HVAC system providing indoor comfort as it should.
HVAC System Airflow Design Gives You Consistent Heating and Cooling
An important reason for having central AC and heating, or ductless mini-split heat pumps, is the even distribution of heating and cooling. You’ve probably experienced the blasts of cold air from window AC units, along with the muscle tension, sinus issues, and general discomfort they can bring. With your whole-house system, you shouldn’t be experiencing blasts of heat or cold, hot and cold spots in your rooms, and “temperature gradients” where there’s a gradual change across the room. There are many reasons why you could experience airflow issues and hot and cold spots. These include system design issues, internal airflow problems, blockages like furniture near vent openings, even laundry piled on the floor obstructing an air intake. HVAC experts have several instruments that can help measure airflow issues in rooms and ductwork and isolate any problems. It’s not necessary to use trial and error to get the right balance of comfort in your home!
Hotels and Office Buildings with Sealed Windows Versus Your Home’s Open Airflow
You’ve probably noticed that hotels and office buildings usually have sealed windows and even revolving doors to keep the HVAC airflow under control. By closing off from the outside air, the air quality can be maintained. Heating and cooling is distributed evenly. Even a bit of positive pressure is kept up so outside air doesn’t get in, especially in cities or other low air quality areas. For commercial properties like these, we typically review the airflow and balance, plus temperature hot and cold spots, every few years. Quality air is a precise business, and an important part of the experience these buildings offer.
What about your home? Most homes aren’t sealed like that. Homes have other sources of imbalance such as lower ceilings, furniture arrangements, blocked vents and intakes, open windows, and varying amounts of insulation in the walls and ceilings. Our goal for air balancing in your home is to make sure your home and the design of your HVAC system work together for the best overall experience. We make sure that your favorite chair isn’t in a hot or cold spot, your bedroom is consistently comfortable, and heat generated in places like the kitchen or bathroom doesn’t affect other areas of the house.
Ways to Measure Airflow and Temperature Balance
HVAC professionals use a variety of specialized devices to measure air temperature and flow. If you have any experience with airplanes, you may recognize the pitot tube. Planes use it to measure the air flow rate and calculate their airspeed, but in homes it’s just used to check the airflow in various spots. The pitot tube is fairly sensitive, and can be a great help in catching airflow issues in a room. HVAC technician experience is an important part of the testing process, as they know where to check to get the best picture of what’s happening. Temperature readings help locate hot spots and cold spots, but for most homes the HVAC system is only part of the picture.
Windows and wall insulation determine how much energy is gained from sunshine and lost on cold days. These factors affect both airflow to some degree and the temperature of the room’s air in certain areas. The goal in air balancing is to produce comfort and great air quality year round. We incorporate significant variables in our calculations, from outside weather to the number of people who use the room at one time. Did you know that gathering spaces can be especially affected by body heat?
A Few Things You Can Do to Keep Your Home Comfortable
Your HVAC technician’s favorite phrase is likely to be something like “how often do you replace the air filter?” The main air filter for your HVAC system plays such an important role. If it’s clogged, you get reduced airflow and lowered performance of your heating and cooling systems. There’s also increased wear from increased operation as well as direct wear on air handling fans and belts. For AC systems, ice on the coils and a complete stop of cooling is even possible. Beyond the air filter, the intakes are critical as well.
When they are located on the floor of rooms they can easily be covered by boxes, furniture, or even piles of clothes. Air vents need to have a clear path into the room, not only without blockages but also without furniture, light fixtures, and other items redirecting the flow. Some of air balancing work simply involves a visual inspection for factors like these. Of course, managing daily window and door use affects airflow and nearby thermostat response.
If you have controls on your vents that you adjust strategically, or have used makeshift blockages to keep a room warmer or cooler, you may not realize that you’re affecting airflow in the whole house. Seasonal vent changes can reduce airflow and cause problems from stagnant air like mold growth. Blocked vents produce increased pressure and airflow in other rooms, and associated temperature changes. Manual changes to the system design like these can affect your overall comfort and interfere with accurate thermostat operation. By the way, if you have electronics or other heat-generating equipment located below a thermostat, you’ll be misleading it as heat rises into the sensor.
Figuring Out Major Home Heating and Cooling Issues
Air balancing include measurements taken over a period of time. Variations from daily activities, outdoor temperature variation, and seasonal changes can be important comfort concerns. A few factors to consider that can cause significant changes:
- Cold spots and hot spots near thermostats
- Insulation issues in outer walls and ceilings
- Heat rising from lower floors to upper ones in multi-story homes
- Attic heat retention
- Insulation decay in older homes
- Solar heating, providing seasonal changes and even daily variations in temperatures
Designing and Maintaining for Best Airflow and Temperature Balance
With plenty of information in hand, your HVAC technicians, airflow specialists and indoor air quality experts can improve your air flow design with air balancing. They’ll design better ductwork and suggest zoning changes to separate heating and cooling into areas of your home. Technicians may also recommend adaptations like smart thermostats, smart window shades. Your HVAC system may have hidden damper doors that adjust airflow automatically, and these should be checked.
Eliminating Hot and Cold Spots the Professional Way
Many homeowners focus on the active parts of their HVAC system such as the central air, mini-split system, or heat pump, but air balancing and quality HVAC system design are also important. Modern variable-speed AC compressors are one way the industry has responded to customers’ desire for increased comfort through managed airflow and steady temperatures. Your expert HVAC team can address hot and cold spots as part of an experienced approach to airflow design for your home.