How to Air Balance your Home
- By: Cheli Scott
- Date: Nov 18 2022
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How to air balance your home
If you are installing a new HVAC system or are concerned about your current system’s performance, it may be time to consider investigating how to air balance your home.
Air balancing is simply testing and making adjustments to your HVAC system to make sure it is delivering optimal heating and cooling to every room.
You should seriously consider air balancing your home if you are experiencing uneven heating and cooling. Hot and cold spots are good sign that your HVAC system is not functioning at its most efficient capacity. You may also notice low air flow from your air vents or a spike in heating and cooling bills.
What does air balancing do?
Air balancing ensures that air is distributed evenly around your home for optimal comfort. Even if your system is well maintained, it is still possible it is not delivering even heating and cooling.
If your air conditioning system was designed incorrectly or has not grown with the size of your home you could experience uneven airflow issues.
Can I DIY air balancing?
There are things you can do yourself to improve the air balance in your home, however, professional air balance testing will give you the most precise results. Proper air balancing requires specific background knowledge and will be unique to each home.
The professional may find they need to adjust dampers, fans speeds, ductwork configurations, add insulation, and more.
Working with a trained, professional air balancing technician can save you a lot of money and protect your heating and cooling system from unnecessary damage. You can look for a professional who is certified with The National Comfort Institute to be assured they are trained in the proper techniques.
There are some things you can do yourself to create a more balanced home if you aren’t ready to commit to a professional technician. However, don’t feel intimidated by consulting a professional. Adjusting too much of your HVAC system yourself can actually have a negative effect and cause damage.
Things you can do yourself to balance air flow
There are some simple steps you can take to improve air circulation in your home. Many of them only require a few minutes of your time.
Check air filters
One of the most common overlooked maintenance activities associated with HVAC systems is changing air filters. Air filters prevent dust and pollutants that get sucked into your ductwork from being spread into the air you breath. They can quickly become clogged with dust and usually need to be changed monthly.
Changing your filters regularly can significantly extend the life of your HVAC system. If you are experiencing low air strength or hot and cold spots, the fix might be quick and cheap if it is just a clogged filter. Air filters are a good first place to start when troubleshooting HVAC issues.
The vents in your home distribute air into each room and often family members adjust them for their own comfort. Additionally, floor vents may occasionally get covered by toys, clothes, or other household messes. This will cause uneven temperatures in your home and force your HVAC system to work harder to move cool and warm air around your house.
It’s best to give your vents a foot of open space around them to ensure proper passage of air.
If you are experiencing low flow from a vent, but you have opened it and nothing has changed, the next place to check are the manual and automated dampers. Dampers are responsible for regulating the movement of air throughout your home.
Sometimes dampers get changed for one reason or another and we forget to put them back. Fortunately, that is a simple solution that is solved with a flick of a lever.
If your automatic dampers are not functioning or are stuck open or closed, you will need to call an HVAC professional.
Install curtains or other window coverings
Curtains help regulate your home’s temperature by keeping air in and preventing the sun from over heating your home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency 76% of sunlight that hits double pane windows becomes heat in your home. That’s a lot of extra heat for your air conditioning system to manage.
In order to keep rooms evenly temperate, help your air conditioning out by reducing the amount of heat radiating in off of your windows. There are a number of more advanced window covering options to protect your home from excess sunlight; including, window films, roman shades, louvered blinds, exterior shutters, awnings, and more.
Change the location of your thermostat
Your thermostat is designed to take measurements of the ambient temperature and tell your heating and cooling system what to do. The placement of the thermostat is important to the readings it takes. If it is located too close to a window or other heat generating appliances it can become confused, having the air conditioning system to turn on when its not necessary. This will cause cold spots in your home because your thermostat is not taking an accurate measurement of temperature.
It is recommended you place your thermostat away from doors, windows, air vents, or other localized heat generating appliances. It is often a good idea to place it in the room you use most often, because that is the room you are most likely to want to be comfortable in.
What a professional will look for when balancing an HVAC system
A trained professional will take a number of things into account when air balancing your HVAC system. Though it may seem intimidating to call a professional, they often offer free consultations and can even save you money and time with their recommendations. Below are a few of the things you can expect them to look for when they drop by.
Your ductwork system
HVAC professionals say that most jobs come with at least a little bit of ductwork adjustment. Unfortunately, as homes grow, homeowners forget to upgrade their HVAC systems to match. This means you may not have the appropriate ductwork arrangement for the size or shape of your house. A professional will be able to test your air conditioning system to make sure you have the correct amount of ducts, in the correct size, and in the correct place.
They will also inspect your ductwork for leaks or kinks that are preventing your HVAC system from functioning properly.
HVAC system problems may not directly involve your appliances at all. Sometimes you are experiencing uneven temperatures because your home lacks the proper insulation. It’s impossible for your heating and cooling system to maintain an even temperature in a leaky or under insulated home, so a professional technician will be able to assess this problem and make a recommendation.
Your fan speed
Changing your air handlers fan speed is actually something you can do yourself with a little help from online guides. However, if you don’t know what your doing it wont really do you any good. That’s why its a good idea to let a professional handle this. They will know when and if it is appropriate to change your fan speed.
Your HVAC zoning
Your HVAC professional may recommend HVAC zoning if you are already not using it in your home. An HVAC zoning system breaks your home up into chunks whose conditions can be changed individually.
If you have areas in your home that are not being used often, it doesn’t make any sense to heat and cool those areas. HVAC zoning is great for energy efficiency, because you are not wasting power heating and cooling areas you are not using.
Your air flow
While you can get a general idea of whether or air flow is strong or weak, a professional technician will be able to provide a precise measurement of the conditions in each of your rooms. There isn’t an exact number that your air strength should be, but an experienced technician will be able to decide what is ideal for your individual situation.
Air flow is measured in “cubic feet per minute” and the air flow across your house should generally be even. A technician will use a calibrating air balancing hood in order to measure air flow. They may also measure air flow velocity with an anemometer and tachometer to measure static pressure before making a recommendation.
The size of your HVAC system
Not all HVAC appliances are equal. Your home will need an air conditioning system that is sized appropriately for the number of rooms and people in your house. What often happens is a family buys a home with an air conditioning system already set up and as the home grows they never upgrade the size of the HVAC system. This can cause extra wear and tear on a system that is supporting a house that it is not deigned to.
While you can generally figure out what size air conditioner you need by yourself using simple online guides, a lot more goes into that decision than it seems. Simple things like how often you use a room or how many people use it can effect the size of your AC, so for the most precise measurement it’s best to go with a professional assessment.
What’s the next step?
If you are sick of hot and cold spots in your home and want to increase your energy efficiency it’s time to call a professional and get an air balancing consultation. Air balancing will save you money in the long run, so it is a worthwhile investment. Fall and Spring are a good time to schedule air balancing appointments in preparation for the more extreme seasons.