Save With Duct Work and Maintenance

Follow these tips to maximize the performance and efficiency of your HVAC systems.

Tips to Maximize HVAC System Efficiency

Interior Overhead Duct Work

You can save energy and money by doing a little maintenance on your system. Identify leaks in your duct, seal your ducts correctly, perform a duct test and insulate your ducts to make sure they are properly working.

Photo by: Fred Hayes

Fred Hayes

There is a very inexpensive way to get much better performance and efficiency out of your heating and cooling system and that is with some easy and regular maintenance. Really, how hard is it to change an air conditioning or furnace filter, which could save you energy and money right now?

Here are tips to save energy and money by doing a little maintenance on your system.

Identify Leaks in Your Ducts

If you have leaky ducts, you're not alone. About 66 percent of homes have leaky air ducts used for air conditioning and heating systems. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star program, leaky ducts in attics or crawlspaces can account for 20 percent or more of a home's heating and cooling energy losses.

Seal Your Ducts Correctly

Run the system and feel along duct joints you have access to, then seal the joints with a mastic, a gooey-like paint, or foil-backed tape.

Seal behind the registers or grilles, around where the duct meets the wall.

Most duct or duck tape doesn't cut it. Any fabric-backed tape will deteriorate over time. Do the job once with mastic or foil-backed tape. Then inspect your ducts regularly for signs of any further leaks. Sealing your ducts properly with a $12 bucket of mastic or roll of foil tape could save you thousands in the cost of a replacement HVAC system.

How to Seal Ductwork
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Perform a Duct Test

You can also have a duct blaster test performed. This combines a small fan and a pressure gauge to pressurize a house’s duct system and measure air leakage of the ducts. Properly sealed ducts should pass this test.

Insulate Your Ducts

Insulate your ducts to prevent throwing off heat or colder air that you want for the rooms in your house. If both the ducts and the basement walls are uninsulated, consider insulating both, says American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Remember that insulating ducts in the basement will make the basement colder in the winter and warmer in the summer. It also may be cheaper to put more insulation in the attic and get a smaller HVAC unit, advices the ACCA’s Prather.

Duct System Design
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Duct Cleaning and Maintenance

You can have your ducts cleaned by a professional, but it is important to find a contractor who will follow procedures as outlined in ANSI/ ACCA Standard 6 HVAC System Cleanliness.

Clean or change furnace filters once a month or two, or as needed, and have the system maintained to the manufacturer’s specifications. Change air conditioning filters as needed as well. “They need to be replaced when they get filled with enough dust to lower the airflow through the HVAC system,” advises Donald Prather, technical services manager for ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America)


Air Duct Cleaning 101

Is cleaning your HVAC air ducts really that important? Get to know your home’s system, learn how you can improve its function yourself and know when it’s time to consult a professional for cleaning.

Have a certified HVAC contractor regularly check heating system’s combustion efficiency, air flow or hydronic balance, depending on whether you have an air or water-based system (like in-floor heating). Also have a professional check flue temperature and for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and for any smoke or draft.

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