How to Lower HVAC Costs by 35%
If you're having major HVAC trouble, it doesn't always mean that you need a new system.
For many people, that can be hard to accept — especially when they can never get the system to keep them comfortable and their bills are sky high. And when that message is coming from us (hey, we're an HVAC company!) it often comes as a big surprise.
The truth is that a lot of HVAC problems aren't the fault of your current furnace or AC. They happen because of other things that need to be right in order for your HVAC system to keep you comfortable: ductwork type and installation quality, system cleanliness, refrigerant levels, and attributes of the home.
Cool, but what does that have to do with lowering my HVAC costs by 35%?
Great question! The title of this article actually refers to a specific client of ours who was having HVAC performance problems. Her system wasn't keeping her comfortable; the heating and cooling was uneven throughout her house; and her bills were higher than she thought they should be.
She actually left us a Google review, which you can read here.
Anyway, a lot of people might be quick to blame their HVAC system for these types of problems. Common refrains include "it's not powerful enough to keep us cool" and "this old system never has worked like it's supposed to."
The thing is, it's very possible that the system is powerful enough to keep you cool (or warm) and that it always has worked like it's supposed to. There might just be some design and installation issues preventing the system from working as well as it could.
Thankfully, this client hired us to determine the best solution. She didn't want to replace the system necessarily; she wanted us to make her current system work better.
Here's how we improved this client's comfort and lowered her bills
We analyzed the ductwork and realized that her HVAC system had:
Duct leakage is bad because you're either not getting all the conditioned air your system is producing (if the leakage is from the supply) or you're forcing the system to heat or cool air coming from your crawlspace or attic — not from your home.
It can also create some serious indoor air quality issues. Just open the door to your crawlspace and sniff. That's what you're breathing when you've got return duct leakage.
Excessive static pressure is also bad. When you have this problem, the system is struggling to force a large volume of air through ducts that weren't set up to handle it. It's kind of like blowing as hard as you can through a straw.
The result is that the system moves too much air to certain rooms and not enough air to other rooms. Heating and cooling is very uneven. You might feel too hot in one room and too cold in another, no matter what.
After we fixed those problems, she was happy with her HVAC system.
First, we addressed the static pressure issue by calculating how much ductwork her home should have. We then added ductwork where needed, including additional returns and modified supply ducts. This took care of the static pressure problem because now there was enough ductwork to properly distribute air throughout the home.
Then we sealed the ducts, new ones and old ones, so that she wasn't losing air to her crawlspace. We used our "test and seal" method that always reduces duct leakage to 4% or less and made absolutely sure the ducts were as tight as we could get them.
Then we cleaned everything, including the blower wheel and outdoor coil. After adjusting airflow so that the system was delivering the proper amount per ton, we charged the refrigerant to the proper level.
Five months later…
The client waited to evaluate our work after five months of Atlanta's summertime heat and humidity. Turns out, this is the first summer in the three years she'd lived in the house that she wasn't uncomfortable all the time.
And yes, she saved an average of 35% on each month's utility bills compared to the previous year.
The only other thing we'll note — and the client discloses this in her review — is that she had a maintenance contract with a different well-known Atlanta HVAC contractor before she called us. They had no idea how to solve her problems. We did.
So, are we saying that you, too, can lower your HVAC costs by 35%?
No, but you might be able to.
If you're struggling with constant discomfort indoors and your utility costs seem like they're too high, these kinds of adjustments may very well help you. That's especially true if your HVAC equipment seems to be working ok and runs like it always has.
The fact of the matter is, many (perhaps most) HVAC systems are installed with very little attention to proper sizing, room-by-room airflow requirements, or ductwork design. In short, they're installed very badly.
When that's the case — and there's not anything otherwise wrong with the equipment — adjustments like these are often the solution.
If you live in Atlanta and have a similar problem, give us a shout! We'll head over to your house and analyze the system. After that, we'll let you tell you the best course of action for improving comfort and minimizing energy costs.