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Managing your home comfort and saving a little money on energy costs seems as simple as closing off a few rooms and air vents. However, closing air vents you aren’t using may cause more harm than good. Nevertheless, many people still believe in this energy-saving myth despite recent research and a very real increase in their energy bills over the long run.

It Seems Like a Good Idea…

Closing off unused rooms during the winter was a tactic used by homeowners living in older, non-insulated or poorly insulated homes. It was a tactic born from necessity during a time when most homes were heated by a centrally-located fireplace or wood stove.

Even today, closing air vents seems like the sensible thing to do when it comes to saving energy. With the vents and doors closed, any air that would have normally gone to those rooms would instead be redirected to other parts of the home. After all, that air has to go somewhere, so why not send it to the rooms you’re most likely to use instead of wasting it elsewhere?

Why Closing Air Vents Doesn’t Work

As it turns out, closing air vents in a home with a modern central heating and air conditioning system does little to save energy. In fact, it could even cause your energy costs to increase. In a 2003 study, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered that register closing led to increased energy use. The study also found that whatever benefit was derived from closing air vents was largely offset by increased duct leakage.

It’s not just the energy efficiency of your home that takes a hit if you close vents. Instead of blocking the flow of air in a room, closed-off vents simply create additional pressure within the ductwork. The pressure imbalance creates a suction effect that causes the cold-air return duct to pull in air from cracks in windows and doors. The warm air that’s blocked from entering the closed-off room will simply find other places to go—through leaks and cracks in your ductwork or back through your basement and into floor cavities.

The added pressure can even wreak havoc on your furnace. Unexpected blockages can cause your modern furnace to work harder than it should, while limited airflow can cause your ducts to freeze during cold winter weather. Making more work for your HVAC system not only reduces its energy efficiency, but it also shortens its working life.

Other Solutions You Can Use

Instead of completely closing air vents, you can maximize your home comfort and keep your home energy efficient by partially closing those vents. In a two-story home, heat usually rises to the top floor, thus robbing the lower floors of well-needed heat. Keeping some of the upstairs vents partially closed (less than 50 percent of them) will prevent adverse pressure changes in the ductwork and ease stress on your HVAC system, all while keeping other areas warm and comfortable.

There are many other things you can do to improve your home’s overall energy efficiency as well as keep it warm and comfortable throughout the winter:

  • Have a skilled heating contractor inspect your ductwork to ensure that it’s properly sealed and free of any leaks.
  • Have your furnace inspected annually and cleaned every few years to prevent blockages and other issues. If your ductwork also needs cleaning, now’s a good time to have that done as well.
  • If your furnace is in need of replacement soon, go with a newer, energy efficient model. Most new furnaces feature an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating near 95, whereas older furnaces are only half to two-thirds as efficient as their modern counterpart.

Only a professional heating contractor can offer you valuable information when it comes to managing your home’s heating needs. To find out more about the drawbacks of closing air vents in your Clearwater area home, contact the professionals at Senica Air Conditioning, Inc., Inc. today. 

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