In the heat of the summer, homeowners start to wonder how they can keep their family cool while decreasing energy usage and utility costs. We have discussions with coworkers, research savings opportunities online and look to the experts for tips – and yet we still have questions. Are my ceiling fans making a difference? Should I close the vents in our spare bedroom? Should I block off the office for the season? Read on to learn the pros and cons of utilizing ceiling fans and closing vents during extreme Iowa temperatures.
- Energy Savings: Ceiling fans provide air flow that can help keep you cool at a higher temperature. This may enable you to set the temperature a couple degrees higher in your home, and ultimately save on utility bills. For every degree you increase the temperature, you can see a five percent savings on utility bills.
- Cooling Effect: Running ceiling fans clockwise causes a downward draft and can result in a wind-chill effect. This breeze will last as long as you remain in the same room as the ceiling fan.
- Options: There are a variety of options when it comes to ceiling fans. Choose from additional ambient lighting, low profile fans, Energy Star-rated, dual motor, remote controlled fans and more. With a variety of fans available, you can determine the best fit for your home.
- Energy Usage: In contrast to energy savings, if you maintain the same thermostat level and use ceiling fans, you may actually increase energy usage in your home.
- Air Temperature: Ceiling fans don’t actually cool the air, so if you choose to use them, be sure to turn them off when you leave the room. If you aren’t conscious about their use, you can reduce efficiency.
- Maintenance: Fans need regular cleaning and maintenance to work properly. Washing the blades is required to preserve the life of the fan motor and achieve optimal performance. Maintenance should also include dusting, screw tightening and balancing.
In truth, running a ceiling fan is really a matter of personal preference. If you enjoy the air flow and can change your thermostat settings, a fan can be a great tool. If, on the other hand, you don’t like the air flow on you, it may not be worth the savings to be uncomfortable.
- Cool Individual Rooms: Closing air vents can keep the rooms with open vents cooler. It’s possible you may be fine to close a vent or two in your home, but you will need to ensure your duct system has low static pressure and sealed ducts.
- Increased Duct Leakage: The more vents you close, the higher the pressure in the duct system. Most homes don’t have sealed ducts, so the higher pressure in the duct system the more duct leakage.
- Increased Energy: Depending on the type of blower your system has – electronically commutated motors (ECM) or permanent split capacitor (PSC) – the system will either ramp up to increase airflow or move less air altogether. ECM blowers adjust speed to varying conditions which will end up using more energy in the long run. PSC blowers have to work harder against the higher pressure and ultimately decrease airflow.
- Lower /Poor Quality Air Flow: Closing interior vents and doors place rooms under pressure by blocking airflow. Trapped air, however, is not contained. Any air lost is replaced in an equal amount by air entering through the chimney, water heater or furnace flue, allowing unfiltered air in. This can result in damage to your home, increased levels of carbon monoxide and mold growth.
- System Damage: When moving air, your system passes air over a coil or heat exchanger to give up heat. As air flow decreases, less heat exchange occurs in the air and the temperature of the coil can drop. If there is water vapor in the air the coil may freeze, which significantly hinders air flow. Condensation is also tough on your HVAC system’s compressor. In comparison, low air flow in the winter can overheat the system heat exchanger causing cracks and sending carbon monoxide into your home.
The short of it – the main issue with closing vents any time of year is that is doesn’t change the goal of the system blower or the amount of heat the air conditioner, heat pump or furnace is trying to move or produce.