Busted HVAC Myths

March 22, 2021

There's a lot of information available on how to maintain or repair a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, much of which is true but there are lots of pervasive myths too. Homeowners can keep their HVAC systems in good working order by being aware of some of the most common HVAC myths. Here are a few of them along with the truths behind them:

Myth: Closed Vents in Unused Rooms Save on Energy Costs

It seems logical to close the vent in an unoccupied room to keep that room from being heated. Obviously, the closed vent means energy won't be wasted to keep the room warm, right?

The Truth:

An HVAC unit will push out the same amount of air no matter how many rooms have closed vents, it will just send the air to other rooms in the home. The furnace will have to work harder and longer to get the house to the same temperature, so it may undergo greater wear, which will shorten its usable life. The closed vents will also cause air pressure to build up in the system, producing air leaks that can affect how well the system functions over the long term.

It's better to keep the vents open in unused rooms and ensure that the house is heated evenly throughout. Not only will this lower energy costs in the short term, but it will also keep the homeowner from having to pay for repairs in the long term.

Myth: An Oversized Air Conditioner is Better

The bigger the AC, the better it will be at its job, or so it seems. Naturally, a homeowner will want their home cooled as effectively as possible during the warmest part of the year, so getting the largest AC feels like the right choice.

The Truth

An AC doesn't just cool the air in a home, it dehumidifies it as well. If an AC unit is too big, it won't need to run as long to cool the home to the right temperature. If its cycles are too short, it won't do as good a job at dehumidification. The result will be excessively moist air in the home, which may cause mold growth.

The constant switching on and off will wear out parts in an HVAC system, including the compressor and blower fan motor. An HVAC system should last at least 15 years. but an oversized system probably won't make it that long. It will probably need repairs more often than other units and the risk of it failing permanently will be greater.

Myth: Ceiling Fans Make a Home Cooler

The belief that ceiling fans will cool a house down is a widely held one. Many people install them as energy-efficient tools for keeping temperatures down so that they don't have to use the air conditioner as much.

The Truth:

Ceiling fans can't cool a home. Of course they can help make a home more comfortable, but they don't do this by lowering the temperature. Ceiling fans move air, which can give an impression of coolness. The moving air improves evaporation and convection so it feels cool on the skin. If there is no one in the room there is no benefit, since the temperature stays the same.

Myth: Thermostat Location is Unimportant

Some homeowners believe that the thermostat's location is unimportant and that it may be placed anywhere for convenience or aesthetic reasons.

The Truth

Thermostat location is a major factor in home comfort and energy efficiency. Where the thermostat is located impacts its accuracy and thus its ability to do its job. The thermostat controls heating and cooling for the entire home, so it shouldn't be near entrance doors, windows, or vents. Ideally, it should be exposed to the home's average air temperature, so a central location within the home where factors like sunlight won't affect it is best.

Myth: Turn the Thermostat Up to Heat the Home Faster

If a homeowner gets home after some time away and the house is freezing, one common reaction is to turn the thermostat up as far as it can go to make the temperature comfortable as quickly as possible. This might seem reasonable, in the same way that turning a stove burner all the way up seems like a reasonable way to bring a pot of water to a boil in less time. However, that's not how HVAC systems work.

The Truth

Most HVAC systems are designed to deliver heat at a consistent rate after they have cycled on. In other words, it is not like a stove burner. Setting the thermostat to a higher temperature will not get a house warmer in less time, it will just cause the HVAC system to work for longer. What it will also do is waste energy. The waste will occur because setting the thermostat too high will make the home too warm, so it will be necessary to turn the thermostat down to lower the temperature again.

Myth: Routine Checks Aren't Essential

To many people, it seems like a waste of money to pay an HVAC contractor if an HVAC system is operating well.

The Truth

Like all appliances, even the best HVAC system will eventually fail. One of the important responsibilities of a homeowner is to prevent those failures. They can do this by having their HVAC system inspected and maintained regularly. An HVAC contractor will be able to identify potential problems early on to prevent them from worsening.

Myth: Filters don't need to be changed more than a few times a year.

The Truth

Filters protect HVAC systems from the dirt and dust in the home. If a filter is clogged with dirt, the HVAC system will have to work harder to pull air through it. The harder it works, the more energy it uses, and the higher the homeowner's energy costs. In an ideal home that is kept scrupulously clean, filters will need to be changed at least once every six weeks. In a home with kids and/or pets, filters should be changed monthly.

Professional HVAC contractors know the difference between fact and fiction. Homeowners who need reliable advice and expert help should contact a local HVAC contractor. The help they provide can enable homeowners to get the most from their HVAC systems.

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