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December 2015
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February 2016

Better Heating in Winter


Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-licensed photo by Keka Marzagao.

Heating and cooling is the largest contributor to the cost of housing or running a brick and mortar business. The structure itself might have a loan, but heating and cooling tend to consume the most energy. Unlike a fixed loan, the energy demands of heating in winter is adjustable. While the simplest solution might seem to be to set the thermostat lower, most HVAC units can be maintained to improve efficiency.

Residents should study their energy bill every year. A variation from the norm means either an unusually cold winter or a loss of efficiency. HVAC units should be checked every year, and the rewards of maintenance are efficiency and longer unit life. Large structures have mechanics that examine kilowatt hours and clean the system to reduce its load.

A common problem is lost refrigerant. Pressure drops as refrigerant leaks, and less viscous refrigerant does not transfer heat as effectively. The HVAC unit must run longer and harder, which both consumes power and wears the motor. Refrigerant slowly leaks from all systems, and this is one reason why HVAC units should be examined once a year by a professional heating and cooling service, such as All Weather Heating and Air Conditioning. Replacing and cleaning refrigerant is standard practice.

Another common problem is blocked vents and air ducts. Large cooling units have a complicated set of parts, including chilling towers that use water vapor to cool refrigerant. Any surface that transfers heat should be free of debris, and vents must be cleaned to allow air to circulate. Blockage is commonly provided by fall leaves and dust.

Residential HVAC units can also become blocked by leaves and even snow. Circulating air can allow lint to accumulate on interior parts, and these must be cleaned periodically. The key is easy air circulation and thermal transfer. Lint, grime, and other obstructions act as insulation and reduce the system efficiency.

Other problems lay with the duct work. Damaged insulation, leaks, and blockage all reduce heating efficiency. Leaks spew conditioned air into the crawlspace underneath a house and also reduce pressure. Blockage reduces air flow at the far end of the system and overworks the air conditioner. Regular maintenance clears all these problems.