Six Common Misconceptions About Heating, Cooling & Comfort

Have you ever heard the expression “Disappointed, but not surprised?” That’s exactly how I felt gazing up at what I saw in the crawlspace under a house I recently serviced. After 19+ years of doing this, sometimes four times a day, it’s become rather normal to find strange, poor, or ineffective solutions to insulation and HVAC issues. In this case, someone had stapled encapsulation plastic sheeting across the floor joists in order to support the weight of sagging fiberglass insulation. As a result, the fiberglass insulation and the wood subfloor had become covered with moisture, and both were sporting some large mold and mildew colonies.

This is just one example of someone acting on their own intuition or trying something they may have heard online or from a friend without really knowing what it might do to their home. These misconceptions may seem innocent or even helpful at first, but before long it’s easy to see why they usually end up with homeowners calling a professional for help due to “unintended consequences.”

These misconceptions are actually extremely common when it comes to heating and cooling systems. We depend on these appliances to keep us comfortable, but so many of the little things we do actually hinder them from doing their job to the best of their ability. Here are seven of these common misconceptions and what you can do to correct them in your own home.

#1: I Have to Be Uncomfortable to Save Energy in My Home

It may shock you to learn just how many people truly believe the only way to save money on heating and cooling is to not run your system at all. Dressing warm in winter or running fans in summer are one thing, but you don’t have to suffer through blistering heat or frigid cold without the help of your HVAC equipment for fear of cost. A well-executed home performance plan results in unmatched comfort and energy savings throughout any day of the year.

#2: Heat Always Rises to My Ceiling

So this is more of a half-myth. It’s true that warm air is less dense than cold air and thus rises upward to your ceiling; this is why upstairs rooms typically feel warmer. However, heat isn’t just lost through your ceiling or upper windows—it escapes and scatters in all directions. On a cold day, heat is escaping through hardwood floors into ventilated crawlspaces. Heat also escapes through lower windows and even through outlets or switches.

#3: Most Heat Loss Occurs at Windows & Doors

True, windows and doors are one common source of air leaks and unwanted heat loss, but they’re not the only source. In fact, they’re not even the biggest source. This is because the surface area of all of your windows is far, far less than the surface area of your walls or ceilings, and more often than not the insulation in walls or ceilings is inadequate to stop all unwanted heat transfer. Believe it or not, the majority of the heat loss you’re dealing with is probably the result of poor insulation rather than window or door-based leaks. However, with that being said, investing in weather stripping to insulate against these leaks is still a good idea.

#4: Bigger HVAC System Means Faster Heating & Cooling

Some clients come to us wondering why they still don’t feel comfortable in their home when they “just recently added a extra ton of AC” (or heating). The truth is that extra power doesn’t necessarily help you stay more comfortable—a system that’s too large or too small will struggle to keep your home comfortable. If your air conditioner or heater is too large, you run the risk of “short cycling” due to your air conditioner overpowering your home. This leads to added strain on your system and extra energy consumption. If your system is too small, it won’t be able to keep up with your demands and will have to run considerably longer cycles to even have a chance at keeping you in your ideal comfort zone. It can also cause damage to your ducts due to excessive air pressure, including damaging duct insulation.

#5: Decorative Wood Vents Function Like Any Other Vent

Have you seen those decorative wood vents that are quickly becoming popular aesthetic choices in homes? They look beautiful and certainly appear as though they wouldn’t affect your HVAC system too much. However, our testing has proven this simply isn’t the case—these simple devices block an average of 40% of the airflow through your vent. No wonder you don’t feel any cooler or warmer! A standard vent may not quite have the dramatic decorative appeal, but they will certainly help you stay more comfortable, and in this case we think practicality and functionality should win out over visual design every day of the week.

#6: Return Vents Don’t Need a Lot of Space

Have you ever tried to breathe through a drinking straw? You’ve probably noticed how difficult it is—the straw can only carry a certain amount of air at any given point, and your lungs use far more than that capacity for both inhaling and exhaling. The same principle applies to your vents. While most people realize that blocking registers prevents their home from getting the heated or cooled air they need, many forget that the same principle applies to return vents as well. Many homeowners actually have their return vent blocked by a piece of furniture like a bookshelf, sofa, or desk, and this prevents your HVAC system from getting the air it needs to function at its best.

If you’re having a problem with your home comfort, talk to the insulation experts from Bird Family Insulation! Dial (404) 666-8160 today to request an estimate.

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