There are several measures or practices in which homeowners can save on heating and cooling costs. Some are definitely effective, like keeping furnaces or air conditioners well-maintained or cleaning or replacing air filters. Others, however, have become a subject of debate among households and experts alike for years. One of them is closing off air vents. In theory, it’s an enticing concept — restricting the flow of conditioned air, especially in unoccupied rooms, could lead to reduced energy consumption, which then translates into energy savings.
But is this practice truly effective? Read on as Acker Heating & Cooling, the top residential and commercial HVAC contractor in the area, delves into this supposedly money-saving tactic to determine whether it can truly cut down on your HVAC costs.
The Concept Behind Closing Air Vents
The idea behind this practice is relatively simple and straightforward. By shutting the vents in rooms that are either unoccupied or rarely used, you limit the volume of space your HVAC system needs to condition. Theoretically, this suggests that in doing so, you lower the heating or cooling unit’s workload. This, in turn, leads to energy savings. Many energy-conscious homeowners and some HVAC professionals have been recommending this practice, arguing that it can help boost the energy efficiency of homes.
Critical Caveats Homeowners Should Be Aware Of
Closing off air vents, however, can have serious implications on your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. Here’s a look at some of them:
- Increased Duct Pressure. Closing off vents in certain rooms can increase the pressure in your ductwork. This can put additional stress on your HVAC system, which can lead to operational issues in the long run.
- Temperature Imbalance. Closing off vents can also lead to inconsistent temperatures inside your home. You’ll notice the difference when you step inside a room with a closed vent coming from a room with an open vent.
- Reduced Energy Efficiency. This is the clincher — as it turns out, the energy savings a household can achieve when closing off vents may not be as substantial as initially thought. Remember that cooling and heating systems work optimally when air is distributed evenly throughout every living area of your home. Disrupting this balance causes the equipment to work harder to maintain desired temperatures, offsetting any potential savings in the process.
Recent research studies have also shed light on the effectiveness of closed off air vents. A study conducted by the California Energy Commission, for instance, found that closing more than half of the vents in a home can lead to decreased energy efficiency. This stems from the fact that the pressure inside the ducts tends to increase when doing so, causing the HVAC system to compensate for the disruption of airflow.
The study also noted that closing vents in a room causes the warm or cool air from the HVAC system to be forced into other rooms. Even in this situation, the heater or air conditioner still consumes energy as it operates, increasing energy costs.
The Role of the Seasons
How effective closing air vents is may also depend on the time of year. During the summer months, for instance, doing so causes the AC to work harder, as it struggles to maintain consistent temperatures throughout the house. This practice, however, may have a more favorable impact on a home’s energy efficiency during the winter months. In some cases, households may have to employ alternative strategies such as turning fans on or using space heaters in specific rooms to help manage airflow and temperature without causing undue stress on the HVAC equipment.
Closing Vents to Save on HVAC Costs: A Cost-Benefit Analysis
Consider the potential energy savings associated with this practice versus the potential costs and downsides.
- Energy Savings. You may achieve some energy savings after closing air vents if you live in an area with extreme climate conditions and have unoccupied rooms. Even so, it may not justify the potential drawbacks of said practice.
- System Performance. It’s been pointed out that this practice can put undue stress on your system. This, unfortunately, can result in frequent but costly repairs or a shortened life span for your heater or AC. The long-term expenses associated with either issue shouldn’t be ignored.
- Comfort and Convenience. Dealing with inconsistent indoor comfort and uneven heating or cooling can affect your household’s quality of life.
- HVAC Maintenance. Expect an increase in maintenance costs because of the wear and tear your system undergoes when you close off air vents.
The Final Verdict
So, should you close off air vents? Given what’s been discussed above, this practice should be avoided as a primary strategy for energy savings. HVAC professionals recommend focusing on more effective and sustainable ways to minimize energy consumption while using heating or air conditioning systems. These include:
- Sealing and Insulating. Make sure your attic, windows and doors are properly sealed and insulated to keep comfort inside your home. Don’t forget your home’s ductwork — repairing and sealing it is vital to ensuring proper distribution of conditioned air to every room in your home.
- Investing in a Programmable Thermostat. Switch to a programmable thermostat if you want to save on HVAC costs. Some smart variants utilize algorithms to observe your home’s daily comfort preferences and use this information to help you make better decisions on controlling your home’s indoor climate.
- Scheduling Regular Maintenance. Maintenance is the key to getting the most out of your HVAC system. Not only will it ensure optimal performance for your heater or AC but also help extend your system’s life span.
- Upgrading to an Energy-Efficient HVAC System. Expect substantial, long-term energy savings when you replace your old, aging heating and cooling system with a newer, more energy-efficient unit. Consider checking the various ratings, including the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) for ACs and AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) for heaters, when making your choice.
As a licensed and insured HVAC company in and around Colbert, GA, Acker Heating & Cooling is committed to providing the best in heating and air conditioning services. We offer heating and cooling repair and installation services, as well as provide air duct sealing and indoor air quality solutions. To learn more, schedule a consultation with our team today by calling (706) 425-8774 or filling out our contact form.