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Summer Air Conditioning Costs Too High – Old Ductwork Could Be Blowing It For You

How old is your ductwork? No, really, it’s important to know. If your ducts were installed before energy efficiency was a key concern for home buyers (mid 1990s), your ducts could be leaking live a sieve. Ductwork used to be tossed in at the last minute and secured into place with a few metal screws. You’d be lucky if they met minimum building code. This fast and cheap builder mantra could be costing you hundreds of dollars every year.

With Old Ductwork Failure is an Option

Your cheap, old ductwork may be starting to fail if it even worked right in the first place. Your ducts could be rusting out, have significant air leaks, or a complete run may have already fallen and disconnected from main system. This is because the metal joints were often held together with six hex-head screws. That’s it. If you were lucky you got some duct tape to seal around the joints. Duct tape, by design, is only meant to hold ducts in place temporarily because repeated heating and cooling makes it brittle. A good duct tape will last about 5 years.

The point here is that you probably are losing a lot of heating and cooling efficiency behind your walls – maybe up to 30 percent. You’re paying to condition the spaces behind your walls and under your feet. In addition, unfiltered air is getting sucked back into the ductwork when your system shuts off. The negative air pressure created when the fan shuts off draws in dust, debris, insulation and chemicals into your system that are then pushed into your living areas when the unit kicks back on. We’d like to help you fix that.

Let’s Inspect Your Ductwork

First, there needs to be a visual inspection of your ductwork to make sure there are no major areas of concern. This is the place you’ll find disconnected duct runs, potential blockages and other problems. We suggest checking the attic and crawlspaces that are hard to access. These will be the places that the construction crew was likely to hurry through. Look for peeling duct tape, dust lines around joints and any areas of rust. If you don’t find any of those, congratulations! If you did, you’ll probably need to get a professional to fix it the right way.

Smaller leaks are harder to find, but easier to fix. Here’s a professional trick. Get yourself a smoke candle or incense stick and turn on the blower fan at your thermostat. Run the smoke candle along the joints. Any small leaks will become immediately visible. Aluminum backed tape can be used to seal these leaks – fast and affordable.

Once you’ve sealed up the leaks that you can find, do this last thing – check the airflow in each of your rooms. If you don’t have air movement somewhere, or the temperature is significantly different in one area, you could have a leak behind the walls where you can’t get to it. This is another time the professionals have the right tool for the job. We can run a video snake through the ductwork and see what is going on. We can also schedule a blower test to check for high pressure leaks in your system and clear them up as well.

Dealing with the Heat

Don’t suffer through another summer of sky-high electricity charges.If an overworked or an under-maintained air conditioning unit is to blame, take these hints and get a grip on that utility bill.

Make sure that your filter is clean.Many people think that changing the filter or cleaning it twice a year is plenty of protection, but the filter should be checked once a month.If dust is apparent on the filter, it is time to change it.A dirty filter means that dirt is sifting through into the system and a dirty system requires more energy to work.
If your home is on two levels, make sure the upper level vents are wide open and the lower-level vents are slightly closed.Shutting them completely can stifle proper air-flow and harm the system.Heat rises, and limiting the intake on the lower floor will ensure that your home receives equal cooling distribution.
Check that your air conditioners fan is in the “on” position instead of on “auto”.This will improve air circulation and will allow you to be comfortable at a higher room temperature.
Keep curtains drawn against the summer sunshine.The sun beating through the window may brighten the room, but it plays havoc with the utility bill and sends electricity charges through the roof.
Get your A/C system cleaned and checked by a professional HVAC technician.This will improve your systems operations and the technician can spot potential problems before they cause a mid-summer breakdown.
Be a cool operator this summer.Use these tips in the name of “going green” or because you want to maintain a level of comfort while you save.Either way, using these tips will help you maintain your cool while you keep the electric bill under budget.