I Need a High-Efficiency Air Conditioner Right?
For most people living in the Central Valley in California, the air conditioning system is by far the largest consumer of energy in their entire home. Unfortunately, because of all the hype about more efficient air conditioners and a lack of information provided by local contractors, people often stop thinking past the machine they see as “the air conditioner” and forget that their home heating and cooling system is exactly that, a system. It is a system with multiple components and each and every one of those components could be the cause of the home owner’s energy woes. People end up spending thousands of dollars replacing their air conditioner, without replacing other items such as their duct system, and find that they end up saving little to no money at all!
After pressure testing over 100 duct systems in the Fresno and Clovis areas, we found that the average residential duct system in the valley leaks 25% – 30% of its air into the attic or to the outdoors. This finding is relatively close to the California Energy Commission’s findings, the findings of Pacific Gas and Electric, and that of several other agencies in California. (See “Related Articles” for more information) This is usually due to the fact that building codes were not as stringent in previous years and the cost of energy was much lower, so people did not pay nearly as much attention to how much power their home was consuming. Contractors used building materials back then that have now deteriorated and even, in the worst of cases, fallen apart. Now, things have definitely changed, and people cannot afford to be leaking their energy dollars into their attic.
Imagine for a moment that your car is leaking 25% – 30% of its fuel onto the road. You see it happening, but most importantly, you feel your wallet getting very thin every time you go to fill up your car. Being conscious of how much you are spending, you decide to upgrade your engine to a much more efficient model but you keep the same gas tank that leaks gas as you drive down the road. Sound ridiculous? That is exactly what is happening when you replace or repair your air conditioner to save money but fail to replace or repair your duct system. Since around 45% of the energy bill for the average Californian goes to pay for the heating and cooling system, the 25% – 30% leakage can have a huge impact on energy bills!
In addition to causing higher energy bills, a leaking duct system can also cause premature failure of heating and cooling system components which results in higher repair and maintenance bills. According to the California Energy Commission, a duct system leaking 15 percent of its airflow uses 25% to 35% more fan power to distribute air in the same manner that a non-leaking duct system would. (See “Related Articles” for more information) A fan motor that is working harder will fail earlier. In addition, if the system is leaking through the return ductwork, the air conditioner and heater will actually pull air from the attic or walls which usually contain insulation, dirt, and other particulates, into the duct system without any type of filtration, and push it through the system. The coils, which are vital to energy efficiency, will then begin to clog up, the fan and fan motor will get clogged and the whole system will start to deteriorate long before it should. After all, you are probably paying to replace those filters, but if that system is pulling in air through a leaking return air duct, behind the filter, the filter is useless.
Finally, if you are still not bothered by how much money you are paying in energy bills because of a leaking duct system, all that dirt that was pulled through your system, will then start to be blown into the home causing an indoor air quality disaster.
So, how do you fix all this? Call Lee’s to have your system evaluated. The greatest part of replacing your duct system is that it is usually less expensive than replacing your air conditioner, your pool pump, or your windows, but it oftentimes provides more savings than all three of those items! Given the fact that each home was constructed differently, some duct systems are not easily fixable, and would therefore not be cost-effective to replace but many are very cost-effective to replace and long over-due.