HVAC Add-Ons for Improved Indoor Comfort

People do fine with just enough, but oftentimes we crave more than contentedness. Oftentimes people wonder how much better than just enough they could get. This is true in many realms of life, no less so than our home and the comfort within. Your home is your sanctuary, your palace, and it’s only natural that you want to maximize its potential. So, you may find yourself wondering at one point or another what could be done to make it a more comfortable place to be.

That’s what this tip of the day is all about, not reaching the bare minimum but maximizing your HVAC system’s potential. We’re going to be looking at upgrades and add-ons that you can add to your existing air conditioner and/or furnace that can make your winters, summers, falls, and springs more comfortable and make your house more energy-efficient when it comes to conditioning your air. Don’t settle for just enough. Read on to learn a little about what’s possible when it comes to HVAC add-ons, what they can do for you and your Austin air conditioning, and which ones might be right up your alley for potential home improvement projects.

Add-On #1: Programmable Thermostat

This first home improvement HVAC add-on is the smallest yet can have potentially the biggest impact when it comes to savings. It will benefit you year-round, connects to your entire HVAC system, both the furnace and air conditioner, and does most of the work by itself once you set it up. It is, of course, a programmable thermostat and it’s a decent investment for pretty much anyone who wants to optimize their usage of their HVAC system.

A programmable thermostat allows you to set certain times during the day and night when the settings of the thermostat change, doing this automatically after the thermostat is programmed. This means you can set the thermostat to, for instance, turn down eight degrees during the spring and summer every time you leave for work, and then turn it back up to your ideal comfort level temperature when you get home. This means you can minimize the amount of work your air conditioner puts forth, thereby reducing your energy bills by a significant degree and greatly increasing your house’s overall energy efficiency.

The idea behind programmable thermostats is quite simple: Your home doesn't need to maintain a comfortable temperature when no one is there. So, during those eight hours or more each day while everyone's at school or work, a programmable thermostat turns down the heat (during the fall) and winter), or pulls back on the air conditioning (during the spring and summer), according to the schedule you program. Then, shortly before anyone comes back home, the thermostat changes settings back to your desired, normal temperature.

Your furniture, television and other appliances won't mind if the indoor temperature is lower during the day. Whatever temperature you choose to keep your home at while it's empty, you set it. You set the time it lowers and the time it rises when you program the unit.

Depending on the type and model you get, your programmable thermostat can do a lot more than that too. Some programmable thermostats connect to Wi-Fi, meaning you can control the temperature with an app on your phone. Convenient, huh? And some even tell you when you’re using your thermostat in a green and energy saving way. Others have features such as GPS info that gets the air conditioner going just as you’re getting close to your house so that the time when your house gets to its most comfortable temperature aligns perfectly with when you walk through the front door. The possibilities with today’s most advanced thermostats are grand, making it a great add-on for your HVAC system.

Add-On #2: Booster Fans

Whereas the previous add-on is one that anyone could benefit greatly from but no one necessarily needs to solve a specific problem regarding their HVAC, this next add-on tackles a specific issue. The issue is uneven heating and cooling and the solution is booster fans. Booster fans are a relatively cheap add-on and solution to a problem that many faces, especially those in particularly large or old houses.

Many houses these days aren’t designed with enough attention put forth toward even heating and cooling. This results in houses that have cold spots or hot spots, depending on the season, rooms or areas in rooms that just don’t get the same amount of conditioned air as the rest of the house. This can be annoying and hard to live with, for example, if there’s a bedroom that gets hotter than the rest of the house and hard to sleep in during the hot summer nights in Austin. Air conditioning is a hard thing to get right, but in such cases, booster fans can help a great deal.

Twists and turns in ducts, along with long spans of ductwork, conspire to restrict air flow. While some parts of your house seem cozy, others may suffer from a lack of heated or cooled air from your HVAC system. The problem is usually worse in older homes with ducts that weren’t designed to handle modern heating and cooling systems.

Booster fans are add-ons that help move air through ducts. While inline duct and register booster fans will not cure underlying defects, they can “boost” air flow, thus increasing the amount of cold and warm air that ultimately makes it to a room. Let’s go over some of the types of booster fans available for use.

Register booster fans are the most economical and simplest to install. These plug-and-play units replace your existing floor, wall, or ceiling register. They mount flush to the surface, plug into the wall outlet, and feature a modest internal fan that goes on and off when the HVAC system kicks in. Some feature a thermostat and multi-speed fan.

Inline duct fans are cylindrical fans that replace a section of ductwork. That means your HVAC ducting must be exposed to work on it. Though some units simply plug in, most are hardwired and require a relay back to the furnace that tells the unit when to switch on. Installation may require an electrician. Inline duct fans are quieter than register booster fans, but you’ll have to know the size and shape of your existing ductwork so you can pick the right-sized unit.

Add-On #3: Advanced Filters

If you have an air conditioner and/or a furnace, you have an air filter in your home. It is the thing that keeps your HVAC units from breaking down due to particle build up and keeps your air from becoming full of contaminants. It’s an important component in your HVAC system because it filters things out of the air that you don’t want in it. And because of this it requires regular changing. But what many people don’t realize is that there is room for significant upgrades to your HVAC system as a whole if you upgrade your air filter.

Standard, disposable filters catch only the largest particles in the air and allow anything smaller than about 10 to 20 microns to pass through. (As a point of reference, a human hair measures about 100 microns across.) Fungi can be as small as 0.5 microns and bacteria 0.3 microns. Smoke particles are as small as 0.01 microns. That’s where advanced filters come in. They come in a number of different types with different levels of effectiveness, expensiveness, and features. Two of the most common types are the accordion-style paper (media) filters and electronic air cleaners. Either of these can be installed in the place where you would find a standard filter, but the support frames are larger, about 5 to 8 inches wide. In a retrofit, that means reworking the sheet metal that connects the vertical return-air down box to the furnace.

First, let’s go over media filters. A media filter (about $250, uninstalled) is a popular choice for allergy sufferers. Pollen can be as small as 6 microns, and media filters trap 99 percent of 6-micron and larger particles, plus about 65 percent of 1-micron particles. Interestingly, paper filters grow more effective as they fill with dust. After six months, they’ll trap 82 percent of 1-micron particles. Maintenance consists of replacing the insert, running you about $28 each year.

Electronic air cleaners are a little more complicated because like their name suggests, they require power in order to run. Specifically, they require a 120-volt receptacle within 3 ft. of the furnace or air conditioner to supply power. Then, instead of a yearly filter replacement, the air cleaner’s cells containing the collection plates need to be washed monthly. It’s easy to work, and the cells are sized to fit into dishwashers, but it’s still a chore. These units produce a small amount of ozone, which is itself an irritant. The amount is well below the Environmental Protection Agency limit, however.

So why opt for an electronic air cleaner? Because they trap more of the tiniest particles—the ones that settle deepest in our lungs and are potentially the most harmful. Electronic air cleaners trap 70 percent of particles 0.3 microns in size. That’s four to five times more effective than a media filter for this particle size.

Either way, with one of these advanced filters, you’re going to see a noticeable decrease in allergens and a noticeable increase in air quality in your home, improving comfort, which is what HVAC add-ons are all about.

HVAC Add-Ons and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin

Make your HVAC more with add-ons that improve comfort and increase energy efficiency. Whether it’s to tackle a specific problem like uneven cooling and heating in Austin via booster fans or just optimizing your usage of your air conditioner and furnace with a programmable thermostat, HVAC add-ons can make a significant difference in your experience using your furnace and air conditioner.

Sometimes things go wrong and you’ll need AC repair in Austin. Or maybe nothing is wrong yet but you want to make sure it stays that way with a regular maintenance check. Either way, consider AC Express. AC Express is an Austin AC repair company whose service area includes everything from Buda and Kyle to Pflugerville and Round Rock. For top-notch same day AC repair, call today!