House too Hot or Cold? Adjust Your HVAC Dampers for Year-Round Comfort

Relaxation with the family in a comfortable and air conditioned loungefizkes / Shutterstock

If you realize that some parts of your home are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, it is likely that you will not be using your furnace records properly. Here's how to balance your HVAC system for comfort all year round.

What's a damper?

Most people know the registers and vents that you see in the actual rooms (and the concept of closing a vent in a room to slow down or stop the flow of air through the heating and cooling system in that room ). But closing the ventilation holes in rooms is not the most effective way to control the flow of air through the system.

This is where the balance dampers come into play. A balancing register is only a simple mechanism inside the duct network that closes a given duct. They are called balancing registers because they help to balance the flow of air in the system. The following is an example of a manual balancing register.

A manual balancing damper with the flow valve fully openGrainger Industrial Supply

However, unlike a register (located at the end of the duct where the duct joins the floor, wall or ceiling of a room), the register is located very close to the central unit. The advantage of this arrangement is that it closes the duct near the hot or cold air source and helps to redirect more effectively forced air elsewhere in the house.

So, what does this mean concretely for you? This means more cold air from the air conditioning in summer and more warm air coming from the boiler in the winter, headed exactly where you want it.

In practice, adjusting your registers is as easy as turning the lever to open or close the register. However, there is a little more than that, especially if you've never done it before. So let's see some tips and tricks. We will assume that you have never handled your shocks and will guide you through the process.

Location of your shock absorbers

The first thing first. You can not adjust anything until you have found your shock absorbers. This should be fairly simple for most people, but there will be situations for some readers in which adjusting the dampers is not an option.

In some homes (especially newer builds) there is no balancing of dampers attached to the ducts – a cost reduction measure rather poor in our opinion. In other homes, the dampers, if they exist, have been covered with drywall during renovation work or when a basement has been laid out in a playroom or something like that. (Conscientious contractors often use "fake" vents to allow access to the register handles, so light a flashlight in all the vents on the ceiling of your finished basement to check if you think a functional vent is an access panel).

On the other side (and more positive), if you have a Premium system in place, you can have electronic records that are automatically controlled by your heating and cooling system and provide a zone-controlled airflow. But let's be honest: if you have this system, you probably do not read this article because your automatic system is already taking care of everything. If you are not sure if you have such a system, you can find out quite easily. Instead of physical handles, your shocks will have small motors with attached wires.

These two situations aside, locating your shocks should be quite simple. Go to your furnace (be it a laundry room, a crawl space, a basement, etc.) and watch the main ducts coming out of the furnace. The shock absorbers are almost always located between 2 and 6 feet from the main chest.

Here is an example of our furnace dampers located directly next to the main truck and at the opening of the individual ducts, the trunk is divided into:

Two dampers attached to the main trunk of the ductwork of the furnaceThe configurations will vary considerably, but you should see something more or less similar. Jason Fitzpatrick

You can only have different style handles, the dampers can be located right next to the main chest or a few meters away, or they can even be rectangular, but you should see something like the picture above, the cobwebs, etc.

Identify and label your shock absorbers

Locating the shock absorbers is one thing, and twisting the handle to open them and closing them is pretty simple, but it does not help you if you do not know which damper is going where. This is where the real pleasure begins. If you can recruit a friend, spouse or older child to help here, this will save you from running around your house for a long time trying to determine which duct leads to which room.

Before you start, take a permanent marker or grease pencil. Adjusting the damper is not something that you will do frequently and correct labeling now will make your life a lot easier.

First, go through your house and open all your registers / vents. You want maximum airflow because you test each duct so you do not miss anything.

Then go back to the dampers. Select a damper to start. Follow the line where the shock is attached as far as possible before crossing a floor, wall or otherwise obscured. This will give you a rough idea of ​​the passage of the conduit. If you have an assistant, have him go to the area of ​​the house where you think the duct goes.

Turn on your furnace blower by turning on the fan mode using the thermostat. No fan mode? You can still use heat or air conditioning.

Close the damper (remember, we do it one at a time). Below you can see what a closed register looks like. The handle should (unless you have a very chic sleeve otherwise indicated) be perpendicular to the duct.

A manual balancing damper in closed positionA closed register. Think of it as a handle that cuts the flow of air. Jason Fitzpatrick

At this point, ask your assistant to check the ducts in that room or room of the house or go on site to check them yourself. One or more of the vents in the area should always be with minimal or no airflow.

Confirm that the damper in question gives the desired result by opening and closing it, to be sure.

A manual balancing register in open positionOpen register: the handle should be pointing down the duct. Jason Fitzpatrick

Return to the damper and with the help of your marker, clearly identify the duct with an easy-to-understand name, such as "Fireplace", "Kitchen" or "Living Room". For future owner's sake, avoid the names you will understand ("Carl's Room" only helps if you know who Carl is).

Finally, we will label each damper for a summer and winter position. But we're not going to do it at the moment, because we need to use the system a little first to position our labels precisely. We will discuss this in more detail in the next section.

Adjusting and monitoring your shock absorbers

Now that we know which register goes where in the house, it is simply a matter of making an initial adjustment depending on the season and where the hot or cold air must flow.

Fit for better AC distribution

We write this at the beginning of the summer, so let's first talk about AC adjustments. The cold air flows and, whether with or without air conditioning or air conditioning, the lower levels of your home will naturally stay cooler – without any intervention from the attic, it is always warmer than the basement. With this in mind, you want to start by closing the registers for the ducts that distribute the air in the basement and on the first floor, forcing most of the air to the second floor. Do not worry we assure you that the cold air does its best to flow down and that the ground floor is not stuffy.

Even if there is no second floor, you can still adjust the dampers to send as much chilled air to the main living areas as the bedrooms and the living room (or, if you're like us, to the office at home).

S 'adjust for better heat distribution

As soon as it is time to turn off the air conditioner for the summer and consider lighting the furnace to avoid the cold winter, it is time to review your records.

In the summer, the goal is to force cold air to the floor. In winter, the goal is to force more air on the ground floor. The heat rises and adjusting the dampers to reduce the upward flow of air and increase the airflow down will generally have a significant positive effect on the distribution of airflow. heat without cold rooms on the cold floor.

Monitor changes

You will not know immediately if the settings you have made are perfect. Although you know if a particular vent has been amortized (because you checked them one by one in the previous section and tagged them), it may take a few days to get an idea of ​​whether the adjustments you have brought will give the expected results. effect you want.

Every day, check in the different rooms of your home how the adjustments affect the temperatures. Are the cold rooms hotter now? Are rooms that are too warm more comfortable? If that is the case, you have selected it for the season. If not, adjust the dampers to your liking to get colder (or warmer) air where you need it.

When you feel that the system is well balanced for the particular function (AC / Heat), re-enter your marker and label the conduit with the appropriate season name, where the heat should be in that season.

For example, if you just tweaked your system for AC use in the summer, you should write "Summer" each time the handles point to the ducts, which indicates which position of the register is best for the room. AC mode. Resist the urge to write the opposite season in the opposite position to the current season. When the seasons change, you may find that you do not close a flapper completely open and that the "Winter" position may be closed at 50% and not completely. Wait until the opposite season is announced until you get to the bottom of it.

Rebalancing the spring and autumn

All the work is behind you now. You have located the dampers, labeled and tested them, and you have a much better balanced HVAC system.

The only thing to do is remind yourself to remember your memory and remind you to change the dampers when the seasons change. You can put an alert in your phone's calendar or paste a large piece of paper with "Adjust spring and fall dampers!" Right on the furnace, so you can see it every time you change the filters. remember to adjust them. Otherwise, at the change of season, you will still be too hot or too cold.

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