What is my HVAC System Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is My HVAC System Trying to Tell Me?

Did you know your appliances are talking to you? Really, they are! Did you also know you can learn an awful lot by listening to them? Really, you can! You can find out how much electricity you’re using — and how much money you’re spending, too! To highlight what customers can discover with Direct Energy’s Direct Your Energy Insights Tool, we’re going to dig into some of the lesser-known ways your appliances affect your electric bill. By learning more about your electricity usage, you’ll use less of what we sell!

What is my HVAC System Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is My HVAC System Trying to Tell Me?

HVAC systems circulate air throughout your home. While blowing air sounds effortless, it’s actually a dirty job. Done poorly, it can add to your heating and cooling bills —or worse — end up in costly repairs. Knowing what to look and listen for will not only keep your system trouble-free but it will also lower your energy costs.

Professionally installed HVAC systems made in the past 15 years run almost silently. So if you hear something or your home isn’t heating or cooling as it should, then you know something’s not right. Fortunately, all HVAC systems share common problems that all homeowners can take care of and keep their systems running economically and efficiently.

Where’s all this water coming from?

If you discover water puddling around your HVAC during the air conditioning season — or if you live in the south and have water dripping from the ceiling underneath your HVAC, then it’s likely the condensate drainage pipe is blocked. Water normally condenses off the HVAC’s air conditioning coil and drips first into a collection pan before draining away down a pipe. Dust, mold, and mildew can block that pipe causing water to back up into the collection pan and spill into a big mess.

  1. Disconnect the tube from the condensate tray
  2.  Insert a small bottle brush to clear out any clog at this connection.
  3.  Attach a shop vacuum nozzle to pull out any other material.
  4. Pour a little bleach or white vinegar down the drain pipe to prevent mold or mildew from clogging the pipe again.

What is my HVAC System Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

There’s hardly any air coming out of the vents.

When was the last time you changed the furnace filter? Air filters clean the air as it passes through the blower flan. As the filter gathers more dust and dirt, it lets less air through. Be sure to change your air filters every three months with the kind recommended by the manufacturer.

I put in a clean furnace filter, but there’s still not as much air coming out of the vents as there should be. — There’s two possibilities to look for:

  • Leaky duct work. About 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, kinks, or loose connections. That can add up to $500 a year for some homeowners. Make sure all the connections are good and tight. Look for holes and gaps at all connection bends. These should be sealed with aluminum tape, mastic, or for smaller pencil-sized holes use silicon caulk. Join loose metal ductwork with sheet metal screws and then seal over with mastic or aluminum tape.
  • Blocked return vents. Return vents are often located at or just above baseboards on walls or sometimes in the floor. This makes them easy to get blocked by furniture or carpeting and dust. Keep the return vents free of obstruction and cleaned regularly to let air flow into them freely.

What is my HVAC System Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

Flex Ducts

We live in the South. All our rooms have good air flow from the ceiling vents — except one. — Many newer homes have insulated ductwork called “flex duct”. The flex duct is made of plastic, resembling a bigger version of dryer hose and is wrapped in insulation. This kind of ducting can have three problems:

  • Flex ducting supported in the attic by belts or loops can kink or pinch the duct and restrict air flow.
  • Flex ducting works best for short runs because it’s spiral construction increases turbulence. The longer the duct runs, the lower the air flow, and the higher your energy usage. Some sloppy installers don’t bother cutting flex duct to the right size.
  • Flex duct should be secured to sheet metal connectors to hold it in place. Some installers don’t do that and eventually the duct works itself loose and air will no longer flow into the room it connects to.

The blower motor smells hot and is squeaking loudly.

That’s a good sign the motor bearings need oiling. Blower motor bearings are surrounded by felt pads soaked in oil. These can dry out after 5 or 6 years of continual use. Lubricating these is surprisingly pretty cheap and easy, however, getting to the motor can take some time. As always, turn off your HVAC system before you start work. You’ll also need to disconnect the wiring harness from the blower assembly, unscrew it from the frame, and pull the whole blower from the HVAC. The oil ports for the bearings are located at either end of the motor shaft. Be sure to take a little extra time to clean all the dust from the blower fan.

Tackling these problems yourself when they occur can save you the expense of a costly service call in the future.

Want to know how you can save even more?

Customers who sign up with a Direct Energy plan can get complete access to the Energy Insights Tool to help them monitor their usage and take more control of bill. If you’re a Texas resident, you can save even more by signing up with Direct Energy’s Free Weekends. From Friday at 6 PM to Sunday at 11:59pm, you’ll get FREE electricity. Just by switching to Direct Energy and saving your laundry for the weekend, you’ll really clean up!


Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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