We know it is very tempting. And it seems to make sense.
But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do to try to reduce your heating bills this winter, it’s closing off air vents in unused rooms.
It’s a long-standing myth that closing off air vents will definitely save you money. It can depend on a host of circumstances as to whether it will actually do you any good.
In this blog post, we tell you what to do instead. These tips really will save you money in the safest, most efficient, long-term way.
Energy Star Recommends Not Closing Vents
Closing off vents to save money is such a prevalent practice that Energy Star addresses it on their site.
And why shouldn’t you do it? Because it can throw off the balance of how your HVAC system works.
Here, it is important to understand the difference between short-term savings and long-term costs.
Sure, you might trim a few dollars off this month’s heating bills by closing off some of your air vents.
But what is the long-term cost of doing this? Energy Star says it could be substantial.
Toxic air and damage in unused rooms
Rooms with closed air vents will not be receiving ventilation or circulation. This can foster mould, mildew, bacteria and insects to gravitate to these rooms. Yuck!
Discomfort in the rest of your space
Closing off certain air vents places extra pressure on your air distribution system, forcing it to work harder to reroute air that hits a dead end.
In turn, this can create new leaks in your ducts and also make the other rooms in your home (the ones still receiving air) feel uncomfortably hot.
Home fire risk and furnace repair bills increase
When your furnace has to work harder to do the same job, risks in every area increase. You risk a premature blower motor blowout. If components overheat, this increases your home fire risk.
To keep your system balanced and running smoothly, you will need to schedule more frequent routine maintenance, which is another additional cost to bear.
We hope you now have a clear picture of the types of big problems that can arise through small so-called solutions like closing air vents in certain rooms.
But what can you do instead?
If You Really Want to Close Those Vents
If you are really committed to closing off vents in certain rooms and you have a plan to be sure mould and mildew won’t damage those rooms in the interim, Energy Star says it may be possible to do this to your benefit.
But you need to consult with a professional HVAC contractor to determine if your current furnace setup and ductwork will support it.
It may be possible to reroute your ducts to support more limited air distribution. In this way, you avoid increasing the likelihood of expensive ducting and furnace repairs.
4 Smart Ways to Save on Heating Bills This Winter
Just because closing air vents is not recommended doesn’t mean there aren’t other options open to you for saving on winter heating costs.
And these are options worth pursuing when you consider that 61 percent of the average homeowner’s annual energy bill goes just to pay the yearly heating bills!
If you are chomping at the bit to see your furnace bills heading south, this is what we recommend.
1. Consider adding HVAC zoning
The invention of smart home management systems has brought with it a number of fabulous tools to help homeowners micromanage the cost of maintaining a home.
From monitoring home security to remotely turning off lights in empty rooms to – you guessed it – zoned cooling and heating, these systems can be as simple or multi-feature as you want and need.
HVAC zoning comes in particularly handy when there are some areas of your home that get heavy use and others that rarely receive visitors.
For example, let’s say your family uses one bathroom, the kitchen, family room and bedrooms on a daily basis. But you use the dining room, laundry room, guest bathroom and two spare bedrooms only occasionally.
Zoning is a workaround that lets you control temperatures to less-used areas without closing vents. It can be used as a standalone system or integrated into a full-featured smart home system.
2. Program your HVAC thermostat
If you don’t currently have an HVAC system with an integrated programmable thermostat, it is often possible to purchase a third-party programmable thermostat to work with your existing HVAC system.
These thermostats can make sure you are not paying to heat (or cool) an empty house. Many can also be managed remotely from a smart device.
3. Install a heat recovery ventilator
A heat recovery ventilator, as its name suggests, recovers heat energy that would otherwise be wasted.
Even better, a heat recovery ventilator ensures your home gets even ventilation and humidity balancing so the risk of mould is greatly reduced.
Heat recovery ventilators are so good at what they do (especially in airtight new-construction spaces) that they are now required for new-construction projects in the Toronto area.
4. Seal, weatherstrip, insulate
Finally, if there is any solution even less glamorous than closing vents, it would have to be sealing, weatherstripping and insulating windows, doors, ducts and pipes.
But when you keep more heated air in, you pay less to stay warm!
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