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A Guide to HVAC Home Improvement Projects
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed for providing comfortable, healthy living. In essence, it utilizes various heating and air conditioning components to help control indoor climate and allow for proper airflow. The health benefits might be obvious, but they also ensure the health of your home, its maintenance, and protection from mould development. Therefore, the importance of HVAC systems should not be underestimated.
HVAC System Selection
There is no one size fits all system when it comes to HVAC; instead, it depends on your home set-up, external climate conditions, and your own preference. You’ll be able to customize further according to your budget requirements or energy-saving concerns.
Due to its complexity, a design engineer should help you figure out your options as well as the materials required therein. Effective HVAC systems take into account the following processes:
- Heating: Adding thermal energy in order to raise the temperature.
- Cooling: Reducing thermal energy in order to reduce the temperature.
- Cleaning: Removing indoor air pollutants from air space.
- Humidifying/Dehumidifying: Adding/Reducing the relative humidity through the use of water vapors.
- Ventilating: Incorporating external air within the internal environment to maintain the quality of air.
- Air Movement: Controlling the flow of air within a floor for optimal distribution throughout a room.
HVAC System Requirements
When it comes to building your own system, there are four basic components which include: equipment, space, air distribution networks, and piping.
The equipment you’ll need will vary depending on your chosen system. That said, there are some basic tools you’d need to get started:
- Wire strippers
- Tape Measure and multimeter
- Rotary Tool
Having these tools within your reach would help streamline your project and customize it according to your own preferences while aiding you in your maintenance efforts.
Regardless of the system you choose, there are some spacing requirements with each type. You’ll have to ensure adequate space is available for four main components:
- Equipment Set-up: The main area where mechanical and electrical requirements are supplied from. Typically, within the mid-region of the construction in order to ensure all ducts and pipes are attached sufficiently for centralized operations.
- HVAC components: These includes the major parts of the system which facilitates the HVAC processes. It may include pumps, pressure reducing equipment, air control, water chillers, condenser, and air compressors.
- Fan equipment: Depending on the airflow requirement, fans may be installed within shafts to control the flow. That said, this flow can be locally controlled or through an automated system and can help in the inflow of external air or removal of pollutants.
- Shafts: This is the space required for the movement of air or water/steam for distribution within the building. It is to be connected through a supply source and is delivered through ducks or exhausts. These are usually in-built within a building and are used for other electrical and plumbing connections so no additional shafts will be required.
Air Distribution Networks
Aside from having the space to build a network, you need ducts in order to regulate your quality of air in an economical way. These ducts should be able to facilitate with the cooling, cleaning, humidifying/dehumidifying and flow of air in an effective manner. They’re usually insulated to prevent any loss of heat and provide energy saving. Having a proper network channel is one of the key ways to ensure your system benefits you in the long-run without being too cost-heavy.
The piping excludes your vent mechanism and instead focuses on the delivery of steam, cool/hot water or condensed air to provide you with the desired temperature. It will be interlinked within each of the above-mentioned system components to provide you with an effective and affordable system.
The Layout of Your HVAC System
Different types of set-ups will require different systems in order to be efficient. However, by keeping in mind the basic requirements, you’d be able to construct a layout for your system.
It’s important to note that all the processes should be in conjunction with one another. That is, a room should typically have access to outside air which flows through a filter into a ventilated room. This area should have an exhaust system, whether mechanical or automated and should be fitted with cooling and heating mechanism in order to control the temperature.
The Heat Factor
One of the largest elements which play a factor in the quality of air, maintenance, and effectiveness of your HVAC system is the heat factor of a room. Therefore, it’s important to know where heat is being directed within your room from and what exactly can be done in order to manage it. In order to make your system be as effective as possible, external factors need to be reduced.
Here’s a list of heat sources which affect a room’s warmth:
- Walls: The sun conducts heat within the room through its walls. The materials used during construction and insulations added can help alter the effects of the sun, as well as the building’s alignment to it. The heat is then stored within the walls, therefore, its effects remain even after the sun has gone down.
- Roof: Similar to the walls, the roof also absorbs heat and can counteract cooling provided by the HVAC system. Insulation within the roof can help reduce heat stored and increase the effectiveness of the system.
- Windows: The windows of a room radiate heat inside and may raise the temperature of the room, depending on its alignment to the sun. Aside from glass installations, the heat can be managed through thicker curtains or blinds which help block the sun.
- Electrical output: From stoves and ovens to lights, the electrical devices within our surroundings have an impact on the heat level. Take into account the kind of installations you’re making and the heat they will generate.
- People: Depending on the number of people a room will host, the heat from individuals sitting, standing or working out, all has an effect on the heat and air quality of the surrounding.
- Inflowing air: Last consideration is the outside air which will flow into the room to either increase or reduce the temperature of the air depending on the climate you reside in.
Issues with HVAC Systems
Whether due to design flaws or natural overtime use, there are some issues which arise and you should be aware of in order to manage the efficiency of your system.
The filter performs a vital and continuous job of keeping your air fresh and dust-free. Due to its natural, the filter can often get clogged which hinder the flow of air and reduces its effectiveness. You can start to see debris in your surroundings or feel a change within the quality of air. Filters should be replaced according to your manufacturer’s instructions, or as needed.
Condenser Unit Obstruction
A condenser is present within your air-conditioning unit and helps to cool down air to release into your surroundings. Depending on the cooling system you have, the condenser can be located internally or externally, and can be blocked by debris within the environment; thus, obstructing airflow and causing your unit to unnecessarily overheating.
In order to avoid this, the unit’s surroundings should be kept clear and dust-free. Follow your manufacturer’s instruction manual for any replacement or maintenance advice.
Blocked Vents or Ducts
Similarly, vents and ducts can also fall victim to dust and other debris. Additionally, leaks and cracks may also compromise cooling or air filtration if present within the HVAC vents/ducts. Narrow piping can be a reason for the clog. Alternatively, if you have a pest problem, examining your ducts might be worthwhile as well.
Categories of HVAC Systems – Designing Your Layout
When it comes to designing a system, there are two main types of HVAC system—namely the central and the local system. Each comes with its own requirements and providing the heating, cooling and regulating processes in their own method.
That said, depending on your requirements, you can customize any HVAC project to receive the benefits you need. Let’s take a look at the two systems and the sub-types they offer to select which one would work for you.
Central HVAC System
This type of system serves one or more rooms within a building and is quite an equipment-heavy investment. Its units are typically located externally with a main centralized system available within. The temperature and operations are controlled through thermostats for each room. Within the system, there are further classifications which vary in their delivery style, distribution, and purpose. These include:
All Air System
Through this system, thermal energy is transferred through an air delivery method. There are four main sub-classifications available within the system.
- Single-zone: This style essentially applies cooling and heating as a single unit throughout the building. The heat or cooling sources can be integrated within a single unit or separated; however, the controls are limited to a single serving thermostat/control panel. The air is delivered through ducts and vents within the space. This design is usually easy to maintain and cost-effective than its more complicated counterparts.
- Multi-zone: Much like a single zone, air ducts are utilized to distribute cold or hot air; however, through a multi-zone set-up, the thermal requirements of each zone can be separately catered to. Each area will come with its own thermostat to control the temperature and flow of air. There are internal mixing dampers within the zone in order to facilitate its functions. Although you can manage energy more efficiently by breaking the building up in zones; the multi-zone is limited in its reach of up to 12 zones before risks of leakages may reduce efficiency.
- Dual Duct: Within this system, dedicated heating and cooling ducts are used to independently to maintain temperature. It also has a separate zone thermostat similar to the multi-zone set-up. Therefore, it adds efficiencies lacking in the previous systems; however, it ultimately costs more to install.
- Variable Air Volume: In case you require variable airflow supply, this option combines the above 3 systems with added volume control mechanisms. It is controlled through a terminal and gives you the ability to individually control zones. The issue with this system is that reducing or increasing temperatures will affect adjacent zones which might not be desired. However, this system provides the most control and energy-saving potential.
Air Water System
This hybrid system combines the all-air and all-water system to provide the benefits of both. It adds in the ventilation options in order to further control temperatures and air quality at desired levels. There are two subtypes of this system:
- Fan Coil Unit: Fan coil tempered air is supplied to the zone or room and distributed through vents or diffusers. Ventilation is separately fitted within the mechanism to intake air for complete quality control.
- Induction Unit: Although similar in form to the fan coil, induction units are used in place of the coil and usually provides higher velocity airflow.
All Water System
This system is beneficial for smaller set-ups given the pipes and water delivery required for its operations. It uses heated and cooled water to distribute through the central system network. The basic premise behind is that water has a higher heat capacity and is, therefore, more efficient in smaller areas.
Heating and Cooling Panels
Alternatively, you can employ the use of radiant panels which provide heating and cooling according to their placement. It makes the use of tubes and pipes to fluctuate the temperature on the panels and cool the surface area. This option, however, is more expensive compared to others and is quite design-dependent when it comes to its efficiency.
Local HVAC System
Having an all-encompassing system can be wasteful in some conditions and a localized system offers more customization options. In case you need a single zone, localized network, the Local HVAC System offers efficient heating and cooling mechanisms for the purpose. The sub-categories of this system include:
Local Heating System
A localized heating system with a single heat source for single-zone distribution. This could p=include electric heaters, radiators, fireplaces, or stoves.
Local Cooling System
Air conditioning systems for cooling within a single zone with some controls over humidification and cooling. It could include natural cooling methods such as windows or foundations or systems such as fans.
A dedicated ventilation system which can be automatic or manual through exhaust fans or windows to allow the inflow and outflow of air. Filtration can also be used to improve the quality of air within this system.
In case more intensified cooling systems are required, an air-conditioning system can also be fitted into rooms. These could include window air conditioners, unitary air conditioner or rooftop units.
By using a condenser and evaporator system, the spilt method allows for cooling and heating of a space. Unlike a traditional air conditioning system, it doesn’t take away from the aesthetics of a room and can be fitted within a space without any architectural configurations.
Building HVAC System – How Much Does It Cost?
When considering installing an HVAC system, the costs ultimately change depending on the category and type you wish for. Things you should consider when factoring in costs include:
- Size and scope of your system
- Brand and materials required
- Components for heating, cooling, and ventilation
- The complexity of installation – New constructions will be easier for technicians to fit the system within.
- Whether the system is localized or central.
- Cost of Living and maintenance considerations.
Having an HVAC System on a Budget
To make your HVAC System more cost-efficient, try to incorporate all the natural options available to facilitate your desired temperature levels. Having windows for ventilation and fireplaces for heating can save costs of adding mechanical/electrical systems.
Likewise, you’d want to consider the maintenance costs of each system and reduce your costs by ensuring you follow proper maintenance protocols in order to keep your area efficient for longer.
How to Install an HVAC System?
In order to construct a system that lasts, you need to get things right from the get-go. The set-up should be customized according to your space and its requirements. Here’s how to get started:
Calculate Your Heat Load
Start off by calculating the energy load within your space. For accuracy, ensure you’re going room to room in order to gauge the actual present scenario. Check where the energy is coming from and how each zone would be affected by it.
Assess Your Requirements
Aside from the area’s present scenario, take a moment to reflect your requirements as well. Some individuals would prefer in-built humidifiers within their HVAC system while others may want multi-zone air-conditioning. This goes beyond the climate and weather considerations; it takes a look at a person’s preferences. For example, some residents may be sensitive to the quality of air and these requirements should be laid out at this initial stage to build an effective system.
Choose Your System and Types
Your layout should be in line with your load and requirements in general. It should take into account your budget according to installation, maintenance and repair/replacement costs. And enable comfortable living according to the temperatures and systems used. It’s important to also size your HVAC project according to the space available.
Incorporate Energy Saving/Natural Options
Instead of having an over-reliance on an electrical cooling/heating system, make use of natural HVAC practices to help regulate the temperature and costs. Your system should be utilizing its in-built features to facilitate the HVAC processes and, therefore, should be considered through the implementation of any layout.
Examine Your Vents and Ducts
Before installation begins, check to ensure your vents and ducts do not need to be replaced. Natural wear and tear can overtime exhaust these spaces and pose the risk of leakages and inefficiencies if ignored. Therefore, in order to ensure there are no problems during the fitting and daily operations, run a diagnostic of your vents and pipes to verify whether they can handle the load and adjust accordingly.
Once you have all the placements and layouts planned out, you should begin the installation. Simplify the process for yourself as much as possible given the connections and networks can make things tricky. The heat/cooling source should be connected through ducts and vents which operate in a safe, effective and planned manner.
Test the system
Lastly, run tests on your installed HVAC system and inspect any operational or functional issues. Before you can call the project a success, it’s important to weed out any weaknesses which may lead to leaks or safety concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions About HVAC Systems
What size HVAC should I install?
As mentioned earlier, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to HVAC for your home or building. It depends on the construction and external factors and you can contact technicians to draw up plans to help you make the selection. Typically, a 1-ton air conditioner is used to cool a space of up to 800 square feet. That said, individual preferences would make a difference in the final decision making as well.
Should I invest in a system with more capacity?
Having a larger capacity is not necessarily better when it comes to cooling and heating. You want a system that adequately delivers comfort. Aside from being inefficient, a higher capacity system could actually compromise the effectiveness and may lead to an imbalance in humidity.
What temperature should my system be able to produce?
You’ll need to determine your heat load in order to successfully figure out what temperatures should your system be able to run at. Take into account any inflowing air which may offset the heating/cooling temperatures as well.
How often do I need to replace my filter?
Generally, a filter lasts for around one month; however, be sure to check your manufacturer’s instruction manual to check the recommended replacement procedure.
How often should I have maintenance done on my HVAC system?
In case there are no replacements or issues with your system, maintenance servicing can be conducted after every 2 years. To ensure the longevity of your machine, kindly follow the instructions provided by your manufacturer or technician.
Maintenance Tips and Tricks for HVAC Systems
When it comes to machinery, it’s always preferable to avoid any issues before they arise. Being proactive with your maintenance can save you additional costs and will ensure the longevity of your system. Due to the nature of HVAC systems and their functions, there is a natural wear-and-tear to be expected from them.
Some parts will need to be replaced frequently, while others will need an occasional dust-up. Below are some tips and tricks to help ensure the life of your HVAC system and its effectiveness are not untimely compromised.
- Understand Your System – Maintenance of your system starts with the installation phase. IN order to prevent any safety concerns or premature breakdowns, it’s important to understand your HVAC system and how it operates. Knowing the basic ins and outs of your system, and its connections throughout your space will help you troubleshoot and guard against any problems.
- Follow Instructions Within Manual – Whether you opt for a centralized or local system, each component will come with its own set of instructions from the manufacturer. It describes the recommended usage for optimal results while ensuring the longevity of your device. It should be noted that components should be replaced according to the manual as per testing conducted by the manufacturer.
- Unclog Any Dust – One of the biggest problems when it comes to the effectiveness of your HVAC system will be in the form of dust and debris. Foreign particulars getting stuck within your filters and vents will compromise air quality, and even affect temperature output. Therefore, routinely unclog dust from your components and vents to ensure unhindered operations.
- Check Fixture of the System – In case your system feels to be lagging a bit, start by running a preliminary check of the position of each part—especially if located outside of your building. Any disruptions may lead to leakages or hindrances which will reduce the effectiveness of your HVAC output. Be sure to turn off the device when tinkering or moving it about to stay safe and use proper equipment.
- Get A Programmable Thermostat – Depending on the system you have; you can consider adding a programmable thermostat for increased control. Essentially this small device to control temperatures according to set time parameters. This helps to not only control temperatures inside your room but allows for energy efficiency by closing or reducing the time spent cooling your space.
- Consider an In-Duct Booster – For an additional kick of cool/hot air, you can fit an in-line duct booster. The booster is essentially a fan which throws air more efficiently allowing for more even cooling of your room. It can be controlled automatically or through a manual switch, depending on your requirement.
- Reduce Noise – A major issue with most HVAC systems is the noise from its heating/cooling sources. You can reduce the noise by purchasing a blanket for your model which is designed for the purpose. Using an ordinary blanket is dangerous and should not be used.
- Fix Any Fin Bents – Bent fins within your components may lead to leakages or debris to be stuck within them. You can use a fin comb or knife-like object to ensure the fins are not being clogged by dust and assume their normal position.
- Unclog Drain Tube – If you happen to notice any water puddles or see water leaking out of your system, it’s possible for drainage tube is clogged up. Over time the condensation drain tube naturally builds up slime which needs to be cleaned up. If you notice the clog in time, you won’t need to replace the tube, instead, it will be back to normal right after a little cleaning.
- Replace the Filter – As mentioned before, the filters are usually supposed to be replaced after a month. Failure to replace would impact the quality of air and the result of your HVAC process. Check your manual for step by step instructions on how to perform the replacement.
- Check Your Unit’s Size – If you’re experiencing inadequate cooling or heating, it may be a result of your unit being too small for your space. Run a simple diagnostic to discover any vulnerabilities before making the switch to a larger size.
- Check Your Insulation – Aside from your system, routinely assess your room insulation in case it has any issues. Running your equipment for more output than necessary can lead to premature issues, therefore use your surrounding insulation to your advantage to maintain your system. For example, adding insulation in the form of thicker curtains to block out sun rays can be a cost-effective measure which will help you save more energy.
- Call Maintenance at least every 2 years – By keeping up to date on your maintenance dates will help catch any issues before they become a problem. You can run some diagnostics yourself; however, a technician will be able to thoroughly check for any vulnerabilities or issues which may not be obvious to the untrained eye.
Regardless of where you reside, your home will need an effective HVAC system in order to provide a comfortable environment for all. Having the freedom to set a temperature and internal climate is a necessary component of any home.
Therefore, making the investment into a system which works for you is a wise choice. To support your endeavor, there are multiple options available to help you figure out the right HVAC for your space. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks, as we’ve discussed above. The right set-up will cater to your space and will provide an even temperature throughout.
Being such a cost-heavy project, its important to consider the layout in a way that is efficient and accessible for installation, maintenance, and replacement. That said, with the proper care, you’ll have a system which serves you and provides a comfortable, healthy living environment within your home.
Here are some further home improvement ideas to help build the home of your dreams: