Don't Be a Baby! It's Time for Your HVAC System to Grow Up!
Babies cry. Babies are messy. Babies are inefficient. Just look at that face. Yeah, he's a cute little guy with that big smile, but it looks to me like there's been a problem with the food distribution system. Is your heating and air conditioning system like that? Chances are good that it is.
If your HVAC system is crying, you've probably already called someone because most of us do pay attention to noises that don't sound right. Sometimes we think they're normal, though, and don't do anything about it. If your vents are whistling or you've got some other funky noises going on, get it checked out. Who knows? There could be a family of raccoons living in your duct system! It's happened before.
My analogy today, however, is between your HVAC distribution system, the ducts, and the baby's food distribution system. We'll deal with the raccoons later. As you can tell from the photo of the baby above, a lot of that yummy food ends up in places other than the baby's mouth. A lot like your duct system if you have forced-air distribution for your heating and cooling system.
Don't believe me? Look at the mess these ducts are making!
That duct above was spilling cold supply air all over the unconditioned crawl space the day I took this photo. The one below was spilling cold air all over the unconditioned attic. In both cases, the conditioned air never made it into your baby's mouth.
Then there's the downright ugly stuff, like the one I call Stumpy, shown below. Yeah, it was making a big mess of conditioned air distribution in an unconditioned crawl space (right above the dead squirrel).
I've made the comparison of forced-air duct systems to babies so far, but maybe that's not the best analogy. Have you seen an old movie called The Magic Christian starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr? It's from 1969 and is in the top 20 or so of bizarre movies I've seen.* One scene in the movie has the super-wealthy Sir Guy Grand, the character played by Sellers, going into a ritzy restaurant, getting the waiters to put a bib on him, and then getting caviar smeared all over his face...and a little in his mouth.
That might actually be a better comparison because we're all grown-ups here, right? Even better, though, is that, rather than babyfood, it's really expensive food that's missing the mark. When we use electricity, as all air conditioners do, and then get sloppy with the distribution of the conditioned air, it's like buying caviar and losing half of it to a poor distribution system. Electricity is the caviar of energy sources.
The real point here is that many forced-air distribution systems have problems. Every month you're paying for this nice food and then spilling a lot of it. Make sure you get a pro who understands air flow if you want to stop the duct leakage, though, because you can end up choking the baby if you try to get all that food into his mouth too quickly. Efficiency depends on more than just stopping the leaks. An air flow pro will measure delivered air flow, and that's what you want to get. You want all the conditioned air to go through the ducts and be delievered to the house. No leaks and no choking!
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*The Magic Christian also has an all-star cast, including some who weren't stars yet: John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Yul Brynner, Raquel Welch, Christopher Lee, Roman Polanski, and more. Another iconic scene from the movie is Hamlet's soliloquy performed as a strip tease. It was directed by Joseph McGrath, who made the even more bizarre The Great McGonagall.
Photo of baby by jessicafm from flickr.com, used under a Creative Commons license.