When it comes time to replace your current central air conditioner because it's losing efficiency, beyond repair, or simply getting old, there are a few other projects you can undertake on your forced air system to increase its overall efficiency. Adding new devices known as zone control dampers during air conditioner installation is well worth the extra cost and time because it allows you to split your home into individual zones and heat each one separately. Use these tips to make sure your attempts to add dampers doesn't interrupt the rest of the installation process.
Remember Bypass Dampers
As dampers automatically switch shut to block cooling from going to unoccupied rooms and floors, this increases the amount of air pressure circulating in the rest of the system. In order to prevent damage to the air conditioner itself and the duct work due to the sudden increase of air pressure, it's often necessary to install a bypass damper that opens to release this excess pressure and balance out the system again. However, this damper is not always necessary and will lead to wasted energy if it's added when it's not required. Let a professional determine if it's required or not based on how the air flows through your ducts.
Choose Matching Thermostats
Each individual zone in your home must connect to a separate thermostat to get an accurate reading for that zone. The thermostat has to communicate with a control panel to send a signal to the damper for opening or shutting, so all three pieces of equipment must work together seamlessly for the zones to respond to your commands. Many people mix and match thermostats, dampers, and control boards from different manufacturers that were never tested together in a real setting. It's far less trouble to keep a matching system working and will cost less after you factor in the fees for troubleshooting dampers that can't communicate with the thermostats.
Meet Wiring Requirements
Simple wiring mistakes made during installation often lead to dampers that only respond some of the time or refuse to open and shut at all. Even if you're not doing the installation yourself, you can check the work of the installer by asking about the details. Dampers must be connected to your zone control panels with two-conducter wire in 18 gauge size. If price is a concern, 22 gauge wire will also work for most models, but nothing smaller should be used or the load is likely to overload the wiring and cause a fire.
Double-Check Duct Integrity
Each damper is installed directly into the air conditioner ducts, so the installer handling the work will cut open the tubing in order to mount the units. Even a small air leak around these damper openings can inflate your air conditioning bills for years to come. When running your new air conditioner for the first time after damper installation, visit as many ducts as you can to verify that there's no cool air escaping from around the sealed openings. Get the leaks repaired as soon as possible to get the best energy efficiency possible out of your new air conditioner.
Consider Duct Changes
In order to make the best use of the cool air coming out of your air conditioner, you may need to re-route some ducts to create main branches flowing to your zones. For example, installing new ducts that separate air flow by floor can reduce the number of dampers you need and maximize efficiency. Duct changes can up to double the cost of installing an air conditioner, but it's often worth the cost if it allows you to create much better zones.
Talk to your HVAC installer, someone like Nova Air Conditioning & Heating, about this option.