Ask Our Experts: Balancing an HVAC System

Air dampers can be used to balance HVAC systems in your home and office.

Air dampers can be used to balance HVAC systems in your home and office.

All material Copyrighted (c) by the Tuckey Companies, 2015.

 

Question for Our Experts:

 

My friend suggested that my HVAC system needs to be ‘balanced.’  What does this mean, and why might I need this?

 

 

Our Experts’ Answer:

 

Let’s break this question down into some bite-sized questions that can be more directly addressed:

 

  • What happens when a heating and air conditioning system is “balanced”?  First, keep in mind that system balancing (per se) is normally performed on HVAC systems that utilize ductwork to distribute air throughout the building (which is generally the case for most residential central air systems).  Thus, this process would not be necessary for ductless HVAC systems or window units.  That being said, what happens when an HVAC system is “balanced” is that configuration settings are changed such that proper airflow is delivered throughout the home.  This is generally accomplished by adjusting the system’s dampers throughout its ductwork (thus, this process may not be possible if your system was designed without dampers).  This ensures even temperatures throughout the building.  Your HVAC system may need to be balanced if you notice significantly different air temperatures from one room or floor to the next.

 

  • How is balancing different from routine HVAC maintenance?  Balancing is normally a one-time operation whereby proper configuration settings are determined based upon desired airflow and then implemented for future use.  Routine HVAC maintenance includes checks and tune-ups of your system’s mechanical components, which wear down and require regular upkeep.  Routine HVAC maintenance (or “preventive maintenance“) visits should generally occur at least twice per year.

 

  • How can a system become “unbalanced”?  Good question – especially since we just said that balancing is generally a “once-and-done” thing.  A system can become unbalanced if a damper or dampers work loose over time, which would inadvertently change the air flow in a particular branch duct (and, thus, to certain rooms or floors in your home).  Additionally, the air flow requirements in a room may change from time-to-time, which would necessitate a re-balancing (for example, if you add lots of heat-producing equipment or electronics in one particular room, your system may need to be rebalanced).

 

  • When would a system need to be balanced?  All duct systems should be balanced at least once in their lifetimes.  That being said, systems may need to be re-balanced under certain unique situations as described above.  Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that balancing may not solve every temperature fluctuation issue you’re experiencing.  For example, multi-story homes may require more sophisticated zoning systems or even multiple HVAC systems to achieve desired temperature consistency.

 

  • Can a homeowner balance their system on their own?  To a limited extent, homeowners can manage airflow to and from certain rooms by opening or closing supply vents room-by-room.  This, however, is not truly “balancing” the system (per se).  The proper way to balance a system involves tweaking dampers in branch ducts and measuring results via specialized air volume devices that professionally measure air flow.

 

  • How long does it take for a technician to balance a system?  This depends on the size of the home and the extensiveness of its HVAC/ductwork system.  And the process typically requires two technicians: one to adjust dampers while another reads and interprets air flow measurements.

 

 

The Bottom Line

 

Balancing a system involves taking professional airflow measurements room-by-room and adjusting system settings (via dampers, etc) to achieve desired temperature consistency throughout the building.  All systems should be balanced at least once in their lifetimes; otherwise, your system may need balanced if you notice inconsistent air temperature from one room or floor to the next.

 

For professional assistance with this and other home maintenance work, Tuckey is the local expert to call. Keep our number handy – you never know when you might need us! Call (717) 524-1136 or visit www.tuckey.com for more information.

 

All material Copyrighted © by The Tuckey Companies, 2015.

[Photo By Hustvedt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons]

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a reference guide only.  All mechanical, plumbing, electrical, remodeling, and restoration projects should be handled by a qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies.  Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

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