How does a high ceiling affect your home’s energy bills? While a living room with a vaulted or cathedral ceiling can be incredibly attractive and allow you to put the craftmanship of the architecture on display, they can definitely have an effect on your home’s HVAC system and its energy bills. In this post, we’ll explore how to make the most of those beautiful vaulted ceilings by optimizing airflow and saving energy.
Higher Ceilings Equals Spaciousness
Because there is just more cubic feet or volume to heat or cool by the HVAC system, high ceilings increase the workload of the system. The end result is higher energy bills and potentially wasted money as warm air gets trapped in the higher ceiling space.
What you can do to offset those higher utility bills? First, ensure the ceilings are taken into account when installing the HVAC system. The contractor must spec the system to the proper size, being sure to take square footage, ceiling height and other factors under consideration.
Design of the Ductwork
Ductwork design can be a major factor in determining if your HVAC system will function properly with a high ceiling. First, remember that hot air rises. That means that most of your home’s heat will rise to the ceiling in the winter. And in the summer, the air conditioner will have to work extra hard to cool the extra space above.
All is not lost, however. The professionals at Dor-Mar Heating and Air Conditioning can incorporate a dual low- and high-return air register in the rooms with a high ceiling. In summertime, you would shut down the lower return with dampers or magnetic covers, allowing the high return to remove heat from the ceiling, and taking some of the workload off the AC. In the winter, you would reverse the setting, causing the warm air above to flow downward to return to the furnace, allowing the furnace to work a little easier.
Using Ceiling Fans to Reverse Airflow
In rooms with high ceilings, ceiling fans can help distribute heated or cooled air more efficiently. In the winter, the fan runs with the blades rotating to remove heat from the high ceiling and force it downward. In the summer, run the fan rotation in the opposite direction to draw cool air upward, making the room cooler. Many ceiling fans have a small sliding switch on the side to reverse direction on the fan.
Ceiling fans, when used properly, can contribute a great deal to keeping your rooms with a high ceiling cool during the summer. They improve air circulation so there aren’t competing hot and cool spots. Ideally, place them in the hottest sections of the room, like near west-facing windows. Ceiling fans work best when placed eight to ten feet above the floor; so for a room with a vaulted ceiling, an extension rod on the fan shaft will optimize the fan’s reach. Wide paddles added to the mix will move more air around the room and cool it more effectively.
Cooling a Room with High Ceilings
Since the intolerable heat of summer will be upon us soon, we’d like to share some additional tips on keeping a room with high ceilings cooler. Since warm air rises, it’s harder to keep a room with high ceilings warm; in summer, it’s not as hard to keep it cool. Unfortunately, though, a room with high ceilings will cost more to keep cool than a normal height room, simply because of the additional volume in the room.
Capacity of the AC System
When you are cooling a room with a high ceiling, you have to account for more than just square footage, you have to include the volume. Be sure to match the capacity of the air conditioner to the volume of the room. If the capacity is too low, the unit will run more frequently and use extra energy, and may not cool the room adequately. And, by running harder, the system may fail prematurely.
Location of the Condenser
One tip to ensure peak performance from your air conditioner is to position the condenser on the shadiest side of the home. Exposing it to direct sunlight during the daytime forces it to work harder and less efficiently. The unit will use up to ten percent less energy in the shade than if it has to work in the direct heat of the sun. Trees positioned as shade can also contribute to the unit running more efficiently, but keep any growth several feet away so the airflow isn’t impeded.
Attic Ventilation with a Whole-House Fan
Did you know that attic temperatures in the summer can reach as high as 150 degrees Fahrenheit? This tends to raise the temperature in the entire house. One way to control the attic temperature is with a whole house fan, which is mounted in the attic with an automatic-opening shutter in the ceiling leading to the living space. When the weather turns cooler at night, you can open the windows and turn on the whole house fan, opening the shutter and drawing cool air in through the open windows. The hot air gathered at the top of the ceiling and in the attic is pushed out through vents in the attic. You can control which rooms are cooled by determining which windows are open. To work effectively, the air outside must be cooler than the air inside the house. Fortunately, a whole-house fan uses much less electricity than a central air conditioner. Turning it on at night when it’s cooler outside to allow the whole family to sleep comfortably.
In a room with high ceilings, which often doesn’t have attic space above, you also need to ensure there is adequate insulation, but air movement is the key to keeping those high areas, and the rest of the house, cooler.
About Dor-Mar Heating & Air Conditioning
In continuous operation since 1962, our expertise goes beyond just the mechanicals of your HVAC system. We’re pretty handy when it comes to ductwork and system-wide maintenance as well. For top-notch service keeping your home’s heating and cooling system clean and your family breathing clean, filtered air, contact Dor-Mar today.
Our team offers a wide array of routine maintenance and emergency services for your heating and cooling system, allowing your family to breathe fresh, safe, clean air and be comfortable year-round. We also offer a number of add-ons to your HVAC equipment that can improve your home’s IAQ, such as electrostatic air filters, whole-house humidifiers, duct cleaning, Ultraviolet-C lighting systems, and more.
Schedule an appointment for HVAC system troubleshooting or maintenance with us today by using our online contact form, or call one of our seven neighborhood offices listed below. We pride ourselves on our customer-focused service, and our reviews show it.
Dor-Mar…Your Climate Hero!
*Please note: neither the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), nor the manufacturer of our UV-C Devices have officially announced whether UV-C kills the current strain of Corona Virus (COVID-19). We urge you to err on the side of caution until we have a definitive answer, and take other measures to prevent the acquisition or spread of this virus.