The HVAC Unit

Our original HVAC unit used electricity for cooling and natural gas for heating. For several years, our electric and gas bills had become simply outrageous. Especially our gas bill even though we were keeping the house warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter than we normally would.

Also, from time to time during the spring and fall, the smell of skunk would permeate the inside of our house. I had a difficult time of figuring out where the smell was coming from. Click here to read more about that problem.

One day, our carbon monoxide alarm went off. Until that time, we had no idea there was a problem with the HVAC unit. It turned out the heat exchanger had developed some holes and was leaking carbon monoxide gas into the house.

Upon further investigation, we found that the AC ducts in our home were not properly sized and/or correctly installed. There was an extra intake that was picking up air from within the crawl space and returning it to the inside of our house. Hence the skunk smell and the enormous cooling and heating bills. We were literally heating and cooling the crawl space.

The builder did not check his sub-contractor’s work to ensure it was done correctly because if he had, this would have been caught while the house was being built . The really sad part is that the sub-contractor should have checked his own work and made sure it was done correctly. It appears this is the norm of today’s worker – do it the easiest way, do it fast and be gone.

Most of the companies I contacted in our area simply gave our old system a cursory exam and then advised we needed a new unit. One man even gave me a quote from the street! He left the bid in our mailbox. He never even got out of his truck!

Since we are supplied electricity by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and they were reasonable, I decided to get our new AC/Heating system through them.

In our area, electric is cheaper than gas. So, what we got was a dual fuel system that uses electric for cooling AND heating down to 30 degrees. If the temperature drops lower than 30 degrees, the gas will then kick in and continue to provide heat.

The company that was on their list and the one we decided to use came out and did a very thorough exam of what we had and recommended some changes to make the unit more efficient.

The changes Included:

  1. Increasing the size of some ducts;
  2. Replacing the bad duct sections under house;
  3. Sealing everything; and
  4. Installing a longer condensation drain. (See the picture at the top of this page.)NOTE: Usually condensation drains are set to drain on the slab next to the unit. The dampness attracts termites! By moving the drain away from the unit into open space, it does not attract the termites. By not gluing the pipes together, they can be easily disconnected while mowing grass.

Since we had our new hvac unit installed, our electric bills have decreased quite a bit and our gas bills in the winter are now very small.

Dave Altman

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