Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dampers and Energy Efficiency

Since moving in three months ago Jenny has been complaining about how it's hotter upstairs than down. With a single zone HVAC system I figured this would be the case at least to some extent and the reverse in winter since after all hot air rises and cool air sinks. About a month ago I was talking to my neighbors and they mentioned that it was possible to adjust dampers in the attic to change the amount of air flowing to each floor. This was news to us as it had never been mentioned by anyone. (And definitely not at the final walkthrough/orientation like I would have expected.) I went up in the attic a few times looking but never could figure out how to make the adjustment.

I saw our project manager outside last week and asked him about it. He explained in more detail what I was looking for and once more I went up in the attic. I found what I thought was it but still couldn't figure out how to make the adjustment. (I also didn't want to do it wrong and screw it up either.) I ended up calling the service line Thursday and they in turn put in me in contact with a local HVAC contractor that sent a technician out Friday afternoon.

Essentially the damper is a lever secured by a wing nut on the main air ducts running from the air handler. (Two for upstairs and one for down.) Along with showing me how to make the adjustment the tech also labeled everything for future reference. In the summer the downstairs damper needs to be halfway closed and the two upstairs need to be wide open. In the winter it needs to be the exact opposite. He also discovered that the rear upstairs damper was closed which was definitely not helping our situation.

Instructions left on the air handler for future reference.

The lever that opens and closers one of the dampers.

On the topic of the air conditioning I continue to be very impressed by how energy efficient our house is. Ryan Homes really pushes this fact in their sales materials and what I've experienced so far has proved it. Our old house was a mid-1950's brick rancher that definitely was no where near as sealed up as the new house. On days when the temperature hit the upper 90's or over 100 the air conditioning would routinely run all day and never quite reach the 76 or sometimes 78 that we set it for. At our new house we've had the thermostat set at 74 and with similar temperatures the A/C cuts shuts off throughout the day. Even with the lower setting and a 30% larger house our electric bill has so far been roughly the same or slightly lower than it used to be at the old house. I'm curious now to see what happens this winter with our heat especially with it running on gas now. 


  1. Oh great info! Thanks for posting. We noticed it is hot as balls upstairs compared to down stairs.

    1. Glad it helped. I had a higher up Ryan Homes rep follow up with me afterwards and I told him I felt it should have been mentioned in the orientation walkthrough and I wasn't sure why it wasn't and he agreed. I've looked through the binder we got and haven't found anything about it in there either. The only thing our PM had said was we might need to adjust the room vents themselves.
      I never would have known had the neighbor not mentioned anything.

  2. Our Sienna is being built now and we don't have any dampers. I was asking the PM about it at today's pre-drywall meeting and they said we didn't get dampers. Our HVAC is in the basement with one main line going up. I'm worried now that this will be a problem.

    1. So with a basement you only have one unit and one thermostat for the entire house? That seems odd and just asking for trouble and uneven temperatures throughout the house. I have a neighbor with a Florence (no basement) that had electric dampers with a separate thermostat installed upstairs to better regulate it. Still only one unit though.