Increasing energy prices around the globe, followed up with the desire to save some energy may convince you to close some vents.
But as with quite a lot of myths, is blocking a heater to redirect heat a smart thing to do?
While quite a lot of people still believe that this may trap the heat inside the chamber and worsen the condition, the good news is that this might be not true.
In fact, you can save quite a lot on your electricity bills in the long run. However, in a lot of circumstances, this might do more harm than good.
In the earlier days, people used to close off unused rooms, primarily because they were not well insulated.
It was more a need of the time as well, as the entire household was heated by s singular fireplace, or a centrally located heat or wood stove.
Even today, some households rally on the idea of closing some of the vents in their houses, so that the heat is redirected towards the rooms where they spend most of their time.
Well, they have a rationale to that as well. If you are staying in a place, why should you spend on heating other rooms?
After all, closing the vents would eventually lead to redirecting heat from one end to another, so why not do that instead?
Well, as it turns out, this doesn’t really help in saving much energy.
In fact, closing vents in the modern heating or air conditioning system would instead lead to an increase in the heating expenses.
We have a study to validate that. In 2003, some of the experts at the Lawrence Berkley National University found out that redirecting the heat by closing the vents leads to an increased billing in electricity charges.
This is primarily because whatever benefits you seek to derive from closing vents is offset by increased duct leakage.
But it’s not just the energy efficiency that takes the biggest hit when the vents are closed.
The increased pressure built up inside the network of the ductwork because of the closed vents and closed airflow may pronounce a verdict that’s worse for your heating system.
The pressure imbalance created as a result of the above creates a suction effect that causes the cold air return duct to pull in air from the crevices and cracks in the doors and windows.
Of course, the warm air would redirect itself to other places, but this may not necessarily be the room where the vent is open.
It is more likely that the air pressure would move on towards the basement and into the floor cavities, or the cracks within your ductwork and back.
More importantly, in the long run, this may not be a healthy practice as it might chop down the efficiency of the heater as well.
The added pressure caused as a result of the air pressure forces the heater to work harder than it usually should, while the reduced pressure in the unused ducts can consequently cause them to freeze during the cold weather.
It would shorten not only its work efficiency but also reduce the work life.
So, What Do You Do?
Instead of closing the vents completely, and limiting the efficiency of your heater, you can maximize the effectiveness of the heater by partially closing the vents.
Under usual circumstances, it’s quite likely that the heat would rise and heat the upper floors while depriving the lower level of the heat.
By partially closing the vents you can prevent adverse effects of closing or blocking them as a result of reduced pressure, and at the same time, save some energy on the heating system.
Alternate Options To Blocking Heater Vent
Apart from this, there are some bunch of things that you can do to increase the efficiency of your HVAC system, and make sure that the electricity bills remain low:
- Getting a professional on board: You might want to hire a skilled heating contractor to inspect the heat work an ensure that it’s properly sealed and free of any leakages, cracks or crevices.
- Your heating system might need some servicing: Have a professional on board to clear the heating system of any potential issues or blockages that might be a source of disruption within your heating system. Get this done annually or at least once in two years. It would also help you identify any potential issues before they become a serious menace.
- If your furnace has run out of warranty and requires frequent servicing and repairing, it’s time to get a new one. A newer, more efficient model would help you cut down on your bills with its latest features.
- Check out for annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which should be closer to 95 percent. As compared to the older counterparts, it would help you save up to two-thirds of the energy.
However, at the end of the day, it’s the verdict of a specialist that can make a significant difference to how much you should spend on your heating system, how often should you invest in getting it serviced and what do you need to do to ensure its long life.
In certain instances, it is even possible that you can block some of your heat vents to save some energy.
Until or unless there is a massive system failure of the built-in heating system for the heat to get trapped inside it and result in something fatal or dangerous, such as a fire.
However, if your expert or consultant deems it safe to do so, you may go about using the unused heat inside the vents and siphon it off and push it towards an area where you and your family spend most of your time.
So, what do you do? Well, let’s get started with sorting out the vents as this might be the most straightforward options amongst the rest.
While all the systems are interconnected with each other via ducts, there should be at least one vent connected to each of your rooms.
Now, depending on the size of your room, there is a possibility that there are several vents inside the room as well.
Hence to cut down the wastage in the areas where you spend the least amount of time and redirect it to places where it’s required, it might be a good option to close the vent.
In some cases, it may be a good idea to merely slide a lever on the vent itself, which pushes a set of louvers over the opening.
In some of the modern heaters, you might even have the option of closing the vents via remote control.
If this isn’t the case, you may finally resort to blocking the vent manually.
If that’s the case, and you don’t have any sliding covers to block the vents, or the mechanism doesn’t work, there are at least a couple of companies online that sell a simple magnetic vent cover which you can put on whichever vent you intend to cover or close off.
If you find it expensive, or if it’s not feasible for you to get one, you can even choose to build a cover at home on your own with any heat resistant material.
One of the options could be using a fitted piece of cardboard wrapped in an aluminum foil and held in place with small magnets and weights.
Alternatively, you could use plywood, which is relatively cheap and resists heat.
If you intend to be a bit more efficient and afford to get a bit adventurous with your heating system, then you may block your venting system and redirect the heat to the areas which need more warmth and attention.
This is a long term, yet a safer solution as compared to the rest. As long as the heating system is sound, there’s nothing really to worry about.
Blocking A Heating Vent To Redirect Heat with Furniture
Experts suggest that quite often homeowners cover up the heating vents on the floor with a price of furniture, such as a bed or a cupboard, which totally blocks the heat supply, as well as add a lot of static pressure to the system.
Heating vents should not be blocked permanently or semi-permanently with furniture as it adds a lot of stress to the system.
Make enough space so that there is at least a consistent flow of heat and that it doesn’t damage the furniture in the long run.
Safety And Precautions
Well, we do have two sides to one coin here. At the time of the installation of the heating system in your home, a licensed contractor placed in order considering the industry standards and the laws of thermodynamics.
Tampering with the system may not be an ideal choice under most circumstances, and should be avoided, in case it’s not necessary.
You need to make sure that your heater can handle the blockages to the heating system.
Even in an ideal scenario, it might not be a great idea to block most of the vents to a heating system.
Heaters are designed keeping in mind the air circulation it requires within an ecosystem.
While shutting down a couple of vents out of a dozen may not yield any significant harm, blocking a lot of vents can render considerable damage to the system.
It’s a good idea to monitor the blocked areas and make sure there is enough airflow through the ducts.
You might want to consult a professional for assistance and seek a piece of expert advice before taking this forward.
While it may not be apparent in the beginning, under some circumstances, blocking a few vents may reduce the efficiency of the system, thus shorten the life of its parts or its components.
In the longer run, inadequate airflow can cause buildup of moisture, which can consequently result in mold and mildew.
This can result in smells and in the long term may turn out to be fatal. Hence, it is not recommended that not more than one-third of the vents in your home should be blocked at any point in time.
If you feel that there are heat leakages around the system, you might want to consider turning off the system temporarily and checking the heat grille for any leaks.
If you find a cold draft, it’s time that you seal the perimeter of the grill cover.
Just unscrew the cover of the heating vent and lay a small, thick bead of silicone caulk around the grille.
Give it some time to dry, and then replace the cover back in its position, and then screw it again.
It would take around 12 to 18 hours for the silicone to dry completely.
In case you can still feel the cold drafts, you might want to check any damages to the duct.
Check for any vents or damages around the joints. Highlight the location of these leaks with a marker.
Finally, seal the place with a metal tape. Do not use duct tape or sealant as it can wear off quickly.
If nothing works, it may be time to seal the heater vent completely.
This may not be the best thing to do on your own. Hence you might want to seek some expert advice or perhaps work under the supervision or guidance of an expert if you are not very confident about it.
Measure the dimensions of the opening. You may buy a magnetic damper from a local hardware store.
Make sure that the magnets are strong enough so that they’ll cling on to the wall or ceiling where it is supposed to be hooked. If this doesn’t work either, you can seal the opening with a plastic sheet.
Vent grille filters are meant to improve the air quality (but due to lousy maintenance), they often end up blocking the airflow.
Make sure that you seek an expert’s advice before blocking up the heater vent to redirecting heat.