Hey Scott, Should I cover my A/C unit during the Winter Months?

First I want to thank Sean Leonard for this question.

Covering your outdoor unit seems like a logical thing to do, and we have all seen them outside of someone’s home, and many of us cover less expensive items that are exposed to the elements over the winter.

There are pros and cons to both sides, many contractors may recommend something different. 


  • Prevents heavy debris like sticks, branches, and other yard waste from blowing into your AC unit.
  • Helps prevent water from directly resting on your coils and freezing, which could be damaging. (I have never seen this occur, but it was listed on a couple sites so in rare instances I guess it is something that could happen)


  • Covering an entire unit may actually trap moisture by creating a high humidity environment as the sun beats down on the cover.  Inside this moist environment are your electrical windings, wiring connections, and in some cases circuit boards.  None of these items do well in the moisture.
  • During the winter months, the temperatures cause small animals to find a warm place to nest away from the elements.  A cover can provide a very tempting spot for these animals to call home.  These critters can wreak havoc on your unit by chewing the wiring for their nests.  This can lead to very expensive repairs for you in the spring.


Covering the unit is not necessary. If you do still want to cover your unit to keep out debris we have found that a simple piece of plywood across the top works nicely.  It is inexpensive and will keep out most debris, but lets the sides open to keep moisture and animals out.

Hey Scott, I received a flyer in the mail offering me an A/C Cleaning for $59. Why don’t you offer something like that?? - Kim Connelly

It’s that time of year again when the mailbox starts filling up with great deals from heating and cooling companies offering low rates on A/C cleaning services. I've seen flyers as low as $49. It sounds like a great deal, especially when it usually costs up to $99 just tech to come out. But you've heard the saying, "you get what you pay for"? These "specials" are below what it costs to actually make a quality maintenance visit.

So why do they do it? Well, it's not out of the goodness of their hearts that's for sure. What they are really doing is getting you to pay them to come into your home and make a sales pitch. See, most service techs are paid a commission on what they sell. They get a bonus if they convince you to condemn your unit which more than likely is perfectly fine. 

That is NOT now and has never been the way we do things at Four Winds Custom Heating and Air. Our professional service technicians are paid an hourly wage and that is all. They have no incentive to try and push anything on you that you don't need.

When it comes to maintenance, we will not be offering shady $59 cleanings. Instead, we are working on making our maintenance program even better so that your equipment will last longer and run more efficiently saving you money. 

If you'd like an A/C tune-up without the sales pitch hustle, give us a call, (574) 674-0841.

Hey Scott, I keep hearing R-22 is going away, what does that mean for my older air conditioner?

It has been mandated that R-22 refrigerant be completely phased out in 2020 because it is considered an environmental danger because it contributes to the depletion of the Ozone Layer. 

However the effects of this phase out are already being felt by homeowners across the country, as supplies or R22 have been reduced the cost for New R22 has skyrocketed, and as supply levels are decreased each year the cost will continue to rise and it may become harder to find especially the later it gets into the Air Conditioner season each year. 

This leads me to generally recommend a couple of things, First, if you have an older R-22 system, you may want to start setting aside some money for its eventual replacement.  With the increased cost of your coolant, I would strongly urge you to consider unit replacement rather than making any significant investments on repairs to an R22 system at this point. The good news on that front is that today’s new A/C units are much more efficient and you can expect to find in most cases at least a 20% savings in the cost to cool you home. 

The second is if you want to try and maximize the lifecycle of your current A/C unit I would recommend getting an additive treatment that includes a stop leak agent as well as a lubricant designed to lubricate your system creating a quieter unit, and protecting the compressor while reducing energy usage. This will help maximize the life of your A/C unit as well as introducing the stop leak agent that remains inert in your system until it is exposed to leaking refrigerant at which time it will chemically weld itself together at the leak site. This will help eliminate some, but not all possible system leaks. 

Of course, you can always talk to your technician or give us a call to talk about your options and to put a plan in place for you! 

Thanks for the question!


Hey Scott! Can you save money by closing registers in unused rooms? - Eva Nance

That is a great question, Eva!

You’re heating and cooling system probably uses a lot of energy. Typically heating and cooling make up about half of the total energy use in a home. If you are like most budget-minded people it means finding ways to reduce these costs would be a great benefit. So a common statement we hear is, “I close vents in unused rooms to save money.”  I mean since those registers are adjustable that’s what they are meant to do right?? The truth of the matter may surprise you.

Air flow is everything!

The blower in your furnace is the heart of your air distribution system. It pulls air from the house through the return ducts and then pushes it back into the house through the supply ducts. Many newer systems, the blower is powered by an electronically commutated motor (ECM), which can adjust its speed to varying conditions. The majority of blowers, however, are of the permanent split capacitor (PSC) type, which is not a variable speed motor.

In either case, the system is designed for the blower to push against some maximum pressure difference. If the filter gets too dirty or the supply ducts are too restrictive, the blower pushes against a higher pressure.

In the case of an ECM blower, a higher pressure will cause the motor will ramp up in an attempt to maintain proper air flow. An ECM is much more efficient than a PSC motor under ideal conditions, but as it ramps up to work against higher pressure, you lose that efficiency. You still get the air flow (maybe) but at a higher cost.

The PSC motor, on the other hand, will keep spinning but at lower speeds as the pressure goes up. Thus, higher pressure means less air flow, and low air flow can cause some serious problems.

The important thing to remember here is that no matter which type of blower motor you have, it's not a good thing when it has to push against a higher pressure.

Closing vents increases pressures

In a well-designed system, the blower moves the air against a pressure that's no greater than the maximum specified by the manufacturer The ideal system also has low duct leakage.

The typical system, however, is far from ideal. Although most systems are rated for 0.5 iwc, the National Comfort Institute, which has measured static pressure and air flow in a lot of systems, finds the typical system to be pushing against a static pressure of about 0.8 iwc.

Now we're ready to address the question of closing vents!

When you start closing vents in unused rooms, you make the duct system more restrictive. The pressure increases, and that means an ECM blower will ramp up to keep air flow up whereas a PSC blower will move less air. Most homes don't have sealed ducts either, so the higher pressure in the duct system will mean more duct leakage.

The more vents you close, the higher the pressure in the duct system goes. The ECM blower will use more and more energy as you do so. The PSC blower will work less but not move as much conditioned air. In both cases, the duct leakage will increase further.

What about heat?

In addition to moving air, your air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace is also cooling or heating that air that flows through the system. The air passes over a coil or heat exchanger and either gives up heat or picks up heat.

In a fixed-capacity system—and most are—the amount of heat the coil or heat exchanger is capable of absorbing or giving up is fixed. When the air flow goes down, less heat exchange happens with the air. As a result, the temperature of the coil or heat exchanger changes.

If air flow is low, it'll dump less heat into the coil in summer, and the coil will get colder. If there's water vapor in the air, the condensation on the coil may start freezing. You might even end up with a block of ice,. And ice on the coil is really bad for air flow.

It's also bad for the compressor as not all of the refrigerant evaporates and liquid refrigerant makes its way back to the compressor. If you want to have to buy a new compressor, this is a good way to do it.

Same thing if you have low air flow over a heat pump coil in winter. You could get a really hot coil, high refrigerant pressure, and a blown compressor or refrigerant leaks.

Similarly, low air flow in a furnace can get the heat exchanger hot enough to cause cracks. Those cracks, then, allow exhaust gases to mix with your conditioned air. When that happens, your duct system can become a poison distribution system as it could be sending carbon monoxide into your home.

9 unintended consequences of closing vents

Let me now summarize the problems described above that can result from closing vents in your home. The first thing that happens is the air pressure in the duct system increases, which may give rise to these negative consequences:

  • Increased duct leakage
  • Lower air flow with PSC blowers
  • Increased energy use with ECM blowers
  • Comfort problems because of low air flow
  • Frozen air conditioner coil
  • Dead compressor
  • Cracked heat exchanger, with the potential for getting carbon monoxide in your home
  • Increased infiltration/exfiltration due to unbalanced leakage
  • Condensation and mold growth in winter due to lower surface temperatures in rooms with closed vents
  • You're not guaranteed to get all the problems that apply to your system, but why take the chance.

The only way closing vents could work

The fundamental problem here is that closing supply vents in your HVAC system changes what comes out in particular locations. It doesn't change what the blower is trying to do. Nor does it change the amount of heat the air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace is trying to move or produce.

It's possible you may be fine closing a vent or two in your home, but it will depend on how restrictive and leaky your duct system is. If it’s a typical duct system with 60% higher static pressure than the maximum specified, closing even one vent could send it over the edge. If it’s a well designed system with low static pressure and sealed ducts, you shouldn’t have a problem as long as you don’t try to close too many. Otherwise you're subject to those 7 unintended consequences, one of them potentially deadly.


Source: http://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/76258/Can-You-Save-Money-by-Closing-HVAC-Vents-in-Unused-Rooms

Hey Scott! I have terrible allergies. How can my HVAC help? - Gloria Strine

Thanks for the question Gloria!

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, you should take a look at your HVAC system. Most people don't realize that indoor air pollution levels are actually greater than those outdoors. Without proper maintenance, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and mold will collect in your air filter and duct work.

The first line of defense against these tiny particles are your air filters. They should be replaced every month or so, but even more during allergy season. There are different types of air filters to chose from. High-efficiency and HEPA filters remove the most particles, but have been found to put more stress on your HVAC system. Medium-efficiency filters are reasonably effective at removing small to large particle and can do the job for most people. 

Particles that do happen to get past your filter will collect inside your unit and duct work. When combined with moisture, it makes the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. UV lights can be installed in your HVAC system to combat many types of fungi, bacteria, germs, viruses and pathogens. While is hasn't been proven that clean ducts benefit your health, it only makes sense.

In the end, the best defense against allergies and asthma is proper installation and regular maintenance of your HVAC system. Not only will you have better air quality, but it will also save you money in the long run.