Why would you ever install an attic air conditioner? Well, let’s face it: there are only so many places you can put an HVAC system in a home. On top of that, not every property has every option available. Putting a furnace in the basement might make sense in a place such as Massachusetts, but in southern California, you’re less likely to find a basement to put it in at all. In many cases around the region, builders elected to place heating and cooling equipment in attic spaces as a space-saving measure. While this strategy does keep the unit out of sight and can offer some advantages, though, having your HVAC in the attic can also cause problems.
Whether you currently have HVAC equipment installed in your attic or were considering moving your existing installation out of the way, it’s important to keep the challenges of attic installations in mind. With the number of different issues that can come up, it’s worth thinking twice about whether the potential convenience is worth the trade-offs you’ll have to make to install an attic air conditioner or furnace.
So, without further ado, here are the five biggest problems with attic-based heating and cooling:
It’s Harder to Know When There’s An Issue
If you don’t see your HVAC equipment regularly — or hear it, for that matter — it becomes much more difficult to know when it’s not operating correctly. You may even find you overlook an issue with your heating or cooling system until it stops working altogether. With an attic installation, “out of sight, out of mind” can become a reality in which you seldom even remember to swap out the air filters on your units. As a result, minor issues that you might notice and then seek to fix can go unseen, leaving you with bigger problems later.
Uninsulated Ducts Contribute to Losses in Efficiency
Going up into an attic and seeing ductwork running every which way is not an uncommon sight; it also means that the air in those ducts is continually exposed to the ambient temperature in the attic – typically an unheated and non-air-conditioned space. The result is the treated air is losing energy back into the attic. Hot air becomes cooler and cool air becomes hotter, and by the time the air comes out of your vents, it’s no longer at the temperature set on your thermostat. This situation is almost entirely unavoidable without extensive duct insulation.
Multiple Penetration Points Affect Efficiency, Too
The attic’s ambient temperature doesn’t just affect the air in your ducts. Think of all the places the ductwork must go down through the ceiling to create a vent into one of the rooms on your lower floors. Each of those points represents another place where air can escape upward into the attic and, ultimately, out of the home. A loss in heat translates into more work for your HVAC in the attic, which means higher operating costs and more problems too. Because the equipment must work so much harder, it raises the likelihood of failure.
Leaking Air Can Create an Unpleasant Attic Environment
Air doesn’t just leak up into the attic from downstairs; it can leak out of the ductwork, too, if the ducts get pierced or damaged. In both cases, the air that enters the attic can be quite humid. The result is a moist, sticky environment in the attic that’s not only unpleasant (and adds to energy efficiency problems), but that can also start to cause problems with mold and even rot on wooden structures.
Issues in with Your Attic Air Conditioner or Furnace Can Trickle Down
Both furnaces and air conditioners create condensation, and that condensate must drain somewhere. From time to time, drain pans and lines can become clogged or overfilled, spilling over and causing leaks. In a closet or a basement, that’s troublesome, but not a major issue: the water merely pools on the floor. In the attic, though, the only place that water can go is down. The result is that your first sign something is wrong with the HVAC system could be leaks coming through the ceiling.
What to Do About HVAC Systems in An Attic Causing Problems
Encountering even one of these problems would be frustrating on its own, but throw them all together, and you have a recipe for an HVAC headache on your hands. You could be spending hundreds of dollars more than necessary for heating and cooling costs every year by maintaining an HVAC system outside of your home’s thermal envelope. While moving the system somewhere else might not seem like a fun task, it can end up saving you in the long run. When that’s not possible, you can work to reduce the frequency with which your HVAC in the attic has problems through better insulation or ducting. To find out what the best solution will be for your home, reach out to local HVAC professionals and let them know about the issues you’re experiencing with your attic air conditioner or furnace. A better solution could be just a phone call away.