Vaulted ceilings can improve the look of a home or business in Plainfield, IL. Plus, the room feels grander when you walk into it and has increased overhead space. However, you may wonder how ceiling height impacts your home's heating and air conditioning system.
Why Are Vaulted Ceilings More Expensive to Heat and Cool?
There are three key reasons why heating and cooling a home or business with high ceilings is more expensive. First, the higher top increases the home's volume or cubic footage. Second, a high ceiling, especially vaulted ceilings, is more difficult to insulate. Third, hot air rises and collects in vaulted ceilings. This last factor significantly impacts how hard your furnace or air conditioner needs to work to bring your home to a comfortable temperature.
Why Cubic Footage Is More Important Than Square Footage When Discussing HVAC Function
Homes are typically measured by square footage. Square footage is the amount of floor space in a home. A 2,000-square-foot home with a flat ceiling and a 2,000-square-foot home with a vaulted ceiling have the same floor space. However, the house with the vaulted ceiling has an extra area that needs to be cooled during the winter and heated during the summer.
For example, a 50,000 BTU furnace is rated to heat a home of 2,000 square feet. However, this rating is based on the idea that the house has 8-foot ceilings. A furnace's square-foot rating is based on the average ceiling height in most homes. If you have a vaulted ceiling, your furnace will need to heat all the air in the house.
That air is measured not as square feet but as cubic feet. If a home or office has vaulted ceilings, the ceilings could be 10 feet or taller. A 20,000-square-foot home with a 10-foot ceiling may need a furnace that produces between 60,000 and 70,000 BTUs. The more powerful the furnace, the more energy it will consume and the more expensive it will be to run.
Using a 50,000 BTU furnace in a home of 20,000 square feet with 10-foot ceilings means the furnace will not produce sufficient energy to heat the home adequately. It will constantly cycle to keep up with the house's heating needs. This equates to a higher bill, wasted energy, and frequent maintenance as the furnace will likely break down sooner.
The Challenge of Insulating Vaulted Ceilings
A vaulted ceiling in a home will cut into its attic space. In modern homes, most attics are full of several feet of insulation with an R-value of 49 or higher.
However, with a vaulted ceiling, the interior ceiling drywall sits just a few inches from the exterior home cladding. With this limited space, the insulation R-value is much lower, at around 40.
R-value describes the resistance value of the insulation. A higher R-value means that it is harder for temperatures from one side of the structure to travel through the insulation and move to the other side.
A low R-value during the summer months means that it is going to be easier for the outdoor heat to penetrate the insulation and affect the indoor temperature. This means that your AC unit will have to work a lot harder to keep your home cool. Conversely, during the wintertime, a low R-value means that it is easier for the heat produced by your furnace to escape your home through your roof. Your furnace will have to work harder to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
Hot Air Rises
Vaulted ceilings increase HVAC costs because heat naturally rises since hot air is lighter than cool air. During the winter, the heat produced by your furnace will fill the void created by your vaulted ceiling.
This is problematic because although a vaulted ceiling looks nice, you are not going to spend any time up there. All the hot air produced by your furnace is sitting up against the ceiling with a low insulation level, so the hot air is losing its temperature quickly.
You might think having a vaulted ceiling is detrimental during the winter but positive during the summer because all of the hot air from the house is stuck against the ceiling. But you must remember that your AC unit will continue to work until it can cool every cubic foot of air in your home. This includes the hot air collected in your vaulted ceiling.
How Much More Expensive Is It to Heat or Cool a Building With High Ceilings?
It will cost more money to heat or cool a larger space than heat a smaller one. Some factors within the building will determine how much the cost increase will be.
For example, a new and energy-efficient home with a vaulted ceiling will not have the same heat or cooling loss as an older home of the same size and design. Additionally, the number of windows and the location of the windows relative to the ceiling will impact heating and cooling costs.
Older structures with tall ceilings will usually also have drafty doors and windows. The ductwork may be insufficient and the installation inadequate. Modern energy-efficient homes are designed to handle cooling and heating loads progressively.
Another factor is whether or not your home has direct exposure to the sun. A north-south home will have different light exposure than those with an east-west orientation.
At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we have seen firsthand the impact that high ceilings, coupled with poor insulation, can have on our client's energy bills. Our technicians will be happy to visit your home, evaluate your HVAC needs, and recommend products, repairs, or maintenance that can help you cool or warm your home efficiently.
Mitigating the Effects High Ceilings Have on Your HVAC System
Some simple strategies can resolve comfort issues in a home or office with a high ceiling. The first would be beneficial to install a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan can be set to blow warm air down during the winter and then reversed to pull cool air upward during the summer, thereby improving air circulation and optimizing comfort.
Run the HVAC fan continuously, even when the AC or furnace cycles off. Continually circulating the air through your home helps mix cool and warm air, keeping temperatures in rooms with higher ceilings more consistent.
Enjoying the Best of HVAC Services in Plainfield
Efficiently conditioning the air in your home or office with high ceilings can be challenging. TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has effectively helped residents in the Chicago area address this and many other HVAC issues since 2008. We are a family-owned business with more than three generations of experience. We are proud to offer seamless service, upfront pricing, and work done right the first time and every time.
Our services include HVAC maintenance, repair, and installation. We do general plumbing maintenance, installation, and repair in new and existing construction. We are proud to offer emergency services backed by straightforward pricing. Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today and learn more about what makes our products and services unique.