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Aardvark Newsletter No. 44
Inside this issue:
·        NADCA Energy Research Project I
NADCA Energy Research Project I
Heating, ventilation and air
conditioning a home or
small commercial building is
a big job that requires a lot
of energy. In fact, this activity accounts
for 30 percent of the energy used in
an average home or small building. In
addition, heating and cooling larger
buildings is an even tougher job and
accounts for up to half of the energy
use in such buildings. On the whole,
heating, ventilation and air conditioning
systems are by far the largest sources of
energy use within a home or building.
Ironically, heating and cooling systems
tend to be poorly maintained. These
systems, which are used every day of the
year, get dirty and can become heavily
contaminated with dirt, dust, animal
dander, and more. Further, heating
and cooling systems in new homes and
buildings are often heavily fouled – even
before occupants move in.
Contaminated heating and cooling
systems can be problematic for
occupants. These systems contribute
to poor indoor air quality in the form
of increased airborne particulate and
reduced thermal comfort. Fouled
systems are also prone to failure. And
from a cost perspective, these systems
also use more energy than clean systems.
n The Importance of Air Flow
When it comes to having a productive,
energy-efficient heating and cooling
system, air flow is everything. Increased
air flow equates to better performance.
But when systems become fouled, air
flow is reduced. Dirty filters, clogged
coils, fouled blowers and other
components – all of these things impede
air flow and lead to increased energy
The solution is to have the heating and
air conditioning system professionally
cleaned. You may be familiar with
the term air duct cleaning, but this
is actually a bit of a misnomer.
Professional cleaning for a heating and
air conditioning system entails cleaning
not only the ductwork, but also the
vents, registers, blower, coils, and
other components – the surfaces that
are exposed to the air flow within the
Complete cleaning of the heating and
air conditioning system is a highly
specialized cleaning service that differs
from the routine maintenance provided
by the technician sent out to clean and
adjust the furnace. Complete cleaning of
the heating and air conditioning system
is an important aspect of keeping the
system operating at peak efficiency.
n The NADCA Energy
Savings Research Project
So how much does it cost to operate
a fouled heating and cooling system?
That is the question asked by the
National Air Duct Cleaners Association
(NADCA), a not-for-profit trade
association representing companies
around the world that inspect, clean
and restore heating and air conditioning
In 2008 NADCA initiated a project
with researchers from the University of
Colorado at Boulder (CU) to conduct
an in-depth study of this issue. The
University has extensive research
experience and is home to the Larson
Building Systems Laboratory, one of the
world’s most technologically advanced
facilities for researching heating and
cooling systems. The purpose of the
NADCA research study was to correlate
the substantial energy savings that can
be attained through complete cleaning
of fouled heating and cooling systems.
n Research Overview
Researchers started this project by
scouring the Internet and other sources
to find literature produced through
similar research. Using available
literature, researchers developed a
computer model designed to quantify
Fouled Coil: This photo shows
the upstream side of a heavilyfouled
A-coil, which is essentially
matted over with dust and other
Dirty Duct: Accumulations of dust
and debris within HVAC ductwork
can contribute airborne particulate
within a home or commercial
building, while also reducing air flow
and increasing energy consumption
and related costs.
the energy savings that could be
attained through cleaning heating
and cooling systems.
From there the researchers
conducted a laboratory analysis –
they experimented on a house that
is contained completely within the
Larson Lab – as part of an effort to
fine-tune and confirm the computer
model. Finally, researchers
conducted two field trials to assess
the accuracy of the computer
Through this process, researchers
came to realize that there was
no comprehensive data available
to quantify the savings that can
be achieved through cleaning of
heavily-fouled systems – the types
of systems regularly encountered by
NADCA members. (For purposes
of this research, “Heavily-fouled”
systems are defined as systems
where complete cleaning results
in a pressure change of at least 30
percent. Pressure change is simply
an easier way to measure air flow.)
Because of the data limitations, the
calculations in the computer model
were based on data collected from
lightly-fouled systems – systems
that are not very dirty.
n Key Findings
According to the results of the
study, cleaning even lightly-fouled
systems can produce substantial
energy savings. These findings
are based on complete cleaning
of heating and air conditioning
systems in accordance with
NADCA’s ACR 2006 Standard,
which includes cleaning ductwork,
coils, blower, other air-side system
components, and changing the
filter. Based on the initial research,
cleaning a lightly-fouled system
provides, on average, an 11 percent
savings off of the energy used for
heating and air conditioning.
n Next Steps
Cleaning heavily-fouled systems is
expected to produce an even greater
savings than cleaning systems that
are essentially clean. Given the
critical importance of air flow, this
could be construed as common
sense. However, in order to confirm
this expectation, NADCA has
initiated a broader research effort to
quantify the energy savings that can
be achieved by complete cleaning of
heavily-fouled heating and cooling
systems. This research involves
collecting data on systems before
and after cleaning, and using this
data to calculate energy savings.
n Summary
It takes a lot of energy to heat
and cool a home or building and
in fact, the systems used for this
purpose account for the majority
of energy use. These systems – even
in new buildings – tend to be dirty,
and become more heavily fouled
through everyday use. Fouled
heating and cooling systems can
also be problematic for occupants,
contributing to poor indoor air
quality, system failure and increased
energy use.
Researchers have proven that
cleaning even lightly-fouled heating
and cooling systems can result
in energy savings of 11 percent.
In addition to these savings,
consumers who have their heating
and cooling system cleaned can
benefit from improved indoor air
quality, reduced maintenance costs
and extended life expectancy for
the heating and cooling system.
While not yet confirmed, cleaning
heavily-fouled systems is expected
to produce even greater energy
For more information on having your
heating, ventilation and cooling system
cleaned, visit the NADCA Web site at
Researchers have proven that cleaning even
lightly-fouled heating and cooling systems can
result in energy savings of 11 percent.
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