11 Best HVAC System Upgrades and Modifications
The HVAC system controls the air in your home. There are so many options and upgrades available to you that you may feel confused or overwhelmed.
We’re here to sort through all the different upgrades and modifications for your HVAC system. There is no “best” system—it’s all about the unique needs of your home and family.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Bell Brothers. With the right guidance, you can create a custom HVAC system perfect for your home.
Indoor Air Quality Options
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the most important health factors in our lives. If the air inside your home is filled with bacteria, viruses, mold spores, allergens, dust, and other airborne particulates, you and your family can develop or exacerbate all kinds of health problems.
Luckily, there are many different upgrades and modifications that are designed to clean your indoor air. But before you decide on any IAQ products, speak with a professional HVAC technician who can evaluate your home and determine which system is best for the types of contaminants in your home.
Note: “Air purifiers” typically refer to filter-based air cleaning, such as HEPA, electrostatic, and activated carbon filters.
1. HEPA Filter
You may know that air filters are rated based on something called the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). Standard filters are somewhat effective, but are they good enough?
The higher the MERV rating, the better the filter is at capturing airborne particles. The MERV scale ranges from 1-20. While the higher MERV filters are more effective at trapping small particles, since they are significantly thicker, you will need professional modification.
We recommend choosing the better residential filters (5-10 MERV rating) for home use. If you want to use a higher MERV rating, speak with a professional to see if your system can handle MERV 11 and higher. You may also find this information in your owner’s manual.
If you want hospital-level air filtration, you will need a professional modification to your existing system to accommodate the larger filter. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air and is a thick type of air filter designed to trap 99.97% of airborne particles equal to 0.3 microns (µm) or greater.
Despite the incredible filtration abilities of HEPA, you may be better off installing an air cleaner or purifier. Speak with an HVAC specialist to determine the best solution.
2. Electrostatic Filters
You can provide better filtration by replacing the regular filter with an electrostatic filter. This filtration technology uses static electricity and ionization to create a charge to help attract airborne particles.
Electrostatic filters can capture particles smaller than 10 microns, but they aren’t very effective with extremely small particles and mold spores. Additionally, you will have to clean these filters rather than replace them, usually every 3-6 weeks.
3. Activated Carbon Filters
You may also want to consider activated carbon filters if you want to absorb gaseous contaminants and odors. Activated carbon filters can be made of loose carbon, bonded carbon biscuits, carbon impregnated paper, or fiber/pleated granular mat. There should always be a pre-filter.
These filters are great for people with multiple chemical sensitivities. Unfortunately, these filters are known to create pressure losses, which may negatively affect your HVAC equipment. Speak with an expert at Bell Brothers before deciding on any filter upgrades.
4. Air Ionizers
The common air conditioner filter can capture particles 10.0 microns or larger, but this does not include many smaller particles like dust, smoke, chemicals, asbestos, pollen, and pet dander.
An ionizer works by emitting positively charged ions into the air to bind with harmful airborne contaminants. The chemical bond weighs the particles down so they fall on the floor or other surface.
Unfortunately, when particles land, it is easy for them to get kicked up and circulated back into the air. It’s not like a filter that traps the particles. That’s why it’s important to clean the home regularly for ionizers to work best. The EPA also notes that these charged particles are bigger and are more likely to become harmful to our lungs.
Sometimes, there is a collection plate to be cleaned by the homeowner, but they’re not perfect.
5. UV Light
Beyond air filtration, you can upgrade your air handler’s ability to remove pollutants with a dedicated air cleaner and ultraviolet lights. UV light is the highest frequency of visible light. UV air cleaners use the most powerful UV rays (UV-C) to kill microorganisms by scrambling their DNA. UV-C light is also used for sterilization and disinfection in a variety of applications.
UV-C Germicidal Lights get installed in your air handler and/or ductwork to remove advanced pollutants like bacteria, mold, and smaller particles including smoke, gas, and exhaust. UV lights also help keep your HVAC coils clean by eliminating harmful bacteria and mold.
The indoor air quality system you choose will depend on the type and level of contaminants in your home, so make sure to check with a contractor before choosing anything.
6. Air Scrubber
Often, air scrubbers are used as portable air purifiers that get used on work sites and other areas concerned with air quality. They send out antimicrobial agents into the air, charged hydrogen and oxygen atoms and molecules, such as hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyls, and superoxide ions.
These supercharged ions find and attack contaminants like mold and bacteria, even in the seams of furniture and underneath cushions and rugs.
Air scrubber technology can get installed into your existing HVAC system to help clean the air. They are particularly effective at getting rid of gases, vapors, VOCs, and offensive odors.
Typically, HVAC air scrubber systems utilize a variety of air cleaning technologies, such as reactive metals, UV light, and charged ions.
7. activTek’s INDUCT 2000
The INDUCT 2000 isn’t exactly an air scrubber or just an air filter. It uses filters and ActivePure® technology to substantially reduce odors and indoor contaminants. Air passes through the system, and as it does, it’s subjected to UV light, ions, and plasma—all of which come together to purify the air like nothing else.
Filters remove larger particles, and smaller particles are blasted by the purifier. This means the activTek is a lot more efficient than other methods of air cleaning, especially when it comes to biological organisms like disease-carrying bacteria.
The INDUCT 2000 can be easily installed into a duct or plenum between your intake and the rest of the system. Any air entering the HVAC system (which is how most air enters the home) has to pass through the purifying process before it can go anywhere else. Due to UV light and other features, the unit doesn’t require any cleaning and very little maintenance.
8. Ductwork Upgrades
If your air ducts are old, battered, or starting to disconnect and fall apart, an upgrade may be in order. Even if your ductwork is in good condition, it’s a good idea to have your ducts completely sealed and insulated. With well-sealed and insulated ducts, you probably won’t ever have to worry about duct cleanings.
Clean, sealed, and insulated ducts help keep mold, dust, pollen, debris and other pollutants from circulating around your home.
If noisy ducts are a problem, speak with your technician about attenuators (baffles or silencers) to mitigate the noise.
Schedule a professional duct system inspection from Bell Brothers. Our trained technicians can determine if you need resizing, gasket replacements, or other duct-related work.
9. HVAC Zones
Another ductwork upgrade you may want to consider installing are zone dampers. This allows you to set different temperatures for different parts of your home.
The dampers inside your ductwork create HVAC zones in your home. They are connected to a central control that communicates between the dampers, the thermostat, and the HVAC equipment.
If you are home and want to heat or cool just one area of the home, you basically have two options: zone dampers in ductwork or a ductless mini-split HVAC system.
By installing a multi-zone system, you can keep the upstairs at a different temperature from the downstairs to save money and energy.
10. Whole-Home De/Humidifier
During winter and summer, most homes get either too dry or too humid for comfort. But if you have a central HVAC system, it’s easy to control the indoor humidity by adding a central humidifier.
Humidifiers add moisture by using a wet pad/disk or introducing a fine spray of water into the air stream.
Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air by passing warm air over cold coils to create condensation droplets. A whole-home dehumidifier automatically discharges the excess water outdoors.
The even humidity level maintained by a whole-home humidification system has many health, comfort, and efficiency benefits. If you suffer from dry and humid air symptoms, such as nose bleeds, chapped lips, and damaged property, speak with a licensed technician about whole-home humidification.
11. Explore Alternate Fuel Sources
You probably use natural gas to heat your home. Speak with a licensed HVAC technician about alternative fuel sources, such as geothermal, solar, heating oil, propane, and electric.
In addition to regular maintenance such and changing or cleaning air filters, you should be aware of all the different HVAC upgrades and modifications available.
If indoor air quality and energy efficiency are important to you, there are options available to fix the problem.
The key is to find a reputable HVAC contractor like Bell Brothers to diagnose the issue and guide you through different solutions.
Bell Brothers would love to go over all your options for improving the indoor air quality, comfort, and energy efficiency of your home. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.