SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — We see and hear of people who have done all sorts of things thinking they were improving appearances or cutting down on the cost of heating and cooling their San Diego home. What they actually did was decrease their units’ efficiency and increase their utility bill and likelihood of needing an air conditioning repair.

While these four questions may not be frequently asked, they should be, so here are Carini Heating, Air and Plumbing’s answers:

  1.      Does closing bedroom doors save money on heating and cooling? 

Do not shut interior doors thinking you will save money on heating or cooling costs. Closing doors restricts the path air takes to efficiently return to the HVAC unit. This stress may cause a pressure imbalance in your home, which means you’ll be pulling unconditioned air into the home potentially causing cooling and air quality problems.

“Whether it is summer or winter, closing bedroom doors does not save you any money,” says Gabriel Carini. “It does, however, compromise the comfort of your home and often mean higher energy bills.

2.     Covering up my thermostat is ok if I’m concerned about aesthetics, right?

A quick search on Google or Pinterest will show that there are hundreds of suggestions for decorating and covering up an ugly thermostat, but covering up a thermostat — even an unattractive or oddly-placed one — is a bad idea.

“Thermostats covered with a decorative box or framed art like some of the ones I’ve seen are not able to accurately read the indoor temperature and tell the system when to turn on and off,” says Carini. “That makes the system run inefficiently and compromises indoor comfort levels.”

Instead of impairing the HVAC system, invest in one of the newer, more attractive thermostats or ask a licensed San Diego heating, air conditioning and ventilation technician if the current thermostat can be moved to a less prominent area.

3.      Can I just close off vents in little-used rooms?

With today’s high-efficiency furnaces and well-balanced systems, closing off vents to rooms that are not used often can have very bad results. Instead of saving money, it can end up costing homeowners more, causing a pressure imbalance that pushes conditioned air outside of the home and damaging the system by working too hard to distribute air throughout the home.

“It costs more because the blower works harder and needs more electricity to distribute the air,” says Carini. “Plus, the warmer air in the closed off rooms infiltrates the rest of the house and cause the air conditioner to run for longer periods of time.”

4.     Can I put a decorative wooden lattice over my unsightly outdoor unit or disguise it with landscaping?

There are a several important reasons that the condenser unit needs space around it, so if you’re planning to cover or disguise the unit make sure your plan allows for adequate space around the unit. A minimum of three feet clearance is needed for proper airflow and room for an air conditioning service technician to maneuver during repairs and routine maintenance appointment.

“Not enough air flow can overwork and burn out the compressor and condenser fan,” says Carini. “Anything used to improve the aesthetics of condenser units should be far enough away that efficiency isn’t hindered.”