Some systems include an "economizer mode", which is sometimes called a "free-cooling mode". When economizing, the control system will open (fully or partially) the outside air damper and close (fully or partially) the return air damper. This will cause fresh, outside air to be supplied to the system. When the outside air is cooler than the demanded cool air, this will allow the demand to be met without using the mechanical supply of cooling (typically chilled water or a direct expansion "DX" unit), thus saving energy. The control system can compare the temperature of the outside air vs. return air, or it can compare the enthalpy of the air, as is frequently done in climates where humidity is more of an issue. In both cases, the outside air must be less energetic than the return air for the system to enter the economizer mode.
Tip – Be careful with change-outs. Ductwork deteriorates and sometimes has to be replaced. It is only if the ductwork is in fantastic condition that you should get a change-out without ductwork (Remember – the ductwork has already been there for 15-20 years, and now it will be there another 15-20…it has to be in good shape). However, many HVAC installation companies like to push change-outs because the ductwork is the most time consuming part of the job, and a change-out is quick, easy money. Realize that it’s only about 15-20% of the jobs that qualify for a change-out, so be careful.
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