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The life of your HVAC unit depends, in large part, on how it is used and maintained. Every minute the unit operates, there is wear and tear on the parts. It the parts are lubricated properly and not forced to do more than they were designed to do, the equipment should serve you well for many years.
One of the primary factors in how efficiently and smoothly a system runs is the air return. The blower throws out air to the registers and pulls in new air to condition through the return. Just as much air has to come back into the unit as goes out to the registers, and the volume of air going out is designed to meet the needs of your home.
Anything that restricts the flow of air back into the unit takes away from the efficiency of the equipment and causes it to work harder and run longer. This shortens the life of your HVAC unit and generally leads to costly repairs.
Because air circulation is so important, you should make sure that air can easily flow back to the unit from every point in your house. Rooms that are closed off need to have enough clearance under doors to allow the same square inch exit from the room as the total square inches of the openings of the ducts dumping the air into the room. If those two figures don't match, it is better to have more air space going out than coming in.
If air must pass through more than one room with a closed door to get back to the air intake, the door closest to the unit must allow for the volume of air leaving the first room and any being dumped into the room closest. This is one reason why HVAC systems are usually designed with the equipment centralized to the house to limit the number of closed doors between registers and the unit.
Not only do you need to be aware of proper flow from each room, but you need to beware of any obstacles that might interfere with the air getting back into the air return at the unit. If the equipment is in a closet, it should be dedicated to that purpose because placing other materials in the closet can impede the airflow.
If you allow the HVAC unit to work as it was designed, your home will be more comfortable and your system will last longer.