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  • HVAC Financing Facts

    Financing your new AC or heating equipment

    HVAC Financing Facts


    No one wants to hear those fateful words, “It’s time to replace your central heating or cooling system.” Sooner or later, no matter how long your equipment has been running, your heating and cooling system will need to be replaced. But when that time comes, your wallet may not be ready! That’s where financing can help keep you comfortable!

    What is HVAC Financing?


    HVAC financing helps spread the cost of new equipment or entire systems over a predetermined amount of time. Why dip into savings you may have earmarked for another purpose, add to an existing credit card balance or even consider a home equity line of credit? HVAC financing can be an effective means to fit a replacement system or equipment into your budget without breaking the bank.

    It is important to review financing details to make sure you understand your financial responsibility. You should review the interest rate, repayment terms and the “small print” in any potential financing contract.

    Smart Money Management


    Base your buying decision on long-term comfort and energy-efficiency. Don’t lose your cool over the initial sticker cost, or freeze up at the suggestion of a new high efficiency rated system. Enhanced energy savings can result in real, tangible returns when you invest in a high-efficiency system, especially when compared to your old unit or today’s base-efficiency units.

    A high-efficient system can also allow you to feel the difference compared to your old unit. Impactful innovations such as variable-speed fans, variable-speed compressor and heat exchanger technology have ushered in a new era of HVAC operation that enhances indoor comfort and performance.

    While your frugal urges may tempt you to opt for a base or minimum efficiency system, the least expensive option may not be the most cost effective solution considering the life cycle of a new, energy efficient system. High-efficient systems can realize uncompromised indoor comfort throughout your home, offer reoccurring savings on your monthly utility bill, and possibly increase the value of your home. Moreover, consumer financing can often cover the cost of an extended service plan. Extended service plans may minimize additional out of pocket expenses you face for the term of the service plan.

    What Do I Need for HVAC Financing Approval?


    Depending on the local contractor’s financing company, you may need to provide personal information and be subject to a credit check. Ask the dealer to provide complete information before you make a decision.

    “Each lender differs in what is required for a loan approval,” says Erin McCollum, Director of Contractor Services for EGIA. According to McCollum, typical customers who are approved for an HVAC loan may have:

    • Fair to excellent credit profiles
    • Debt to income ratio under 50%
    • No recent history of bankruptcies

    Common Financing Terminology1


    • APR (Annual Percentage Rate) - The interest charged on the loan
    • Debt to Income Ratio - The amount of a borrower's debt divided by their income
    • Equal Monthly Payments at 0% APR - A loan that is paid in equal monthly payments over a specific term with an APR of 0%
    • Fixed Interest Rate - A fixed percentage of interest that is paid over the loan term
    • Interest - Payment for the use of money over time or the amount a borrower pays to borrow money from the lender
    • No Interest, No Payment Loan - A loan in which no payments need to be made within a specific promotional time period.  If the balance is not paid at the end of the promotion period, the borrower usually pays off the interest from the loan start.
    • Sub-Prime Loan - A loan given to a borrower who doesn't meet the credit requirements for a typical loan.  Sub-prime loans have higher interest rates because they finance borrowers who may have a poor credit history, low income, and high debt to income ratios
    • Term - The time length the loan will run
    • Unsecured Loan - A loan that is given and based on a borrower's credit instead of collateral

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    1 Terminology was provided by the Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA), a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing energy-efficiency and renewable energy solutions through the home improvement and renewable energy industries.

     

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    • How a Heat Pump Works

      How a Heat Pump Works

      A heat pump transfers heat from one place to another.  It sounds simple, but where is the heat coming from if fuel isn’t being burned?

      An air-source heat pump uses advanced technology and the refrigeration cycle to heat and cool your home. This allows a heat pump to provide year-round indoor comfort – no matter what the season is.

      In the warmer months, the heat pump can act as an air conditioner - drawing out interior heat and humidity, and redirecting it to the outside. During colder months, heat from the outdoor air is extracted and transferred to the interior of your home. Believe it or not, even a 32°F day produces enough heat to warm your home. Science is amazing!

      For example, when there is a temperature difference such as your 98.6°F body and 32°F air, heat is transferred from the warmer object to the cooler air. This is why you start to feel cold! So when you're trying to pull heat from 32°F air, you have to put it in contact with something even colder. That's the job of the refrigerant in a heat pump.

      Colder months: Heat pumps pulls heat from the outside air and transfer the heat to your home.

      Warmer months: Heat pumps pulls warm air and humidity from inside your home and transfer it outside, leaving cooler air indoors.



      Air Conditioning Mode


      When properly installed and functioning, a heat pump can help maintain cool, comfortable temperatures while reducing humidity levels inside your home.

      1. Warm air from the inside of your house is pulled into ductwork by a motorized fan.

      2. A compressor circulates refrigerant between the indoor evaporator and outdoor condensing units.

      3. The warm air indoor air then travels to the air handler while refrigerant is pumped from the exterior condenser coil to the interior evaporator coil. The refrigerant absorbs the heat as it passes over the indoor air.

      4. This cooled and dehumidified air is then pushed through connecting indoor ducts to air vents throughout the home, lowering the interior temperature.

      5. The refrigeration cycle continues again, providing a consistent method to keep you cool.

      Heat Mode

       

      Heat pumps have been used for many years in locations that typically experience milder winters. However, air-source heat pump technology has advanced over the past five years, enabling these systems to be used in areas with extended periods of subfreezing temperatures.2

      1. A heat pump can switch from air condition mode to heat mode by reversing the refrigeration cycle, making the outside coil function as the evaporator and the indoor coil as the condenser.

      2. The refrigerant flows through a closed system of refrigeration lines between the outdoor and the indoor unit.

      3. Although outdoor temperatures are cold, enough heat energy is absorbed from the outside air by the condenser coil and release inside by the evaporator coil.

      4. Air from the inside of your house is pulled into ductwork by a motorized fan.

      5. The refrigerant is pumped from the interior coil to the exterior coil, where it absorbs the heat from the air.

      6. This warmed air is then pushed through connecting ducts to air vents throughout the home, increasing the interior temperature.

      7. The refrigeration cycle continues again, providing a consistent method to keep you warm.


      Parts of a Heat Pump

       

      To get a better idea of how your air is heated or cooled, it helps to know a little bit about the parts that make up the heat pump system. A typical air-source heat pump system is a split or two-part system that uses electricity as its power source. The system contains an outdoor unit that looks similar to an air conditioner and an indoor air handler. The heat pump works in conjunction with the air handler to distribute the warm or cool air to interior spaces. In addition to the electrical components and a fan, a heat pump system includes: 

      Compressor: Moves the refrigerant through the system. Some heat pumps contain a scroll compressor. When compared to a piston compressor, scroll compressors are quieter, have a longer lifespan, and provide 10° to 15°F warmer air when in the heating mode.1

      Control board: Controls whether the heat pump system should be in cooling, heating or defrost mode. 

      Coils:  The condenser and evaporating coil heat or cool the air depending on the directional flow of refrigerant. 

      Refrigerant:  The substance in the refrigeration lines that circulates through the indoor and outdoor unit.

      Reversing valves: Change the flow of refrigerant which determines if your interior space is cooled or heated. 

      Thermostatic expansion valves:  Regulate the flow of refrigerant just like a faucet valve regulates the flow of water. 

      The accumulator: A reservoir that adjusts the refrigerant charge depending on seasonal needs.

      Refrigeration lines and pipes:  Connect the inside and outside equipment.

      Heat strips: An electric heat element is used for auxiliary heat. This added component is used to add additional heat on cold days or to recover from lower set back temperatures rapidly.

      Ducts: Serve as air tunnels to the various spaces inside your home.

      Thermostat or control system: Sets your desired temperature.

      Why is There Ice on My Heat Pump?


      Don’t panic! It is quite common to see frost or even ice on your heat pump. The process of transferring heat to the refrigerant can cause excess moisture to build up on your coil. This excess moisture can freeze during extremely cold temperatures. The good news is that your heat pump was designed for this!

      A properly functioning heat pump has a defrost mode that kicks in when it detects ice buildup.  The unit simply reverses the refrigerant cycle, and the heat is directed to the outdoor coil. While this is happening, the backup or auxiliary heat strips are used to heat your home until the ice is melted.  

      However, if your heat pump does not thaw the ice buildup, it may be an indication that something isn’t working properly. If this occurs, call your local licensed profession HVAC dealer to have the unit inspected.



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      1 Heat Pump Systems. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: https://energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-systems
      2 Air-Source Heat Pumps. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: https://energy.gov/energysaver/air-source-heat-pumps
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    • All-in-One Comfort: How an HVAC Packaged System Works?

      What is a Packaged Heating and Cooling System

      Let’s face it… you have stuff, and it needs space! But when indoor space is limited, you may need to find alternatives for essential heating and cooling equipment. If this sounds familiar, a packaged system may be right for you!

      Have your Cake and Eat it Too!


      A packaged system is an “all-in-one system” that can provide both cooling and heating from a single cabinet.  The cabinet system can be installed at ground level, in a crawl space or on a rooftop. The single location frees up internal spaces for “usable” square footage.

      With a packaged system, you can have space for those new shoes and have the space to be comfortable in your home! Packaged units have the main heating and cooling components in a single-boxed cabinet that sits outside the home.  It’s a package!

      Packaged units come in multiple forms:

      • Packaged Air Conditioners: The compressor, coils, air handler are all housed in a single-boxed cabinet. The packaged air conditioner can also provide limited warmth by using an electrical strip heating.
      • Packaged Heat Pumps:  A packaged heat pump uses heat pump technology to cool and heat your home.
      • Packaged Gas-Electric: The packaged gas-electric unit combines an air conditioner with gas-powered furnace performance.
      • Packaged Dual-Fuel: The packaged dual fuel system contains a heat pump, capable of heating and cooling, as well as a gas furnace. This type of packaged system optimizes the heating source for the conditions.


      How Each Packaged System Works


      Operation depends on configuration, but packaged systems typically heat and cool your home the same way their stand-alone counterparts do. The ducting with a single cabinet system is slightly different. The duct work is attached to the system rather than connecting to various components in your home.

      Packaged System Air Condition Component

      • By using electricity as its power source, the unit’s internal components cycle the refrigerant.
      • Warm air is pulled in by a fan and then passes over the cold evaporator coil, cooling it in the process.
      • The cooled, dehumidified air is pushed through ducts to the various spaces inside your home.

      Package System Heating Component

      • Packaged Air Conditioners: In addition to the typical cooling feature associated with an air conditioner, packaged air conditioners are capable of producing limited heat with heat strip elements. With electricity as the fuel source, the heat strips are warmed, and the air is heated as it flows over the strips.  The warm air then travels through ducting to increase the interior temperature of your home. This type of heating component is mainly used in warmer climates where heat is only used occasionally.
      • Packaged Heat Pumps:  The heat pump transfers heat by reversing the refrigeration cycle used by a typical air conditioner. Through a cycle of evaporation and condensation, the indoor coils are heated, and the air is pushed over the warm coils. From there, the warmed air is blown through the ductwork to increase the temperature in the interior rooms of your home.
      • Packaged Gas-Electric:  The heating component of a packaged gas-electric system is a gas furnace. The heating portion of the system uses natural gas or propane to combust inside the heat exchanger, creating heat. As cool air from the interior spaces is pulled in through the return ducting, the blower motor then blows the air over and through the hot heat exchanger, heating the air. The warm air is then circulated throughout the home through the ductwork.
      • Packaged Dual-Fuel: Your dual-fuel packaged system has two heating options, a heat pump or a gas furnace. When installed and configured correctly, your dual fuel system can determine whether it’s more economical to heat your home using electricity or gas.

      When moderate heating is required, the heat pump automatically reverses from the air condition mode to provide warm air. When temperatures fall further, the system uses the gas furnace to provide reliable, consistent heat.


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    • How a Central Gas Heating System Works

      How a gas furnace works

      Many people do not know how their central gas heating system works. They just expect it to keep them warm when the outdoor temperatures drop!  However, if you find yourself adding layers just to stay warm inside, it may be helpful to understand your central heating system.

      Bring on the BTUs!


      The heat capacity of a gas furnace is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). A BTU equals the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Ironically, the BTU is rarely used in Great Britain because it is a non-metric measurement.

      The higher the BTU output, the more powerful the heating system. In real world terms, the energy released by one burning match is approximately equal to one BTU.1 So now you understand why it requires thousands of BTUs to heat a typical home.

      But what is the right number of BTU's for your home?

      The Goldilocks Theory


      Too hot or too cold is uncomfortable! A central gas heating system should be able to provide a consistent amount of warmth to keep you comfortable inside your home. However, that means it must be sized correctly too! A “just right” size furnace can give the best balance of comfort and cost-efficiency. So it’s important that your licensed  professional HVAC technician makes sure that your furnace is the right size for your space!

      If your furnace is sized too small, it might not be able to keep up on colder days. And typically, you want your furnace working on cold days! Depending on the indoor vs. outdoor temperature difference, an undersized furnace may fall short! Your system may have to run continuously to try to maintain the thermostat setting. This strain can cause it to become inefficient, causing increased utility bills, and result in unnecessary wear and tear on its components.

      If your furnace is too large for your house, it will heat your home very quickly and then shut off, or "short cycle."  Repeatedly turning on and off can be hard on your furnace, potentially reducing its lifespan.  For you, an oversized furnace can cause greater temperature fluctuations inside your home. An oversized central gas heating system can create bursts of warm air. This rush of heated air can trick thermostats into shutting off the system before the whole house is at temperature. This can leave you reaching for a sweater in between cycles!

      To make sure your central gas heating system is sized properly, contact your professional licensed HVAC technician.

      How a Central Gas Furnace Works


      Simply put, a central gas heating system creates a cycle of warming cooler air. Here is the simple version:

      1. Burning propane or natural gas generates heat in the furnace's burner.
      2. The heat produced passes through a heat exchanger, making it hot.
      3. Air from the home's ductwork is blown over the heat exchanger, warming the air.
      4. The furnace's blower then forces the heated air into the supply ductwork, distributing it throughout the home.

      Of course, many central heating system components must work together to keep you comfortable.

      Temperature Control: The temperature control, which is regulated by the furnace control board, turns on the ignition switch and starts the heating process when the thermostat or control system calls for heat.

      Draft Induced Fan: The draft induced fan draws air into the burner assembly. The air also allows the burners to warm the heat exchanger then is exhausted outside of the home.

      Gas Burners:  When the thermostat or control system calls for heat, the gas burners valves are open to deliver gas and burn fuel.

      Ignition switch: Gas flows over the igniter to establish a flame. This flame is drawn through the burners and used to heat the heat exchanger.

      Heat exchanger: The part of a gas furnace that adds heat to the indoor air. The gas combusts inside the heat exchanger, creating heat that is used to heat the passing air. The design of the heat exchanger can add energy efficient operation of a gas furnace.

      Draft-Induced Fan: Draws air into the burner assembly. The air allows the burners to warm the heat exchanger.

      Blower Fan: Uses the return venting to blow air over the hot heat exchanger.  The conditioned air is then sent throughout your home via ductwork. Some furnace models offer a blower fan that can run at multiple speeds to improve efficiency.

      Flue: A flue or chimney acts as an exhaust for gaseous by-products of combustion used to create heat.

      Gas furnaces come in a variety of shapes to fit your space. However, they can also be categorized by one of the following:

      • Non-condensing furnaces - vent exhaust gases out of the home, typically through the roof.

      • Condensing furnaces - uses a second heat exchanger to heat the air from condensed exhaust gases to reach higher efficiencies.

      • A modulating gas furnace - continuously regulates the amount of fuel burned to maintain the set temperature of your thermostat. This modulating component can minimize indoor temperature fluctuations.


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      1 Energy Explained. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.gov/EnergyExplained/?page=about_btu
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    • What Is ENERGY STAR?

      Goodman is a proud ENERGY STAR® partner

      Every little penny counts! That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® program became the “most successful voluntary energy efficiency movement in history.”1 The ENERGY STAR® program highlights energy efficient products that have been certified to use less energy than their standard counterpart products. The idea is that when homeowners purchase ENERGY STAR® certified products, they can save money on energy costs.

      When your home’s heating and cooling can account for up to 42% of your energy bill, purchasing ENERGY STAR® certified products to use less energy may help you keep more of your hard-earned dollars.2

      ENERGY STAR® Certification


      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires all ENERGY STAR® products to be third-party certified. Products are tested in an EPA-recognized laboratory and reviewed by an EPA-recognized certification body prior to being ENERGY STAR® certified.3 ENERGY STAR® heating and cooling products must be proven to save energy without sacrificing features or functionality.

      In order to become an ENERGY STAR® partner, organizations enter into a formal agreement with the EPA. “As a partner in the program, organizations agree to abide by the ENERGY STAR® program identity guidelines to ensure proper use of the logo.”4 This partnership can provide homeowners with confidence that the product they are purchasing uses less energy than other products in that category.

      In addition to up-front testing, ENERGY STAR® products can also be subject to "off–the–shelf" verification testing each year. These checks ensure that manufacturing process changes or variations don’t undermine an ENERGY STAR® product's qualification.5 In 2015, 97% of the 1,789 models that underwent verification testing met energy-saving expectations.6

      Why Choose an ENERGY STAR® Product?


      The ENERGY STAR® program, which was introduced in 1992, applies to products in more than 70 categories. When compared to the standard product model in the same category, ENERGY STAR® certified products:

      • Have higher energy-efficiency ratings
      • Cost less money to operate
      • Are better for the environment

      Between 1992 and 2014, “the little blue label has helped save more than $362 billion on utility bills and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2.4 billion metric tons.”7 You can assess your home’s annual energy use compared to similar homes by using the EPA's Home Energy Yardstick.7 With the Home Energy Yardstick, you can get:

      • Your home's energy use score
      • Insights into how much of your home's energy use is related to heating and cooling versus other everyday uses like appliances, lighting, and hot water
      • Links to guidance from ENERGY STAR® on how to increase your home's score, improve comfort, and lower utility bills
      • An estimate of your home's annual carbon emissions8


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      1 The ENERGY STAR® Story. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://www.energystar.gov/about
      2 Third-Party Certification. (n.d.). Retrieved from ENERGY STAR®: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=third_party_certification.tpc_index
      3 Where Does My Money Go? (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://www.energystar.gov/products/where_does_my_money_go
      4 Maintaining the Integrity of ENERGY STAR®. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=partners.pt_es_integrity
      5 Origins and Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://www.energystar.gov/about/origins_mission
      6 ENERGY STAR® Labeled Products: 2015 Verification Testing. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/downloads/2015_Verification_Testing_Summary.pdf?7bc3-ec96
      7 Why ENERGY STAR®? (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/about/why_energy_star
      8 Home Energy Yardstick. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=HOME_ENERGY_YARDSTICK.showGetStarted
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    • Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit: Expired 12/31/2016

      Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit for 2016 tax return

      We are talking taxes!  We understand that you love taxes just as much as you love traffic and YouTube ads. Yet saving money on your taxes is a good thing – think open roads and ad-free cat videos!

      As 2016 ended, so did many of the residential energy efficiency tax credits. But if you had a licensed professional HVAC dealer install a qualifying, high-efficiency residential indoor comfort systems or qualifying HVAC component by December 31, 2016, you should consult your tax advisor to determine how these tax credits may affect your own 2016 taxes.

      *A tax credit can reduce the amount of federal income tax you may have to pay. For example, if you owe $800 in taxes at the end of the year, and you get a $300 tax credit, your actual tax bill could be lower.1

      Homeowners are limited to a maximum allowable tax credit of $500 between 2006 and 2016, whether those purchases came in the form of upgraded insulation, windows, HVAC equipment or other eligible improvements. To determine if you have already claimed your single-family home tax credits prior to 2016, consult your tax advisor.

      Some 2016 HVAC tax credits include, but are not limited to:
      • Air conditioners listed as ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient 2016 may qualify for a $300 tax credit.
        • Requirements for Split Systems: SEER>=16
        • Requirements for Package Systems: SEER>=14
      • Heat pumps that are ENERGY STAR® certified may qualify for a $300 tax credit.
        • Requirements for Split Systems: SEER>=16, HSPF >= 8.5
        • Requirements for Package Systems: SEER>=14, HSPF >= 8.5
      • Gas furnaces that are ENERGY STAR® certified (except those for U.S. South only) meet the requirements for the gas furnace $150 tax credit.
        • Requirement: AFUE > 95
      • Gas furnace fans that have earned the ENERGY STAR® rating may qualify for a $50 fan tax credit.
        • Requirement: Annual electricity use < 2% of total furnace energy

      And of course, there is a form for that! According to Energy Star, homeowners with residential energy-efficient tax credit qualifying purchases should discuss the IRS form 5695 with their tax advisor. Homeowners should also keep any related receipts and the Manufacturer’s Certification Statement for their records.2  The qualifying product(s) must have been installed by midnight on New Year’s Eve in order to claim the 2016 tax credit. A full list of Energy Star® tax reducing qualified products can be found on energystar.gov and at goodmanmfg.com.

      NOTE: This information is provided for discussion purposes only and is provided as a generic guideline. No consideration should be taken that this information represents tax advice. Contact your local tax professional to determine how these credits may apply to your circumstances and affect your own taxes. You can also visit  www.energy.gov/taxbreaks for more information.

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      1 Difference Between A Tax Credit And A Tax Deduction? (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://energystar.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/211437608-What-s-the-difference-between-a-tax-credit-and-a-tax-deduction-
      2 Tax Credits/ Rebates/ Financing/ Grants. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energystar.gov: https://energystar.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/211437868-How-do-I-apply-for-the-tax-credit-What-tax-form-do-I-need-for-the-energy-efficiency-tax-credits-

       

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    • What Do Ice, Physics and Water Have to Do with Air Conditioning?

      Physics of indoor cooling

      April showers may bring May flowers, but to those who live in mild areas of the country, it can also mark the beginning of air conditioning season! Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and warm sunshine may be in your near future.  What a perfect time to share some fun facts about air conditioners!  (Cue the sounds of spring)


      TONS of Cooling!

       

      In school, kids learn that one ton is equal to 2,000 pounds. Logically, if you had a 4-ton air conditioner or heat pump, you would expect your 8,000-pound piece of equipment to arrive on a flatbed truck!  But thank goodness that is not the case! The tonnage or weight assigned to air conditioners and heat pumps has to do with the fact that people used to cool spaces with blocks of ice.


      Before modern air conditioning, people rated their capacity to cool indoor spaces by the amount of ice that melted. When ice melts, it pulls heat energy from its surroundings.  It takes 143 BTUs (British Thermal Units) to melt one pound of ice.  The heat is transferred to the ice, which causes it to melt. In order to melt one “ton” of ice, you need approximately 12,000BTUs/hr.  Do you see the ice/air conditioner connection yet?

       

      Here are the numbers:

         

      • One British Thermal Unit (BTU) = the amount of heat you get from burning one kitchen match all the way down to the end.
      • One ton = the ability to cool 12,000 BTUs in an hour

       

      Your professional or licensed HVAC dealer should be able to determine the correct “tons” air conditioner or heat pump required to cool your home efficiently.  It’s important that the proper size of an air conditioner or heat pump is matched to your specific home. And thanks to modern marvels, the tons of cooling have nothing to do with massive blocks of ice.


      Physics Can be Cool!

       

      Air conditioners and heat pumps use the basic laws of physics and the refrigeration cycle to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature when the outdoors heat up.  The refrigeration cycle is based on the physical principle that a liquid expanding into a gas extracts or pulls heat from its surroundings. You can test out this basic concept for yourself with a water faucet and your hand!


      • Put one hand in lukewarm water and then hold it up in the air.
      • It will feel cooler than the dry hand, especially if there is some air movement.
      • Why? Because the water is evaporating! 
      • As the water evaporates, it pulls heat away from your hand.

       

      The refrigeration cycle removes heat from one area and relocates it to another. To cool your indoor spaces, your air conditioner’s or heat pump’s refrigerant is pumped through a closed refrigeration system. The same refrigerant is continuously used over and over as it passes through the cycle! With induced pressure changes from the condenser coil, compressor, evaporator coil and the expansion valve, the state of the refrigerant is forced to fluctuate between a liquid and gas. It’s like a teeter-totter on a playground that doesn’t stop: liquid, gas, liquid, gas, etc.! This continuous cycle allows the heat to be transferred from inside your home to the exterior.

      Here’s how it works:1


      • The refrigerant comes into the compressor as a low-pressure gas. It is then “compressed” to become a high-pressure gas.
      • The gas then flows through the condenser coil . Here the gas “condenses” to a liquid, and gives off its heat to the outside air.
      • The liquid then moves to the expansion valve under high pressure. This valve restricts the flow of the fluid and lowers its pressure as it leaves the expansion valve.
      • The low-pressure liquid then moves to the evaporator coil, where heat from the inside air is absorbed and changes it from a liquid to a gas.
      • As a hot low-pressure gas, the refrigerant moves to the compressor where the entire cycle is repeated.

      Heat and Humidity!

       

      Believe it or not, there is water in the air even when it’s not raining! Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. The more water vapor in the air, the higher the humidity. People may be able to feel when the humidity level is high, especially when it’s combined with high temperatures.

      Air with higher humidity has an increased amount of water vapor. As a result, sweat may not evaporate as quickly as it would with a lower humidity level. This phenomenon may make us feel hotter than the actual temperature because evaporation is slowed.

      Going back to the wet hand experiment - if the humidity level is high, it may take longer for the air to absorb the extra moisture on your wet hand. That means that your hand wouldn’t feel as cool because evaporation is slowed. This explains why it feels hotter when the humidity levels are high. Likewise, very low humidity can make us feel cooler than the actual temperature. This happens because the dry air helps moisture evaporate more quickly than usual.


      So how can an air conditioning help you feel more comfortable in your home? When warm air comes in contact with your air conditioner’s or heat pump’s cold evaporator coil, some moisture may be condensed out of the air, making your home feel less humid. The moisture collected by the evaporator coil goes to a drain and then it is sent outside, away from your home. But air conditioners and heat pumps are not meant to control humidity independently.  It just happens to be an incidental by-product of the refrigeration cycle! 

      Who Named Air Conditioning?

       

      Humidity also has something to do with the origin of the term “air conditioning.” Stuart W. Cramer coined the term “air conditioning” in his opening remarks to the American Cotton Manufacturers Association convention in 1906.  Cramer, a leading figure in the textile industry, installed the first air conditioning system in the south. His intent was to create ideal humidity levels at his Chronicle Cotton Mills in Belmont, NC in order to ease the process of spinning yarn.

       

      The business owner and trained engineer was credited with designing and equipping over 150 cotton mills, held 60 patents, and pioneered humidity control and ventilating equipment.2  While he didn’t invent the air conditioner, in his speech Cramer refers to his new “Automatic Regulator, which is the automatic control of humidifying and heating systems.”3 But Cramer wanted a more general term for the indoor air controlling technology. Cramer opened the conference by stating, “I have used the term “Air Conditioning” to include humidifying and air-cleansing, and heating and ventilation.”4 Thus, the word “air conditioning” was used and the rest is history…

       

      The Growing Number of Air Conditioners!

       

      Air conditioning is continuously named as one of the top inventions in modern history. Most warm-weather states can give the nod to the air conditioner for their increasing populations. Can you imagine what life must have been like during those southern summer days? It was certainly different without an air conditioner!

       

      In the south, single-family homes were typically built with high ceilings to let the heat rise, tall windows to catch the occasional cross breeze, and large porches to shade windows from the sun’s heat.  Old photographs often depicted people sitting on those expanded porches, hoping to catch a cool evening breeze. Outdoor living became part of the culture. However, people started to retreat indoors once air conditioning technology became more common.

       

      Air conditioning’s popularity began to increase when the equipment became more affordable to the common homeowner. By the 1950s, more than one million room air conditioning units had been sold. However, it wasn’t until 1977 that newly constructed homes tipped the scales of residential air conditioning. In 1977, 54% of newly constructed single-family homes had air conditioning compared to the 46% that weren’t built with air conditioning.5 The upward trend continued for decades.

       

      By 2015, the U.S. Census revealed that nearly 93% of newly constructed homes in the United States were built with air conditioning. However, the numbers also acknowledged that between 1997 and 2015, over 99% of newly constructed homes in the “south” were built with air conditioning.5 It appears that indoor comfort, whether for personal or economic reasons, will continue to advance and thrive! Thank goodness!

       

      cta-outline_find-dealer

       

      1 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. Basic Refrigeration Cycle. n.d. https://www.swtc.edu/Ag_Power/air_conditioning/lecture/basic_cycle.htm. 7 April 2017.

      2 Hill, Michael. NCpedia. 2006. http://www.ncpedia.org/air-conditioning. 5 April 2017.

      3, 4 American Cotton Manufacturers Association. "Proceedings of the ... Annual Convention of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association." American Cotton Manufacturers Association. Charlotte: American Cotton Manufacturers Association, 1897-1944. 182. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433066400650;view=1up;seq=210.

      5 U.S. Census Bureau. "Presence of Air-Conditioning in New Single-Family Houses Completed." U.S. Census Bureau - Air Conditioning. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 2015. 1-20. https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/pdf/aircond.pdf.

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    • Dual Fuel Technology: Precise, Energy-Efficient Heating

      Dual fuel heating with a heat pump and gas furnace

      Every once in a while with indoor comfort, you CAN have it all! Precise, energy-efficient indoor comfort for every month of the year is like having your cake and eating it too!  When properly installed and configured, a dual fuel technology indoor comfort system offers the incredible combination of year-round comfort and energy-efficient performance!


      The Dual Fuel Set-Up

       

      A dual fuel system may come in the form of a packaged unit or a split system with two energy sources: the electric heat pump and a gas furnace. Dual fuel technology combines the cooling and heating performance that you get from a heat pump with the consistent heating capacity of a gas furnace. What makes this system so precise and energy efficient for heating is that it seamlessly alternates between the two energy sources for heating comfort, depending on your specific outdoor conditions.


      How Dual Fuel Works

       

      When the thermostat or control system calls for cool air, the heat pump unit functions just like a central air conditioner, it is designed to keep your home cool and comfortable even on extremely hot days.

       

      When your home needs moderate heating output, the heat pump reverses the refrigerant flow to provide warm air in your home and operates like a typical heat pump. In a dual fuel system, if the heating demand exceeds the preset heating capacity of the electric heat pump, the heat pump pauses, and the gas furnace takes over until the indoor temperature reaches the desired temperature on your thermostat or control system.1

      The system's switch point from the heat pump to the gas furnace can be set on the thermostat or control system by you or your dealer. Even on extremely cold days in winter, your dual fuel system is designed to provide energy-efficient, reliable, and consistent heat.

       

      Energy Costs and Efficiency

       

      Because certain energy sources, like electricity and natural gas,  operate most efficiently during specific weather conditions, a dual fuel system may maximize efficiency, and cut heating bills.

       

      Yet, heat source efficiency is only part of the equation. The cost of electricity and natural gas in your location can affect the cost-effectiveness of a dual fuel system. “Prices of basic energy (natural gas, electricity, heating oil) are generally more volatile than prices of other commodities,” says the Energy Information Association.2 Energy prices typically vary by location because of the proximity to power plants, local distribution costs, and pricing regulations.  For example, in 2015 the annual average electricity price in Hawaii was estimated at 26.17 cents per kWh and 7.41 cents per kWh in Washington.3

       

      When a dual fuel system's switch point can be determined by you or your dealer, the specific energy source pricing can be incorporated into the cost and efficiency equation.  If switching from the heat pump to the gas furnace reduces the time required to get to your set temperature, your energy cost of operation may decrease, and your comfort level may increase. Although the electricity may cost less than the natural gas in some areas, it may cost you more if your heat pump has to operate longer to meet your indoor temperature needs.

       

      The flexibility of using a heat pump and a gas furnace may provide the homeowner with energy cost savings. However, it is important to learn the utility pricing options from your local utility provider(s) and then discuss the potential savings a dual fuel system might offer with your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

      Dual Fuel Installation Options

       

      If you are looking to replace your air conditioner with a heat pump, your professional licensed HVAC dealer may be able to upgrade your system configuration so that your new heat pump works in conjunction with your existing furnace system. If you are not currently utilizing natural gas as a heating source but it is an option is your area, homeowners interested in dual fuel systems may be able to add a high-efficiency gas furnace. The gas furnace would be the secondary heat source instead of using the heat pump's electric heat strip when the temperatures drop. 

       

      To find out whether a dual fuel system is an option for your home and how you may benefit, talk to your professional licensed HVAC dealer.

      Stay Warm with Goodman

       

      1 U.S. Department of Energy. Air-Source Heat Pumps. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/air-source-heat-pumps. 26 April 2017.

      2 U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Why Do Natural Gas Prices Fluctuate So Much?" n.d. U.S. Energy Information Administration. https://www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/analysis_publications/why_do_prices_fluctuate/html/ngbro.html. 28 April 2017.

      3 U.S. Energy Information Association. Factors Affecting Electricity Prices. n.d. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_factors_affecting_prices. 26 April 2017.

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    • What is Variable Speed Technology?

      Variable Speed Technology in Goodman® HVAC Products

      The cost of electricity isn’t getting any cheaper. In fact, the average retail price of electricity has increased from 10.40¢ per Kilowatt in 2006 to 12.55¢ per Kilowatt hour in 2016.1 So, how can you stay comfortable in your home and spend less on utility costs? The answer may lie with a variable speed technology central heating and cooling system!


      Variable speed technology enables a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system to precisely adjust its output or capacity according to your home’s temperature demand. Unlike a base model or single speed HVAC system which cycles ON at 100% then OFF, equipment with variable speed technology may use less energy because it is designed to operate at multiple capacity levels.


      When one or more of these variable speed technology features is applied to your HVAC system, you may be able to spend less on utility costs without sacrificing your indoor comfort level.

       

      Variable Speed Compressor Technology


      Variable speed technology refers to the type of compressor in your air conditioner or heat pump. The compressor is the heart of your air conditioning or heat pump system. It creates the cooling capacity for your system. Variable speed compressors allow a unit to run at virtually any speed between 30% and 100%.


      This feature allows for various levels of output depending on your cooling demands — full capacity for hot summer days or reduced capacity for milder days. It is a great energy-efficient option when compared to a single-speed unit.


      Variable Speed Fan Motor Technology


      Variable speed technology can also apply to the type of blower motor located in the air handler or gas furnace. A variable speed blower motor can operate at various speeds to precisely control the amount of airflow throughout your home. In the winter, a variable speed blower motor may alleviate the “cold air blow” often associated with single speed furnaces or air handlers.


      According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, a variable-speed motor running continuously at a half speed may use up to 75% less power that a single-stage motor uses to move the same amount of air.2


      Variable Speed Eases Demand

       

      If you were in a one-mile bike race, would you take the route with one hill or multiple hills? Which would require more energy?


      Electricity usage peaks when an HVAC system turns ON. A single-speed HVAC system is ON at 100% capacity until it reaches your preset indoor thermostat or control system temperature and then turns OFF. It’s like riding a single speed bike over a series of hilltops. It takes a great deal of energy to keep biking up multiple hills.


      Variable speed technology allows for a more consistent path. It often reduces the impact of a single speed's start/stop cycle, reducing the potential peak draw on your home's electrical service needs. Once your HVAC system reaches the desired indoor temperature, the variable option more precisely adjusts to the less demanding environment, minimizing the capacity required to maintain that temperature compared to a single-speed system. It’s like riding your bike uphill once, then leveling off on a flat road to the finish line — it requires less demand than the hill-laden route.


      Added Benefits of Variable Speed Technology

       

      A variable speed system may run longer than your traditional HVAC system, but at a level that requires less energy. This slow and steady operation offers some additional comfort benefits when compared to a single speed unit.

      • Consistent Indoor Comfort – Variable speed technology may minimize the temperature swings often found with single-stage equipment. Rather than shutting down, the variable capacity prolongs the set temperature of your spaces. This allows for steady and consistent comfort in your home.
      • Dehumidification – The longer an HVAC system runs, the more moisture might be removed from the indoor air. This may improve the balance between temperature and humidity, providing you with more comfortable interior air.
      • Air Filtering – The extended run time at lower speeds may also allow more time for the circulating air to interact with filters or additional air quality system components. However, as with traditional systems, it is important to change out your filters according to your HVAC dealer or manufacturer’s recommendation.

       

      If you are concerned about your rising utility bill but don’t want to sacrifice your indoor comfort, you may want to consider HVAC equipment with variable speed technology. Talk to your professional licensed HVAC dealer to see if variable speed is right for your home. 

      cta-outline_find-dealer

       
      1 U.S. EIA. (2017, May). Monthly Energy Review, Average Retail Prices of Electricity. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec9_11.pdf

      2 Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Variable-speed, low-cost motor for residential HVAC systems. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from US Department of Energy: https://energy.gov/eere/amo/variable-speed-low-cost-motor-residential-hvac-systems

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    • The Refrigerant Story: From R-22 to R-410A

      Refrigerant through history

      For Centuries, scientists, inventors and outside-the-box thinkers have been trying to manipulate substances in order to alter the temperature of the indoors!

       

      1756: Dr. William Cullen, a Scottish physician and professor, published “Of the Cold Produced by Evaporating Fluids and of Some Other Means of Producing Cold.”

       

      1758: Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley, a professor at Cambridge University, experimented with the cooling effect of certain rapidly evaporating liquids.

       

      1824: Michael Faraday, a self-declared philosopher, discovered that heat would be absorbed by pressurizing gas, like ammonia, into a liquid.

       

      1840: Physician and inventor, Dr. John Gorrie, wanted to reverse the effects of yellow fever and “the evils of high temperatures.”1 As a result, he developed a machine that created ice through compression. Gorrie was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851.1

       

      1876: German engineer Carl von Linden patented the process of liquefying gas setting the stage for the modern air conditioner.2


      The Evolution of Refrigerant

       

      Modern air conditioning appears to be an evolutionary invention that was built upon a series of successful (and not so successful) concepts. It took 80 years from Dr. Gorrie’s primitive ice-maker method for a group of individuals to develop a safe, non-toxic and easily-produced substance that could be used to provide indoor cooling for the masses.


      In 1928, Thomas Midgley, Albert Henne and Robert McNary created chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants. The compounds produced were “the world's first non-flammable refrigerating fluids, greatly improving the safety of air conditioners.”3 One of the compounds to be developed in the 1930s was R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that became a standard refrigerant utilized in residential air conditioners for decades to come.


      But as they say, history has a way of repeating itself.  Decades later, scientists would discover that chlorine, a component of CFC and HCFC refrigerants, is damaging to the ozone layer.  As a result, R22, the standard residential air conditioner refrigerant, was included in the 1987 Montreal Protocol list of substances that were to be phased out of production over time for new air conditioners and heat pumps.


      The Montreal Protocol

       

      According to the U.S. State Department, “The Montreal Protocol, finalized in 1987, is a global agreement to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS).”  With 197 countries in agreement, it was the first United Nations treaty to achieve universal ratification.4


      Under the Protocol, which was amended four times since 1988, total United States HCFC production and consumption should be phased out by 2030.  


      The Economics of Change

       

      Because R-22 was so widely utilized, it couldn’t be eliminated overnight without severe economic impacts to the private and public sectors. As a result, the Montreal Protocol and amendments allowed for a step-by-step phase out. This phased program provides homeowners the option of switching to chlorine-free refrigerants when they see the need to replace their current air conditioner or heat pump.


      Although the agreement was ultimately signed in 1988, the HVAC industry had to prepare for the mandated changes. Companies had to develop alternate refrigerant technologies, engineer new designs to accommodate substance characteristics, realign manufacturing to accommodate changes, and re-train dealers and technicians on the updates.  This would take some time, but R-410A refrigerant, a hydrofluorocarbon compound (HFC), was soon considered to be the most common alternative to R-22.


      Out with R-22, In with R-410A

       

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for implementing the R-22 refrigerant phase out for the United States. By January 1, 2010, there was a ban on the production and import of R-22.5  As a result, manufacturers of heat pump and air conditioning equipment redesigned their systems to accommodate R-410A, a chlorine-free refrigerant compared to R-22.


      EPA regulations require a ban on the production and import of R-22 refrigerant by January 1, 2020. After 2020, any air conditioning or heat pump system using R-22 that requires servicing will have to depend on potentially expensive R-22 stockpiles or reclaimed refrigerant. The new ban on R-22 won’t affect homeowners that want to continue to utilize their functioning R-22 air conditioning systems.  However, in the event that that equipment needs to be charged with refrigerant, there will be difficulties.6


      Is R-410A Here to Stay?

       

      As stated, modern air conditioning has been an evolutionary invention that was built upon a series of successful (and not so successful) concepts. If history has taught us anything, it’s that progress will continue. Scientific discoveries, technological advancements, and even environmental policies and politics will continue to have an effect on the HVAC industry.


      Next Generation Refrigerants

       

      Because of the global warming potential of many HFC refrigerants, the latest amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the Kigali Amendment, has proposed to phase-down the use of refrigerants such as R-410A.  The phase down is expected to begin sometime in the 2020’s.  The leading replacement for R-410A is a pure, single component refrigerant called R-32, which has one-third the global warming potential of R‑410A.  Some products with this next generation refrigerant have already been introduced in the United States. Due to some properties of these lower global warming refrigerants, codes and standards are being updated before their mainstream use, which is expected in the early 2020’s.


      In the meantime, homeowners replacing their aging air conditioning and heat pump systems with new R-410A equipment will know that they are purchasing a chlorine-free option, as well as potentially increasing the energy-efficiency level of the air conditioner or heat pump for their homes. 

      Stay cool with Goodman® products

      1, 3 Department of Energy. History of Air Conditioning. 20 July 2015. https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-air-conditioning. 3 April 2017.

      2 Weisand, Dr. John. "Defining Cryogenics." Cold Facts (2010). https://www.cryogenicsociety.org/resources/defining_cryogenics/joule-thomson_effect/.

      4 U.S. Department of State. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Washington D.C., n.d. https://www.state.gov/e/oes/eqt/chemicalpollution/83007.htm.

      5 Environmental Protection Agency. Federal Register. 28 October 2014. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/10/28/2014-25374/protection-of-stratospheric-ozone-adjustments-to-the-allowance-system-for-controlling-hcfc. 3 April 2017.

      6 R22 and Halon Critical Use Phase-out. n.d. http://www.epa.ie/air/airenforcement/ozone/r22andhaloncriticalusephase-out/. 3 April 2017.

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    • What is an Air Handler?

      What is an air handler


      What do FedEx and air handlers have in common? They both deliver!

       

      If you have a heat pump outside your home, the air handler is likely the indoor component comprising your two-part, split system that keeps the indoor temperature of your home comfortable all year long. Most often, air handlers are located in the attic, basement or a dedicated closet, and may closely resemble the shape of a gas furnace. As its name suggests, an air handler “handles” the air inside your home and delivers warm or cool indoor air throughout your entire home.  What would we do without delivery!


      The PB&J of HVAC

       

      Depending on the design of your home, an air handler may be a principal indoor component of your heat pump system. When properly matched with the capacity and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of your heat pump, the air handler is designed to efficiently circulate conditioned air through your home’s duct work.  Depending on the season, the circulated air is either cool or hot. According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), mismatched systems are at least 30 percent less efficient than matched systems.1 Homeowners should keep this efficiency loss in mind when they are considering replacing only the outdoor unit portion of their split system.


      Parts of an Air Handler  
               

       

      Your air handler assists in regulating the circulation of indoor air and the temperature of the air in your home that you have set on your thermostat or control system. Your air handler consists of an evaporator coil, blower motor, air filter and the electrical and electronic components required to deliver enhanced levels of indoor comfort.

      Coil:  The indoor coil or evaporator coil is a crucial component of the refrigeration cycle. 

      • When your home requires cool indoor air, the coil is cold and removes humidity as the indoor air passes over it. This makes the conditioned air feel cooler throughout your home.
      • When your home requires warm indoor air, the coil is warm and transfers heat to the air that passes over it. This makes the conditioned air feel warmer throughout your home.

       

      Blower Motor: The blower moves the air to the connected ductwork to circulate it into your indoor spaces. The blower motor may be a single speed, multi-speed or variable speed model.

      • Single-speed: Operates at one, fixed speed. These motors are cycled on and off, as required by a thermostat or control system.2
      • Multi-speed:  Has the ability to operate at multiple speeds, depending on the demand. The multi-speed blower motor may operate at 100% to meet a high-demand thermostat or control system setting. A low-stage demand will reduce the speed of the blower motor. This low speed may maintain reduced humidity levels, provide sustained comfort and be more energy-efficient than when used in a single-stage system.
      • Variable-speed: Varies the fan speeds to precisely control the flow of heated or cooled air throughout your home based on your indoor comfort requirements.  A variable speed motor can help control indoor humidity levels and achieve a consistent temperature in your home. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “variable-speed motor running continuously at a half speed uses up to 25% of the power to move the same amount of air.”3

       

      Air Supply and Return Plenum Connections: Duct work is connected to your air handler by a plenum to

      1. “supply” or deliver the conditioned heated or cooled air to your interior spaces
      2. “return” the air to the air handler that needs to be heated or cooled

       

      Filter: Before your air conditioned or heated air enters your ductwork, it passes through an air filter. The filter is intended to minimize the number of particulates circulated throughout your home, accumulate in the duct work, and land on the indoor components of your heat pump system.

       

      Optional Electric Heat Strips: Provides an auxiliary, electric heating option when conditions arise that require activation.


      The In’s and Out’s of Handling Air

       

      In coordination with your HVAC system’s ductwork, the air handler simultaneously creates a recurring cycle, delivering air out to your indoor spaces through supply vents and drawing air in through the return vents.  Even if your air handler is properly sized with your outdoor heat pump, a licensed professional HVAC dealer should ensure that the air supply and movement through the air handler are balanced. 

       

      An inadequate amount of air flow in the supply vents, return vents or ductwork may reduce the HVAC system’s balance which can potentially cheat you out of your equipment’s efficiency and sacrifice your indoor comfort. This is one of the many reasons why proper installation by a licensed professional HVAC dealer matters to your HVAC equipment’s longevity, energy costs, and indoor comfort.

      What is an Air handler

       

      1 AHRI. HVACR Replacement Guidance. 15 January 2013. http://www.ahrinet.org/Contractors-Specifiers/HVACR-Replacement-Guidance.aspx. 12 April 2017.

      2, 3 Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Variable-speed, low-cost motor for residential HVAC systems. n.d. https://energy.gov/eere/amo/variable-speed-low-cost-motor-residential-hvac-systems. 1 May 2017.

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    • Key Factors that Influence Indoor Cooling Performance and Efficiency

      Factors that influence AC performance

      If you drive your car up hill, both ways, on tires with low air pressure, would you get the same miles-per-gallon (MPG) as you would if you were driving on a straight road, at a constant speed, with perfectly inflated wheels?  Probably not. Why? Because a vehicle’s fuel economy is measured under controlled conditions in the EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory.1 Actual MPG may vary depending on driving conditions and other performance factors.

      The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) stated on the system components can be compared to the MPG of an automobile. If the installation or usage varies from the standard test conditions, the performance and efficiency of an air conditioner or heat pump may be impacted.

      The Match Game

       

      Air conditioners and heat pumps, like automobiles, are tested within set laboratory conditions with properly matched system components. Manufacturers identify a unit’s SEER value through standardized testing and algorithms prescribed by the Department of Energy.2 In order to function at the certified SEER level in your home, the separate components of your cooling system must be compatible and in proper working condition.

      Each cooling component plays a vital role in making sure that you enjoy a comfortable indoor environment in your home. A complete cooling system may be composed of:

      • Outdoor air conditioner and indoor air handler
      • Outdoor air conditioner and indoor gas furnace
      • Outdoor heat pump and indoor air handler
      • Outdoor heat pump and indoor gas furnace

       

      According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), “Improperly matched indoor and outdoor units can create undue stress on a cooling system, dramatically reducing efficiency.”3 AHRI suggests that mismatched systems are at least 30 percent less efficient than matched systems.”4

       

      A licensed or professional contractor should be able to verify properly matched systems and SEER rating by providing you with a Certified Reference Number or a Certificate of Certified Product Performance. The AHRI’s free Directory of Certified Product Performance provides public information regarding certified reference numbers, SEER ratings and compatible equipment. If you are considering replacing just the outdoor portion of your cooling system, be sure to discuss compatibility and efficiency with your licensed or professional HVAC dealer.

      The Energy-Savings Puzzle Pieces

       

      Even if your HVAC components are compatible, a high SEER air conditioner or heat pump is only one piece of the energy-efficiency puzzle. Standards dictate that higher SEER heat pumps and air conditioning units are more energy-efficient than lower SEER units. Yet, when your cooling system is not being maintained as recommended or simple home energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like.

      To keep your central cooling system at peak performance, a licensed professional HVAC dealer should perform routine maintenance services. During an inspection, your dealer may identify any airflow problems, system leaks, coil issues or potential concerns that could impact your system from operating at peak performance.  Typical professional maintenance services that may keep your cooling system at peak performance may include the following actions:

      • Check for adequate air flow
      • Look over outdoor condenser coil  and indoor evaporator coils
      • Check outside and inside refrigerant lines and inspect for leaks
      • Clear indoor drain lines and pans
      • Check external and internal electrical connections
      • Check operation of indoor blower components
      • Lubricate internal and external motors, bearings and other moving parts
      • Inspect Exterior Fan

       

      Homeowners should also keep in mind additional conditions that may impact energy costs. These factors can influence the ability of your cooling system to perform at its designed efficiency level. Some conditions include, but are not limited to:

      • Improper system installation
      • Thermostat or control system location or settings
      • Undersized or leaking ductwork
      • Inadequate level of insulation and non-insulated construction methods
      • Leaking or drafty windows and doors
      • Dirty or improperly installed air filters

      Forward Thinking

       

      In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy changed from a national minimum SEER standard to regional standards. Currently, the minimum SEER values for air conditioners depends on location and ranges from 13 or 14 SEER. Heat pumps have a minimum SEER of 14 SEER.

      Cooling system manufacturers continue to pursue individual technologies that collectively may improve overall HVAC system efficiency. Advancements, including refrigerant, variable-speed drives, advanced controls, and additional mechanics that simplify installation, will continue to impact the energy costs associated with cool, indoor comfort. To discover current HVAC technologies available that may improve the energy efficiency of your home, discuss the various options and potential cost saving with your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

       

      cta-outline_stay-cool

       

      1 Environment Protections Agency. Vehicle and Field Emissions Testing. n.d. https://www.epa.gov/vehicle-and-fuel-emissions-testing. 18 April 2017.

      2 Department of Energy. Appliance and Equipment Standards Rulemakings and Notices. n.d. https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/standards.aspx?productid=48&action=viewlive. 18 April 2017.

      3,4 AHRI. HVACR Replacement Guidance. 15 January 2013. http://www.ahrinet.org/Contractors-Specifiers/HVACR-Replacement-Guidance.aspx. 12 April 2017.

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    • What’s the Difference between a Heat Pump and Gas Furnace?

      Heat Pump and Gas Furnace Differences

      If you live where temperatures fall below 70°F, you most likely need some form of home heating system to stay comfortable in your home. Air-source heat pumps and gas furnaces are the common types of central residential heating systems. When installed and functioning properly, they can keep the indoors warm with the outdoor temperature start to fall. But do you use a heat pump or a gas furnace, and what’s the difference?

      Heat Pump and Gas Furnace Comparison

      Efficiency and Performance Ratings


      *SEER:
        The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio measures a heat pump’s annual energy consumption and cooling efficiency in typical day-to-day use. Currently, the minimum SEER rating for central air conditioners and heat pumps is 14 in the South and Southwest regions of the U.S. and 13 in the North.


      *HSPF:
       The Heating Season Performance Factor measures the efficiency of air source heat pumps. The higher the HSPF, the more efficient the heating performance of the heat pumps. New units in the United States have HSPF ratings from 7.0 to 9.4.


      *AFUE:
       Measures the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency for gas furnaces.  This measurement describes how well fuel is consumed to produce heat by a gas furnace. As the AFUE rate increases, the efficiency of your gas furnace also increases. New furnaces manufactured in the United States are required to have at least an 80% AFUE.

       

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    • How Does a Central Air Conditioner Work?

      How AC works

      The best air conditioner is the one you don’t have to think about.  It comes on the moment the indoor temperature set on the thermostat requires cooling performance, and then runs quietly and efficiently when needed.  But when it’s time to perform routine maintenance, make repairs or replace your system, it’s helpful to understand how an air conditioning system works.


      Parts of a Central AC System


      To get a better sense of how your air is cooled, it helps to know a little bit about the parts that make up the air conditioning system. A typical central air conditioning system is a two-part or split system that includes:

      • The outdoor unit contains the condenser coil, compressor, electrical components and a fan.
      • The evaporator coil, which is usually installed on top of the gas furnace inside the home.
      • A series of pipes, or refrigeration lines, connecting the inside and outside equipment.
      • Refrigerant, the substance in the refrigeration lines that circulates through the indoor and outdoor unit.
      • Ducts that serve as air tunnels to the various spaces inside your home.
      • A thermostat or control system to set your desired temperature.


      The Refrigeration Cycle


      1. Using electricity as its power source, the refrigerant flows through a closed system of refrigeration lines between the indoor unit and the outside unit.
      2. Warm air from the inside of your house is pulled into duct work by a motorized fan.
      3. The refrigerant is pumped from the exterior compressor coil to the interior evaporator coil, where it absorbs the heat from the air.
      4. This cooled air is then pushed through connecting ducts to vents throughout the home, lowering the interior temperature.
      5. The refrigeration cycle continues again, providing a consistent method to keep you cool.


      Keeping Air Clean


      It is estimated that the air you breathe inside your home is more polluted than the air outside your home.1 A cooling system offers just the basics with regard to enhanced indoor air quality for you and your family. Indoor air filtration can help maintain the efficient operation of your cooling system by removing a wide range of airborne dust and reducing airborne particulates that can build up on the surface of the cooling coil.

      It is important to change your filters regularly. As filters become loaded with particulates, your system has to work harder, increasing your cooling bills. 

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      1 Guide to Indoor Air Cleaners in the Home. (2014, July). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-07/documents/aircleaners.pdf

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