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  • HVAC Installation Experience Matters

    HVAC Installation Experience Matters

    How Important is Installation?

     

    Your TV remote control won’t work if the batteries are not aligned correctly, and your fence may fall over if the posts aren’t deep enough. Proper installation matters!

     

    There are 1000’s of possible examples! If something isn’t installed correctly, it won’t work as it should. This is especially true of heating, ventilation, and air condition (HVAC) equipment. HVAC installation is much more complicated than installing batteries or digging a hole.  So, it’s important to make sure your local HVAC technician is experienced, qualified, and backs their work.

     

    Energy-Efficient HVAC


    If you install a high-efficiency system, the installation can help deliver the efficiency rating you expect. A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study says that if your high-efficiency equipment is installed improperly, it may not be running as efficient as you think!1  “Without proper installation, air conditioning and heating equipment will perform significantly below rated energy-efficiency levels,” says Piotr Domanski, who leads NIST research on the performance of HVAC and refrigeration equipment.  “Our measurements indicate that improper installation could increase household energy use for space heating and cooling on the order of 30 percent over what it should be."2  Homeowners must be sure they hire trained, qualified, and installation-experienced HVAC technicians.  But this isn’t always as easy as it sounds!

    Dealers, Technicians and Contractors, Oh My!


    For most homeowners, HVAC installation is not a “DIY” project. Creating comfortable indoor temperatures is a balancing act between equipment, air flow, and mechanics. Therefore, finding a qualified HVAC installer is crucial to a quality installation. But with so many companies, technicians, and contractors to choose from, finding the right person for the job can be difficult. How can you check high-efficiency equipment expertise of an HVAC technician?

    Spending time choosing the right dealer can pay off in the end. Homeowners should consider researching their dealer’s:

    • Qualifications
    • Technical certifications and training
    • Industry associations
    • Availability - What days/times are they available?
    • Labor limited warranty options

    You may find the most qualified technician in your area, but what happens if they don’t work weekends.  This can cause problems if a repair or maintenance is needed after installation!  If you can’t get in touch with your technician, you may be forced to wait for repairs. Hiring the wrong technician for installation can cost you time or more fees.

    Although residential HVAC licensing requirements vary by state, licensing can provide proof of professional training.  However, a license may not reflect actual installation expertise. If you have been or know a new teenage driver, you may understand the value of experience!

    You may want to consider getting HVAC technician recommendations from family, friends, and neighbors.  Be sure these recommendations are for the same type of HVAC work that you need to be completed.  “How to Select a Heating and Cooling Contractor” highlights some suggested evaluation tactics.

    There is a better chance that a dealer understands the high-efficiency installation process, manufacturer’s products, proven best-practices and possible site-specific challenges if they have both training and real-world experience.

    HVAC Certifications


    Bad reviews, excessive return trips, and unhappy customers are not good HVAC business practices! Dealers’ technicians must continually learn about the latest technology and high-efficiency products. Technicians can earn independent and manufacturer-based certifications as a way to increase their HVAC knowledge and confirm their understanding.  Homeowners may have a greater peace of mind during installation if their technician has been approved or recognized in the process.
    Some HVAC industry certifications include:

    • NATE: The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for HVAC technicians. The organization develops and tests real world industry knowledge. Candidates can earn installation and service certifications in multiple specialty areas.3
    • HVAC Excellence Certification:  The mission of the HVAC Excellence certification program is to improve skills by testing the technical education process. The Esco Group provides many types of certifications for technicians at all levels in their career, from Employment Ready Certifications to Professional Technician and Master Specialist Certifications.
    • EPA Certification:  All technicians who maintain, service, repair or dispose of appliances that contain regulated refrigerants, including air condition coolants such as R-22 or R-410A, must be certified in proper refrigerant handling techniques. HVAC technicians cannot buy refrigerants without the appropriate EPA Certification.

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    1, 2 Domanski, P. A., Henderson, H. I., & Payne, W. V. (October 2014). Sensitivity Analysis of Installation Faults on Heat Pump Performance. Retrieved from http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1848.pdf
    3 NATE. (n.d.). Retrieved from North American Technician Excellence: http://www.natex.org/site/1/Home
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  • Why Buy a Variable-Speed Gas Furnace?

    Why Buy a Variable Speed Heater

    How often have you reached for a blanket or sweater only to take it off again when the gas furnace turns back on?  Are you looking for steady, warm and cozy indoor air that helps to eliminate the wavering chill in your home during the coldest months of the year?  The answer may be more straightforward than you think! Simply, ask your local HVAC dealer to install a high-efficiency, variable-speed, modulating gas furnace.

     

    Heating with Variable Speeds

     

    When your thermostat or HVAC control system calls for heat, the gas valve on your gas furnace opens, and the burners ignite. This ‘combustion of fuel’ is used to heat the air pulled in from inside your home. However, to get that heated air distributed to rooms in your house, it needs a little push.  This is where the variable speed blower motor comes in. It delivers…literally!

    The ‘variable speed’ is a specific type of blower motor located in the gas furnace that moves the air into your ductwork, through room vents, and into your indoor spaces.  The variable speed blower motor operates at ‘various’ speeds to precisely control the amount of airflow directed throughout your home. It can start up slow and continue operating at a low speed when the heating demand is low, or kick into high gear on the coldest days of the year to provide cozy indoor warmth. A gas furnace with a variable speed blower motor allows for a more constant stream of heated air, providing enhanced levels of comfort in your home.  

    Some modulating, variable speed gas furnaces are designed to maintain the indoor temperature to within a degree of your thermostat’s set point. That’s because the variable speed gas furnace does not wait for room temperature to dip to a dramatically low level before cycling back on. As a result, you may feel a more consistent room temperature with a modulating, variable speed gas furnace. Of course, your results may vary depending on the energy-efficiency of your home, insulation variables,  and the design of your central heating system. 

    The variable speed gas furnace may operate for extended periods of time when compared to a single-speed model, but at lower speeds. This 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 essential to change out your filters according to your HVAC dealer or manufacturer’s recommendation.

     

    Energy-Efficiency Heating

     

    If you are concerned about energy-efficiency heating, you may want to consider a gas furnace equipped with variable speed technology. Unlike single-speed gas furnaces that operate at a full 100%  ON or OFF, a variable-speed gas furnace is designed to precisely adjust output to achieve maximum efficiency and comfort. If your indoor spaces don’t need a 100% of high heat every day of the heating season, the system may save energy use by starting up and/or operating at the lowest possible speed to keep a steady, comfortable temperature in your home. This can often eliminate that “cold start” feeling associated with a single-speed heating system. 

    But can low, slow and steady heat delivery actually save energy? 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 than a single-stage motor uses to move the same amount of air.1 When your home heating system uses less energy, that may equate to tangible savings on your monthly utility bill.

    When paired with a modulating valve feature that regulates the amount of fuel burned, your gas furnace is designed to produce just the right amount of heat to match demand. The modulating function can be compared to the gas burner on a stove. If you need to keep your deliciously prepared dinner warm, you wouldn’t need to keep the flame on HIGH. The same goes for indoor heating. Once a room is up to temperature, the modulating gas valve and variable speed option may reduce output to keep your indoor spaces at the set temperature.  Since the fan and burner may not need to run at full capacity, the energy-spikes of on/off cycling may be eliminated. In short, a modulating or multi-speed gas furnace is designed to operate at the lowest speed to achieve the indoor temperature that you prefer in your home.

    So if you cozy up to reduce energy-usage and increased comfort when the outdoor temperatures are falling, it may be time to invest in a variable speed, modulating gas furnace.

     

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    1 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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  • Gas Furnace Energy-Efficiency Ratings

    Gas Furnace energy efficiency ratings
     
    Replacing your current gas furnace may not be on the top of your ‘To Do’ list, but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The good news is that this silver lining may come in the form of increased energy efficiency and the potential of a decreased utility bill.
     
    And, doesn’t that warm your heart…
     

    The Energy-Efficiency Number

     
    The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) is used to rate furnace efficiencies. This measurement describes how well the fuel is consumed to produce heat by a furnace. As the AFUE percentage number increases so does the designed efficiency of your gas furnace.
     
    Here is a simple explanation of AFUE:
     
    • 80% AFUE - 80% of the energy in the fossil fuel is being converted to heat, and 20% is lost through exhaust.1
    • 90+% AFUE – 90+% of the energy in the fossil fuel is being converted to heat, and up to 10% is lost through exhaust.2
     
    According to the American Gas Association, the demand for natural gas has risen, but the gas usage per household has decreased. This is in part due to the development of improved energy-efficient natural gas appliances and heating equipment.3
     

    The Silver Lining of Efficiency

     
    If your current furnace is less than 80% AFUE, installing a new gas furnace may be a significant energy-efficiency upgrade. The Department of Energy says that the higher the energy-efficiency rating of your home, the more likely you are to save money on energy bills.4 This certainly applies to your heating equipment — which, depending on where you live, could be a big part of your utility bill.
     
    Although both an 80% and a 90+% gas furnace will efficiently heat your home when compared to a less efficiency model, there are initial and long-term operational cost differences that you should consider when purchasing a new heating system. Your licensed professional HVAC dealer can inform you of which regional AFUE standard applies to your home and the availability of high-efficiency models.
     

    AFUE and Operational Costs

     
    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners will likely save money on fuel bills over the life of a higher AFUE product when compared to a lower AFUE or less efficient gas furnace that operates under the same circumstances.5
     
    Here is an example of how the AFUE may impact operating costs. If you spent $1 on fuel, approximately .80¢ of every energy dollar warms your home with an 80% AFUE gas furnace.  The same concept applies to a 90+% AFUE gas furnace.
     
    For example, a high-efficiency 96% AFUE gas furnace may provide up to .96¢ worth of heat used to warm up your home’s indoor spaces for every dollar of fuel. Of course, these are estimated examples because each home’s heating cost variables are unique to its design. However, the more your gas furnace can capture the heat from the condensed exhaust gases, the more heat you will get for your money.
     
    However, before installing a high-efficient furnace to decrease your heating costs, you should make every effort to improve your home’s overall energy-efficiency. If your home has gaping holes in your ductwork or insufficient insulation, merely installing a new high-efficiency furnace may not produce the long-term, operational savings you were expecting. It is important to have a licensed professional HVAC dealer inspect the entire system to identify any lingering energy vampires in your heating system.
     
    If long-term operational costs are an important factor in your gas furnace purchase decision, ask your licensed professional HVAC dealer for an operational cost comparison between a standard-efficiency and high-efficiency gas furnace model. 
     

    AFUE and Replacement Costs

     
    According to the Natural Gas Efficiency Energy Solutions Center, “For any house that is at least modestly insulated, replacing a 20-year-old furnace is likely to be the largest single energy management measure that can be taken to reduce heating costs.”6  However, the cost to replace a 20-year old furnace with either 80% and 90+% gas furnaces can vary between the two efficiencies.
     
    Here’s why:
     
    • High-efficiency models (90+% AFUE or higher) utilize a second heat exchanger to heat the air from condensed exhaust gases. This allows the gas furnace to reach the higher efficiency levels. To capture these exhaust gases, the venting for your new 90+% AFUE gas furnace might require a reconfiguration. The upfront cost of a high-efficiency furnace may be more expensive than a less efficient model, but when properly installed, operation costs are often lower. 
    • 80% AFUE gas furnaces vent exhaust gases out of the home, typically through the roof.  Your home’s current heating system may already be designed to accommodate this type of installation which may attribute a lower installation when compared to a high-efficiency model.

     

    Your dealer can discuss the overall replacement cost for each type of gas furnace and any modifications required. It is important to remember that a higher-efficiency model may cost more initially, but the increase in operational energy-efficiency may save you money month-over-month, year-over-year.

     

    How to Choose?

     

    So how do you choose? You should start by evaluating your budget, financing options, and current living situation.

     

    If your current budget cannot cover the initial cost of a high-efficiency furnace, financing may offer you the opportunity to pay for your system over time while reaping the monthly energy cost savings. It could be a win-win situation! The difference in monthly utility bill savings from a high-efficiency gas furnace may be enough to pay for the initial installation cost variation.

     

    Homeowners should also evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership to determine how long it would take to recuperate initial costs of a higher AFUE model. The following questions may help you determine your gas furnace replacement budget:

     

    • Are you currently in your “forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle?
    • Do you plan to sell your home in the near future?
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?
     
    Your state and/or utility company may offer tax credits and other incentives to homeowners who install high-efficiency furnaces. Be sure to discuss all of these variables with your licensed, professional gas furnace dealer. Their experience and expertise are valuable when identifying regional standards and determining whether a high-efficiency gas furnace is right for you and your family. 
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    1,2,4,5 Furnace and Boilers. n.d. http://energy.gov/energysaver/furnaces-and-boilers.
    3 American Gas Association. Furnace Standard Analysis: Discussion Document. Washington, DC: AGA, 2014. https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/08/f18/AGA%20Impact%20Analysis-c_0.pdf.
    6 Natural Gas Efficiency Energy Solutions Center. Natural Gas Furnaces. December 2008. http://naturalgasefficiency.org/for-residential-customers/heat-gas_furnace/. 22 September 2017.
     
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  • How to Trust your HVAC Technician?

    How to build trust with HVAC technician

    Heating, ventilation and cooling can be a complex trade. HVAC technicians may work in sub-freezing or scorching temperatures, maneuvering through small or awkward spaces to diagnose increasingly complicated systems. It’s a tough service job that requires experience, training, certifications or licenses and people skills. So, why is it that we typically trust doctors, airline pilots and maybe even our barber, but yet, we find it difficult to trust heating and cooling technicians?

    Conscientious HVAC Technicians Exist 


    Most heating and cooling technicians are local, hardworking folks who, honestly, want to find the most affordable solutions to your home’s heating and cooling problems. Yet, all HVAC technicians are not created equal! Even the most seasoned ones will tell you this. As with any profession, there are variations in ethics, trade experience, training, and business practices. In order to trust your HVAC technician, you need to do your homework, learn to identify the traits most important to you, and understand the trademarks of conscientious technicians.

    A good HVAC technician will be pleasant, professional, knowledgeable, courteous, patient and willing to answer your questions. Remember, they are in a “service” industry — their job is to serve you to the best of their ability. To ensure your technician is a true service professional, you should dig deeper to trust that the job gets done right, the first time!

    The HVAC Job Interview


    The repair or purchase of an indoor comfort system is not one to be taken lightly. Heating and cooling equipment should be considered an investment in your home and in your family’s comfort. After all, you are making a big decision that should last 10 years or longer. The Comfort Institute, an international indoor comfort research, training and consumer protection organization, suggests that homeowners get as much information on their prospective HVAC dealers as possible. The organization recommends that homeowners ask HVAC dealers questions such as:1

    • How many years has your HVAC company been in business?
    • Are you registered or licensed by the state/city/county to do the work?
    • Are your technicians certified to handle refrigerants?
    • Which professional industry associations are you affiliated with?
    • Do you have a permanent place of business, and what is the street address?
    • Do you carry both general liability and workers compensation insurance?
    • Can you provide customer references in my neighborhood?
    • Do your service technicians wear uniforms & ID badges?
    • How often do your technicians receive training?
    • Do you offer 24-hour emergency service?
    • What preventative maintenance programs are offered and what is included?
    • Do you provide a limited warranty your work?

    A conscientious HVAC dealer should be open to answers your questions, especially if they are interested in building a long-term relationship.

    Be Knowledgeable


    The more knowledgeable you are about your home’s heating and cooling systems, the more likely you will feel comfortable with a technician’s recommendation. While it’s not expected that you become an expert (that’s why we hire professionals), understanding basic HVAC concepts may help you weed out the “less than professional” technicians. 

    Example — If your technician informs you that refrigerant needs to be replenished but doesn’t discuss the cause or location of the leak along with its general size, this may raise a red flag. Once you understand more about the refrigerant in your system, you know that an air conditioner or heat pump is not designed to consume refrigerant. If an HVAC technician arrives to diagnose your equipment to make repairs, they should walk you through the diagnosis step-by-step, explain remedies, and be open to questions.  

    • Be sure to ask about the root cause of the problem and how the technician plans to repair it.
    • If you expected a minor repair or service but received a proposal for numerous costly issues, get a second, independent opinion from a different HVAC dealer.
    • If the technician is using confusing language and technical jargon you don’t understand, ask for further explanation.
    • If the technician mentions an issue that doesn’t align with basic HVAC knowledge, as questions.

    Dollars and Sense


    Like most homeowners, you probably don’t have an unlimited budget to spend on a whole house heating and cooling system. However, if an advertised price or estimate is far less than competitor’s quotes or sounds too good to be true, it probably is! 

    Using an amateur, inexperienced or dishonest contractor can cost you money long after that initial visit. Frequent repairs, lackluster energy efficiency, excessive utility bills and compromised indoor comfort may be just a few of the long term consequences associated with hiring the wrong technician. So what should you pay attention to? 

    • A conscientious HVAC dealer WON’T:
    • Rush you into making a purchase decision.
    • Give you a high-pressure sale.
    • Take the necessary time to diagnose the problem properly.
    • Give quote without performing diagnostics.
    • Require you to pay cash without a receipt. (In order to get limited warranty repairs, you may need to show proof of purchase.)

    A conscientious HVAC dealer WILL:


    • Ask YOU questions about your indoor comfort concerns!
    • Advise you of options and explain the reasons for the recommendations.
    • Perform testing and calculations to determine the proper size equipment for your home.
    • Take the time to diagnosis and discuss any pre-existing conditions, such as duct work, insulation
    • problems, mismatched equipment, or system size issues that are impacting indoor comfort.
    • Install the new equipment according to industry and manufacturer guidelines.
    • Test system after work is finished to make sure the system is operating correctly.
    • Seek out advanced training to stay current on the latest HVAC technology.
    • Be committed to 100% customer satisfaction.

    You may find yourself trusting your HVAC technician if they are more interested in providing superior services than selling. That’s probably why you trust your barber. A conscientious HVAC professional builds their business on long-term relationships and referrals from happy clients, rather than making the quick buck. If you want to get the best value for your money, take the time necessary to protect your investment — your heating and cooling system will thank you!

    Goodman Find a HVAC Dealer

    Comfort Institute. How to Find a Good Heating and Cooling Contractor. n.d. http://comfortinstitute.org/home-owners/identify-good-heading-cooling-contractor/. 15 August 2017.

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  • Gas Furnace Features: A Comparison Guide

    Gas Furnace Features

     

    If you are like most homeowners, you don’t pay attention to your gas furnace until you start feeling cold in your home. However, you may want to get familiar with the latest gas furnace features if you find that you need to replace your central heating system. The good news is that today’s energy-efficient furnaces aren’t the same as your parent’s furnace!

     

    Bigger Isn’t Better

     

    Size: The size of your gas furnace (which is measured in BTUs or ‘British Thermal Units’), is not a feature. Bigger is not always better, and it is important to clarify this! A gas furnace that is too large or too small may not provide the consistent warmth you expect from your heating system. A gas furnace should be sized “just right” for your specific home. Your old gas furnace may look larger than the new energy-efficient model that you are going to purchase.  Many of today’s gas furnaces are not only more energy-efficient than in years’ past, but they can also reach higher efficiencies in a much smaller sized unit. 

     

    Your installation technician should confirm the size or BTUs required by performing a Manual J load calculation.  This calculation helps determine the heating needs of your entire home by assessing square footage, number and location of windows, insulation values, and more. When it comes to gas furnaces, the only size that matters is the right size that provides indoor comfort on those cold winter nights!

     

    Setting the Stage for Comfort

     

    Stage:  A gas furnace’s stage may be referred to as single-stage, two-stage, or multi-stage (modulating). The stage is all about the gas valve and the burner. The different stages work similar to how the heat is adjusted on your gas grill, gas oven or gas stovetop. 

    • Single-Stage Gas Furnace:  When the gas burner is ignited, the fuel enters at one constant flow. It is either ON or OFF and doesn’t offer the option of adjusting the gas flow.
    • Two-Stage Gas Furnace:  A two-stage gas furnace has a high and low setting on the gas burner. This feature allows for two levels of operation — full gas flow for when the demand for more heat is needed or a lower flow for milder days. A two-stage gas furnace may increase efficiency and a supply a more consistent indoor temperature when compared to a single stage unit. Typically a two-stage gas furnace is designed to operate at the low speed as much as possible.
    • Multi-stage or Modulating Gas Furnace: The burner electronically adjusts to provide the right amount of heat required to maintain the temperature on your thermostat or control system. This feature allows for precise heating control and energy-efficiency when compared to a single stage unit. Similar to a two-stage system, this type of gas furnace is designed to operate on the lowest speed to provide energy-efficient heating.

     

    Heated Air in Motion

     

    Gas Furnace Blower Motor: Just like the name suggests, the blower motor controls the amount of heated air pushed through the air ducts to the spaces of your home.  Below are three blower motor options, each with an increasing level of comfort control.

    • Single-Stage:  A single-stage or single-speed option has two positions, ON or OFF. When on, the blower is designed to push a specific volume of air through the ductwork. When your thermostat or control system reaches the desired set temperature, the single-speed blower turns off. 
    • Multi-Speed: The multi-speed blower is similar to the temperature control fan installed in your car. This type of blower offers a series of set operating speeds, from low to high. This alleviates the “cold air blow’ often associated with single-speed furnaces.
    • Variable-Speed: A variable speed blower motor operates at various speeds to precisely control the amount of airflow throughout your home. A variable-speed motor running continuously at a half speed may use up to 75% less power than a single-stage motor to move the same amount of air.1

     

    Energy-Efficiency

     

    Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE): The AFUE rates how effective your gas furnace is at converting gas to heat used to warm your home. This efficiency rating may range between 80% and 98% AFUE.  The higher the percentage number, the higher the certified energy-efficiency level. 

    80% AFUE (non-condensing gas furnace)

    • Minimum U.S. national efficiency rating.
    • Equipment may cost less for initial installation but may have a higher operational cost than higher AFUE furnaces.
    • Vents exhaust gases out of the home through chimney liner or metal flue pipe, typically through the roof.

    90%-98% AFUE (condensing gas furnace)

    • Utilizes a second heat exchanger to heat the air from condensed exhaust gases which helps increase the energy efficiency rating.
    • May have higher upfront equipment and installation costs than a lower AFUE model.
    • Certain high-efficiency furnaces may qualify for tax credits. (Ask your local professional HVAC dealer about tax credits that may apply to your location)
    • Often come with additional energy-efficient features designed to improve your overall indoor comfort.
    • During installation, a 90+% AFUE may require retrofitted venting if your system is upgrading from a less efficient gas furnace.

     

    Some Like it Hot

     

    The heat exchanger is an essential component of a gas furnace’s performance.  Combustion from burning fossil fuels creates extreme heat inside the heat exchanger.  Your indoor air is circulated over the heat exchanger and warmed. This warm air is then re-circulated back to your conditioned indoor living areas.

     

    Heat exchanger features may include: 

    • One-piece, tubular construction: Joints are eliminated, reducing weak areas. 
    • Wrinkle bend technology: This maintains the wall thickness of a curved section is of a heat exchanger. Additionally, the wrinkle-bend technology provides a “turbulation” effect for excellent heat transfer properties.
    • Sloped design: The sloped angle of the secondary heat exchanger allows for optimal condensate drainage which helps improve the performance of the heat exchanger.
    • Stainless steel or aluminized steel: Heat exchanger materials with unique thermal and corrosion properties are selected to provide reliable warmth in your home for many years. A gas furnace’s heat exchanger is designed specifically to optimize performance. If you have questions about the specifics of heat exchangers, ask you licensed professional HVAC dealer.

     

    Communication

     

    Select gas furnaces have made significant technological advancements over the past few years. Your new gas furnace is rather smart! Some innovative features may include:

    • A diagnostic control board that may be capable of communicating system performance. This feature may simplify installation, maintenance, and repair of your gas furnace.
    • Internet connectivity that allows for remote control programming and system management from any location.
    • Automated maintenance reminders on the thermostat control system. These may include filter changes, scheduled maintenance reminders, and other indoor air quality-related products.

     

    Peace-of-Mind

     

    A gas furnace is an investment in your home and your family’s comfort. It helps to know that your equipment is backed by a manufacturer’s limited warranty. An important feature is the peace-of-mind that comes with a limited warranty. Ask your licensed professional HVAC dealer about the limited warranty on the furnace, as well as about purchasing an extended service contract on the furnace.    

    For specific limited warranty information related to your new gas furnace, be sure to read your gas furnace model’s limited warranty certificate!

    The Importance of Installation

     

    The performance and reliability of a new gas furnace may be directly linked to a professional installation.  Your local HVAC dealer should have a reputation for quality, value, and customer service. An improperly installed gas furnace can lead to performance issues that may shorten the life of your system and cost you in the long run. If your high-efficiency equipment isn't installed properly, it may not be running as efficiently as you think!2 

    To ensure you hire a qualified professional that best fits the job, be sure to: 

    • Check the manufacturer’s independent dealer locator
    • Search the internet
    • Get referrals
    • Read reviews

    Whether your home’s heating system is in need of routine maintenance, emergency repairs or a total replacement, selecting a qualified HVAC contractor is essential.

     

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    1 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. <https://energy.gov/eere/amo/variable-speed-low-cost-motor-residential-hvac-systems>.
    2 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. <https://energy.gov/eere/amo/variable-speed-low-cost-motor-residential-hvac-systems>.

     

     
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  • Stop Feeling Guilty about Indoor Comfort

    Stop_Feeling Guilty_Over_Indoor_Comfort
     
    Every so often, we indulge… at restaurants, on vacations, and even on shoes! When it comes to maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature, how often do you sacrifice comfort in your home? Why do we often feel guilty about cooling down or heating up our house when the outdoor temperatures become uncomfortable? Is that little voice in your head telling you that you may be spending too much to heat or cool your home? Let’s dig in a little about your feelings of guilt….
     

    The Monthly Energy Bill

     
    Did you know that your utility costs may have risen nearly 21% in 10 years?1 The rate you pay for utilities is one of the obvious factors that contribute to your total monthly energy bill. This is especially true if you find that extreme temperatures are making your heating or cooling system work overtime to maintain a consistent level of indoor comfort. When was the last time you looked at the rate you pay for gas or electricity? The rate you pay for gas or electricity combined with the amount you consume each month is the one-two punch that can cause a higher than necessary utility bill each month.
     
    Depending on where you live, you may have options when choosing your energy supplier. Some areas allow eligible consumers to pick and choose which supplier or provider and the plan that seems best for them. According to the American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers, “Today’s energy choice programs allow eligible customers to shop around and choose an electric/natural gas supplier that best suits their needs. That supplier may be the utility or one of the many suppliers licensed to market in the consumer’s area.”2
     

    Ease the Guilt with Energy-Efficiency

     
    Even with the best possible rate plan, you may still be paying too much for your monthly bill if the energy you are buying is wasted. The efficient use of energy, or more commonly known as energy-efficiency, may help ease your guilt and monthly spending at the same time! Heating and cooling equipment can use large amounts of energy so you should be aware that an older unit may be costing you in energy efficiency and more money on monthly bills.
     

    The Efficiency of your Home

     
    The variety of advanced technology and energy-efficiency products that are available for today’s home builder has resulted in newly constructed homes becoming more air-tight than in previous years. However, nearly every home may have one or more doorways, window seams, air ducts or holes in the wall with the potential to leak heated or conditioned air.
     
    The Department of Energy says that the average home may have air leaks that can add up that of a two-foot hole!3 That’s like leaving a window open 24-hours a day. Weather stripping and caulking may help seal those small areas where conditioned or heated air can potentially escape. So what else can a homeowner do? It may be time to have your home insulation inspected!
     
    When there isn’t enough insulation in the walls, crawl spaces, attic or basement, air can leak into and out of your home. Properly insulating your home may reduce heating and cooling costs, and improve your indoor comfort.
     
    Insulation is often measured in the R-value: the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating properties.4 Ideally, your insulation should provide complete and uniform coverage. If you notice drafts, even after you’ve closed all of the doors and windows, it may be a good time have your home evaluated by your licensed HVAC professional.
     

    HVAC Equipment Efficiency

     
    The overall energy efficiency of your home’s structure is only one piece of the puzzle to reducing your energy bill and indoor comfort guilt. If your home is properly sealed and insulated, outdoor temperatures may still test the performance of your home’s heating or cooling equipment. The more efficient the performance of your equipment, the less energy it will use to operate. That may save you money and some of the guilt of setting your thermostat or control system to your perfect indoor temperature.
     

    HVAC System Performance

     
    Luckily, improvements in heating and cooling technology have resulted in higher energy efficiency ratings for new indoor comfort systems. For example, switching to a more energy-efficient gas furnace that can reach upwards of 98% AFUE means nearly all of the energy from the fuel is effectively used to heat the home. When more of the purchased energy is used for indoor comfort, you are more apt to feel as if you are getting the most for your money.
     
    The University of Kentucky Biosystems Engineering’s Builders Guide says that even a poorly functioning high-efficiency system may cost more to operate than a well-designed, moderately efficient unit.5 Keeping your system at peak performance and working as intended can be financially beneficial!
     
    It’s important to have your HVAC equipment routinely serviced by a professional HVAC technician. Routine maintenance may maintain the efficiency of the system, extend the life of your HVAC equipment, and possibly prevent minor issues from turning into expensive significant problems over time.
     

    Set the Indoor Comfort you Deserve

     
    If you are operating your HVAC system at your ideal comfort setting when you aren’t home to enjoy it, you may be wasting money. Based on the 2015 Energy Information Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption survey, only one in eight U.S. households had a central air-conditioning unit that was controlled by a programmed thermostat.6 But, even for those households with a programmable thermostat, more than two-thirds of the homes control temperatures without actually programming the thermostat.6
     
    To gain more control of over-the-top indoor comfort costs, one of the simplest changes is to have your licensed, professional HVAC dealer install and program a programmable thermostat or control system. With the latest in thermostats and control systems, you get indoor comfort when you want it and save money when you aren’t in your home. And that’s nothing to feel guilty about!
     
    cta-outline_affordable
     
     
    1 U.S. EIA. Monthly Energy Review, Average Retail Prices of Electricity. May 2017. https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec9_11.pdf.
    2 American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers. "What is Energy Choice?" 2018. ACCES. http://competitiveenergy.org/what-is-choice/. 4 January 2018.
    3 "A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling." August 2009. Energy Star. https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/HeatingCoolingGuide%20FINAL_9-4-09.pdf.
    4 Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association. What R-value means. n.d. http://www.cellulose.org/HomeOwners/WhatR-valueMean.php. 17 January 2018.
    5 The University of Kentucky. "Builders' Guide." Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (n.d.): 115.
    6 U.S. Energy Information Association. "One in eight U.S. homes uses a programmed thermostat with a central air conditioning unit." 19 July 2017. EIA. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=32112. 27 December 2017.
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  • Should I Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?

    repair or replace your AC?

    Unless you are exercising – you do not expect to sweat inside your home. So when your air conditioning system breaks down, you want it fixed yesterday!  It’s time to call your AC contractor to get it fixed.


    But a time may come when you need to decide whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, and the decision may not be an easy one. Unless your air conditioner is damaged beyond repair, there are no hard rules in determining whether to replace or repair your system. However, below are a few concepts that may help guide your decision:


    This Old AC


    Even with proper maintenance and the dedicated efforts of a highly-skilled HVAC contractor, an aging air conditioner may start to show its age. If your unit is nearing its life expectancy, you may consider a replacement as an alternative to costly repairs.


    According to the Department of Energy, many older residential air conditioning systems in the U.S. have SEER ratings of 10 or less.1 Currently, the required minimum SEER rating of a residential air conditioning system differs by region, but ranges from 13 SEER to 14 SEER.


    SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit in typical day-to-day use.


    Under similar working conditions, standards dictate that higher SEER air conditioning units are more energy-efficient than lower SEER units. “Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning up to 50%.”2 Based on this logic, if your aging unit is a low SEER model that requires significant repairs, it may be beneficial for a homeowner to replace it with a more energy-efficient one.


    However, age isn’t everything when considering repairing or replacing your air condition unit.



    Repair Cost vs. Replacement Cost


    Air conditioning repairs come in all shapes, sizes and costs! Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician can provide you with an estimate of repair cost, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit.


    If a repair is necessary, homeowners should decide their repair cost cutoff point. How expensive does an air conditioner repair need to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system? The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency air condition system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  However, if your HVAC contractor provides repair estimates that come close to your predetermined budget threshold, it may be best to start researching new air conditioner models.


    On the contrary, if the air conditioner problem is an easy, relatively inexpensive fix that restores peak efficiency, a repair may be the best approach.


    Comfort and New Technology


    When deciding between an air conditioning repair or replacement, homeowners should consider if their cooling needs are being addressed by their current unit. You may ask yourself:


    1. Is my air conditioner unit loud?
    2. Do I notice inconsistent temperatures and fluctuations in my home?
    3. Is the AC cooling my house as I expect it should?
    4. Why are my energy bills higher than my neighbor’s house with similar square footage?

     

    But before you replace your current system because of cooling issues, have your HVAC contractor check for large air leaks, insufficient ducting and/or breaks in the duct seals.  There are times when the real source of a cooling problem is not a dying HVAC unit, but ineffective components of the system.3


    Technology is changing the way we live and AC manufacturers are taking note by applying advanced mechanics to their products to increase comfort. Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication may provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current model.

     

    However, if you want your air conditioner to simply work the way it’s intended to, air conditioner repairs and annual maintenance may help you get the most miles out of your current unit.


    Save Green


    Despite SEER rating, if your air condition system is not running at peak performance, you may be spending more money on utility bills than necessary. According to the University of Kentucky Biosystems Engineering’s Builders Guide, a poorly functioning high-efficiency system may cost more to operate than a well-designed, moderate efficiency unit.  Keeping your system at peak performance and running as intended can be financially beneficial!


    However, if your HVAC technician reveals that an aging, lower SEER air condition unit may be the primary culprit of your high utility bills, you should research the cost/benefits of a installing a higher SEER replacement unit.


    SEER ratings associated cost savings can be compared to the set MPG (miles per gallon) in your car. Under the same driving conditions, your gasoline costs to drive 30 miles in a 15 MPG car will be higher than one with a 30 MPG rating. The same goes for SEER ratings. Under the same cooling conditions, a 10 SEER unit will be more expensive to do the same workload as a 14 SEER unit.


    Length of Home Ownership


    Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency air conditioning unit. When determining to repair or replace your current AC, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership by asking themselves the following questions:

    • Are you living in your “forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle? (Getting married, having children, etc.)
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?
    • In how many years to you plan to sell your home?
    • Will a new energy-efficient air condition help sell your home if necessary?

     

    While there are a lot of variables to examine when determining whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, the best source of information can come from your licensed professional HVAC contractor.  Because these local professionals understand the details associated with your particular system, they are the most qualified to provide repair or replace guidance. 


    cta-outline_stay-cool

    1 Central Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: https://energy.gov/energysaver/central-air-conditioning

    2 Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://www.energy.gov/energysaver/air-conditioning

    3 Heat & Cool Efficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac

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  • How to Select a Heating and Cooling Contractor?

    Homeowner HVAC reviews

    Whether your home’s heating and cooling system is in need of routine maintenance, emergency repairs or a total replacement, selecting a qualified HVAC contractor is an important, yet often daunting task. To ensure you hire a qualified professional that best fits the job, there are several important steps to take.


    Do Research

     

    A little internet research can go a long way in weeding out subpar HVAC service companies. 


    • Heating and cooling manufacturers’ websites often provide an independent dealer locator with contact information and key details for contractors near your location.
    • Websites like Nextdoor and Yelp may make it easier to locate local contractors, identify recommended companies, and read customer reviews.
    • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), an organization that represents HVAC contractors, offers a searchable database of its contractor members.
    • Better Business Bureau provides accreditation and gives businesses a letter grade, from A+ to F, based on information it is able to obtain, including complaints received from the public.

    Referrals

     

    Ask neighbors, friends, and family for referrals. Referrals can give a homeowner insight as to the type of experience they can expect from a particular contractor. Similarly, you can ask contractors for customer references and contact them to gather more information. According to energystar.gov, homeowners should “ask [the references] about the contractor's installation or service performance and if the job was completed on time and within budget.”


    Read Reviews

    A quick glance at the number of review stars can often be misleading. Be sure to read the written comments and look for licensed contractors with a good reputation for value, quality and customer service.

    • Did the contractor address the problem?
    • Did the contractor provide clear details of the problem to the homeowner?
    • Did the contractor resolve disputes in a timely, thoughtful, and respectful manner?

     

    Reading reviews may provide a homeowner with insight as to a contractor’s commitment to customers’ satisfaction. Providing prompt solutions and addressing any errors is the mark of a good service company.


    What to Look For in a HVAC Contractor?


    Your state may require that HVAC contractors be licensed, bonded and insured. This information can often be found online. Once you have scheduled a service appointment, there are a few things to pay attention to:


    Communication:
      Does the technician or dispatcher stay in touch with you by phone, text, or email leading up to the service appointment? Do they communicate any schedule changes in a timely manner?


    Punctuality:
      Does the technician arrive within the specified time window?


    Appearance:
    Does the technician appear “work ready” or are they wearing a dealer
    uniform?


    Certification:
    Many technicians are certified through organizations such as NATE (North American Technician Excellence), and these patches are often displayed on their uniforms. Does your technician have any certification patches displayed on their uniform?


    Patience:
    Does the technician listen to your concerns, take time to explain their findings and answer any questions you may have?


    Thoroughness:
    Depending on the nature of the appointment (emergency vs annual inspection), a technician may perform a complete system evaluation and/or an inspection. This process can take time and should not just be a quick once-over. Upon completion, the technician should go over any concerning results.


    Documentation:
    The technician should provide written documentation of all the work done and/or provides quotes in writing.


    A good technician will be pleasant, professional, knowledgeable, courteous, patient and willing to answer your questions. Remember, they are a service company — their job is to serve you to the best of their ability. If you are not happy with something, do not be afraid to ask them to fix it.


    Value and Service Expectations


    It is important to seek the best value for your particular home’s need. If you are looking to purchase and install a new heating or cooling system (or both) from a contractor, be sure you are working with a professional licensed HVAC contractor who is willing to provide a limited warranty for their work and products installed. Doing the job properly the first time may help eliminate the need for repeat visits, as well as ensure your system is running at peak performance.


    Many HVAC service companies offer maintenance agreements, which provide for scheduled maintenance of the HVAC system and equipment. This can be a worthwhile investment. Maintaining the efficiency of your equipment and components can help ensure peak performance and may extend the life of the system.


    Manufacturer Dealer Locator


    Most HVAC manufacturers provide tools to assist homeowners in finding an independent dealer. Goodman’s dealer locator lists independent HVAC contractors who offer professional and licensed HVAC services by location, services provided and certification. These contractors typically offer a value-focused, flexible and informative approach to heating or cooling maintenance, service or purchases.


    cta-outline_find-dealer
     

    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly newsmagazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com/publications

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  • What Generation is Your Heat Pump?

    What generation is your heat pump

    World events and trends tend to shape generations. What happens during your formative years may often change your behaviors and expectations as an adult. Chances are if you had a heat pump installed in 2007, you didn’t expect it to be “smart.” In reality, the 2007 model may not have been too different from the one you grew up with. A heat pump’s main function was and still is to heat and cool the indoor spaces in your home.

    Whether you are a Baby Boomer (born: 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born: 1965-1980), or a Millennial (born: 1981-1997), there is a good chance that your latest home heating and cooling equipment was manufactured and installed in the iGeneration (1998 to present).1 Yet, a heat pump that was designed and engineered in 2007 will probably not have the same performance features and characteristics of one that was built in 2017! 

    As more and more homeowners are expecting the latest innovative technology to be incorporated into new products for their home and personal use, heating and cooling manufacturers are responding too.
     

    Heat Pump Efficiency by Generation


    By the late 1960s, when the first Generation X babies were born, most new homes in North America had central air conditioning.2 It wasn’t until the oil crisis of the 1970s that the heat pump became a more popular choice for heating and cooling homes.3 Heat pumps used a single ‘fuel’, electricity, to heat and cool a home.

    Many Generation X’ers were children at the time of the oil crisis in the 70’s, witnesses to its impacts. Before 1980, many heat pumps had a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of 6 or less and a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) below 5. By 1992, when the first of Generation X’ers were entering the workforce, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) raised the minimum SEER of heat pumps to 10 SEER/ 6.8 HSPF.  The energy conservation movement was in full swing, and the push by Generation X’ers for more energy-efficient products was evident.

    By 2006, the average Millennial was in high school, and the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement from 10 SEER/6.8 HSPF to 13 SEER/7.7 HSPF nationwide. Efficiency to conserve energy and minimize consumer’s impact on the environment appeared to be an actionable priority. 

    In 2015, the Millennials became the largest sector in the U.S. labor force, and the DOE once again raised the minimum SEER requirement for heat pumps. The minimum standard now stands at 14 SEER/8.2 HSPF, but residential efficiency requirements are likely to continue increasing in the future.  There is already a push to increase the current standard to 15 SEER by 2023.

    Seer and HSPF chart

    So, if your heat pump was installed in the iGeneration, its efficiency rating could range anywhere between 10-14 SEER and 6.8-8.2 HSPF!


    Innovative Technology and Heat Pump Efficiency


    Today’s heat pumps are vastly different from the early models from the 1970s and '80s. Innovative technology created by recent generations has played a big role in the transformation, effectiveness, popularity and energy efficiency of these heating and cooling systems. 

    Air source heat pumps that have typically been reserved as a heating and cooling option for homes in milder climates are working their way north!  Innovative advances in heat pump technology have created a legitimate heating alternative for colder regions where temperatures drop to below freezing.4 Millennials who grew up in these colder areas may have rarely experienced heat from a heat pump because it wasn’t a comfortable option. However, today’s heat pumps are now being installed from Alaska to Florida.5

    Some models of heat pumps are now equipped with variable-speed or dual-speed motors on their indoor fans (blowers), outdoor fans, or both. “The variable-speed controls for these fans attempt to keep the air moving at a comfortable velocity, minimizing cool drafts and maximizing electrical savings.”6 Additional advancements, including refrigerant, advanced controls and additional mechanics that simplify installation, have also impacted the indoor comfort and energy costs associated with heat pumps.

    The heat pumps of today are likely not the same as your parent’s heat pump!  

    How Smart is your Heat Pump?

     

    As we know, product technology is advancing at breakneck speed! The smart phone is changing the behavior of many Generation Xers and Millennials, and even some Baby Boomers. Just a few years ago, the term “smart home” didn’t exist. Yet, the increased availability and reduced cost of smart products have created a smart home marketplace boom. Tech savvy homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to connect this technology to their home systems…and heating and cooling manufacturers are taking notice.

    Innovative thermostats or control systems now offer a wide range of control features and connectivity with your smart phone and the Internet. This makes it easier to align your heat pump operation with your lifestyle. But as history has shown, current events dictate future expectations. What will a heat pump look like for the kids that never experienced life without a smart phone? Will their expectations of “normal” extend to home heating and cooling?

    As technology continues to become more integrated into the heating and cooling equipment, some heat pumps may be able to communicate status updates directly to the homeowner or your HVAC dealer. In the future, the technician or dealer may be able to contact the homeowner regarding the notification, arrive at their home with the correct part(s) and be sure the HVAC system is maintained without the homeowner having to lift a finger or experience an uncomfortable temperature in their home. 

    This technology could allow for proactive maintenance or service scheduling, possibly before you realize that it’s necessary. But before this becomes a standard heat pump feature, consumers need to demonstrate their expectations. As with generations before them, the events and trends of today’s youth may impact future behaviors and heating and cooling products. 


    Stay warm with a heat pump

    1 Pew Research Center. The Generations Defined. 8 May 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/ft_15-05-11_millennialsdefined/. 28 July 2017.
    2 Department of Energy. History of Air Conditioning. 20 July 2015. https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-air-conditioning. 3 April 2017.
    3 Cormany, Charles. The Perfect Solution, and Why it is Not Working. 19 January 2017. http://www.efficiencyfirstca.org/news/2017/01/19/perfect-solution-and-why-it-not-working. 30 July 2017.
    4, 6 Heat Pump Systems. n.d. <https://energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-systems>.
    5 Vanessa Stevens, Colin Craven, Robbin Garber-Slaght. Air Source Heat Pumps in Southeast Alaska. Fairbanks: Cold Climate Housing Research Center, 2013. http://www.cchrc.org/sites/default/files/docs/ASHP_final_0.pdf.


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  • What HSPF Means for You?

    Heat Pump and HSPF

    You may have heard that heat pumps aren’t just for heating and cooling homes in mild climates anymore. Innovative advances in heat pump technology have created a legitimate heating alternative for colder regions where temperatures may drop below freezing.1 Today’s heat pumps are now being installed from Alaska to Florida.2

    But how can you check the heating efficiency of a heat pump?  That’s when the Heating Season Performance Factor or HSPF comes in!

    What is HSPF?

     

    A heat pump’s heating efficiency rating is indicated by the HSPF number. That number represents the total heat output of a heat pump, including the supplementary electric heat, during the normal heating season in British Thermal Units or BTUs, as compared to the total electricity consumed in watt hours during the same period.3 The HSPF is a heat pump’s heating version of SEER* or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.

    HSPF measures heat pump efficiency in heating mode
    SEER measures heat pump efficiency in cooling mode

    HSPF and Efficiency

     

    In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy raised the minimum energy efficiency standard for heat pumps to 14 SEER / 8.2 HSPF nationwide. That’s good news for homeowners in the market for a new heat pump.  Typically, the higher the HSPF, the more efficient the heating performance of your heat pump.4

    If your heat pump is nearing its 10th birthday, it could have an HSPF rating less than 7.7. If this is the case, you may want to consider upgrading your heat pump to a high-efficiency model. A high-efficiency heat pump can boast HSPF ratings of 9 or higher, which may provide significant energy efficiency and savings on monthly heating bills when compared to a lower HSPF model operating under the same conditions. 

    However, the HSPF is only one of the factors affecting the overall efficiency of your heating system. Other circumstances that may significantly impact the performance of a heat pump include, but are not limited to: 5

    • Air duct losses
    • Climatic conditions
    • Part-load efficiency
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Equipment sizing

    If you are looking to save on monthly heating bills, the opportunity for additional savings may also be hidden in other areas of your home. Homeowners may improve the energy-efficiency by improving insulation, sealing air leaks, and repairing ductwork.

    Moving Heat Energy

     

    A heat pump is considered an energy-efficient heating option because it moves heat rather than converting it from fuel. When your thermostat or control system calls for warm air, the refrigerant in your heat pump’s coil extracts heat energy from the outdoor air. Even if it’s 32°F outside, there is enough heat energy in the air to heat the cooler indoor air.
     
    In a split system, refrigerant warmed by the outdoor heat energy travels through closed piping to the indoor coil. The thermodynamic principles** of the refrigeration cycle then allow the heat energy from the refrigerant to be transferred to the cooler air that was pulled in from your interior spaces. The resulting heated air is then recirculated to your indoor spaces.

    The thermodynamic principles of the reversed refrigeration cycle may allow properly installed heat pumps to deliver up to three times as much heat as the electrical energy used to operate them.6 This may make a heat pump a great energy-efficient option for your home.

    Which HSPF is Right for You?

     

    The efficiency ratings and features often contribute to the cost of a new heat pump. A higher HSPF with additional features may cost you more than a base model, but it may save you money over the life of the system. 

    When determining if a higher-efficiency heat pump is cost-effective for your budget, you should evaluate how long you intend to live with your new heat pump. Your anticipated length of home ownership may help to determine how long it would take to recuperate initial costs of a higher HSPF model heat pump.

     

    • Are you currently in your “forever home”?
    • How long will your current home suit your lifestyle?
    • Do you plan to sell your home in the near future?
    • Would a job change cause you to relocate?


    In some areas of the country, heat pumps run nearly year-round – cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. For homeowners in these locations, you may want to consider upgrading to a high-efficiency ENERGY STAR® certified heat pump*** that will possibly save even more in energy costs than your current model. 

    Your licensed professional HVAC dealer can assist you in determining which heat pump and HSPF rating are right for your home and budget. 

    *SEER is used to measure the annual energy consumption and efficiency of a unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use.
    **Thermodynamics is the study of the effects of work, heat and energy on a system.7 
    ***Proper sizing and installation of equipment is critical to achieve optimal performance.  Split system air conditioners and heat pumps must be matched with appropriate coil components to meet ENERGY STAR criteria.  Ask your contractor for details or visit www.energystar.gov.


    Goodman heat pump

    2 Vanessa Stevens, Colin Craven, Robbin Garber-Slaght. Air Source Heat Pumps in Southeast Alaska. Fairbanks, Alaska: Cold Climate Housing Research Center, 2013. http://www.cchrc.org/sites/default/files/docs/ASHP_final_0.pdf.
    3, 6 U.S. Department of Energy. Air-Source Heat Pumps. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/air-source-heat-pumps. 26 April 2017. <https://energy.gov/energysaver/air-source-heat-pumps>.
    4 NC State. Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)- Defined. n.d. https://energy.ces.ncsu.edu/heating-seasonal-performance-factor-hspf-defined/. 2 August 2017.
    5 Paul W. Francisco, Larry Palmitter, David Baylon. Understanding Heating Seasonal Performance Factors for Heat Pumps. ACEEE, 2004. http://aceee.org/files/proceedings/2004/data/papers/SS04_Panel1_Paper08.pdf.
    7 National Aeronautics and Space Administration. What is Thermodynamics? n.d. https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/thermo.html. 9 August 2017.
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  • Gas Furnace Repair or Furnace Replace?

    coldest-place

    If you are reading this, you may be wearing a coat, scarf, hat and mittens inside of your home.  To ward off hypothermia, you probably placed an emergency call to your HVAC contractor! Whether your furnace is on the fritz or you are just looking for one that is more energy-efficient  to heat your home, there may come a time when you have a discussion with your independent HVAC contractor on whether to repair or replace your gas furnace.

    The decision may not be an easy one! Unless your furnace is a hazard or damaged beyond repair, there are no hard rules in determining whether to repair or replace your furnace. However, below are a few concepts that may help:

    This Old Furnace


    According to Energystar.gov1 , your older heating system may be less efficient and have an AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating of 56%-70%. New energy-efficient furnaces are now required to have a minimum of 80% AFUE, meaning more energy is converted into usable heat – potentially saving you money on energy bills.

    As a furnace ages, it may likely need repairs or more than average maintenance service. The estimated cost to keep the furnace running, as provided by your local HVAC dealer, will give you more concrete reasons to replace or repair.  However, age isn’t everything.

    Repair Cost vs. Replacement Cost


    Homeowners should decide their repair cost cutoff point. How expensive does a furnace repair need to be before it’s not worth it? Consumer Reports suggests that if the cost to repair your current furnace is 50% of the cost of a new furnace, you should replace it.2

    For example, if your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that is not covered by a limited warranty, the equipment replacement in addition to labor costs may exceed up to the 50% threshold.  At that point, it may be time to replace. Additionally, the long term energy bill savings of purchasing a high-efficient furnace may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  On the contrary, if the problem is an easy, relatively inexpensive fix that restores peak efficiency, a repair may be the best approach.

    To get a more specific, cost vs. benefit assessment, a homeowner should discuss repair vs replace costs with their local HVAC dealer.

    Save Green


    Today’s systems can have an AFUE as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used toward heating your home. An 80% AFUE gas furnace means that 80 cents of every energy dollar warms your home.1

    Energy efficiency standards vary by region. To determine your minimum standard, check with your local HVAC dealer.

    New Technology Offers a Consistent Temperature


    For some homeowners, their old gas furnace operates in either 100% ON or OFF. Historically, when the indoor temperature falls, the furnace kicks on at full capacity until the desired temperature is reached. This on/off cycle means that the indoor temperatures might continuously fluctuate.

    Advanced technology enables your gas furnace to reduce temperature swings while quietly running more efficiently. For example, a furnace with a variable speed indoor blower motor can operate at different capacities to more accurately control the flow of heated air to your home. This energy-saving feature can save you money on utility bills compared to single stage furnaces because the system doesn’t have to run at full capacity to reach the set temperature.

    Length of home ownership


    Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new gas furnace. When determining to repair or replace your current unit, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership by asking themselves the following questions:
    • Are you living in your “forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle? (getting married, having children, etc.)
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?
    • In how many years to you plan to sell your home?

    While there are a lot of variables to examine when determining whether to repair or replace your furnace, the best source of information can come from your licensed professional HVAC contractor.  Because these local professionals understand the details associated with your particular system, they are the most qualified to provide repair or replace guidance.

    cta-outline_stay-warm

    1 Furnaces. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/furnaces
    2 Should you repair or replace that product? (2014, January). Retrieved from Consumer Reports: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/02/repair-or-replace/index.htm?loginMethod=auto
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  • What is a Two-Stage Air Conditioner or Heat Pump?

    Two Stage Cooling Energy Efficient Feature


    If you are researching a new air conditioner or heat pump, you may notice a few features that didn’t exist a few years ago. One of those is two-stage cooling, and its demand by homeowners is rising!

    Two-stage cooling refers to the type of compressor that’s in the outside condensing unit. This feature allows for two levels of operation depending on your cooling needs — full capacity on hot summer days or part capacity for milder days. It is a great energy-efficient option when compared to a traditional, single-stage unit.

    It’s All About Demand!
                      

    When you “start” a bicycle with your feet on the pedals, you have to put in a lot of initial effort to get up to speed.  You may even have to stand up to get the pedals going! The same idea can be applied to an air conditioner or heat pump turning ON at 100% capacity. A single-stage unit cools at 100% capacity until it reaches your preset indoor temperature and then turns off.


    Think again about riding your bike. It takes less energy to maintain a comfortable biking speed than it does to get up to speed. The same concept applies to two-stage cooling. A two-stage heat pump or air conditioner may use 100% full capacity to reach your desired interior temperature, but then it may use part-capacity to maintain your setting as long as possible.


    Depending on the outdoor temperature and the energy-efficiency and insulating variables of your home, your two-stage air conditioner or heat pump may have to remain at 100% to maintain that preset indoor temperature. This is similar to riding your bicycle uphill — you can’t back off your pedaling efforts or you may get pulled down the hill. Just like the heat, the opposing force is too great so you have to keep up your power in order to reach your goal!


    For example, if the outdoor temperature is 95°F and the thermostat or control system is set at 75°F, your system might stay at 100% capacity to reach and sustain 75°F. But if the outdoor temperature is only moderately warm, a two-stage system may be able to operate with less capacity to maintain the preset indoor temperature. Depending on your home’s energy-efficiency variables, the limited cooling demand may result in nearly a 35% speed reduction at both the compressor and indoor unit circulating fan compared to a single-stage heat pump or air conditioner.



    Benefits of Two-Stage Cooling

     

    The two-stage unit may seem to run longer than a traditional single-stage unit, but this part-capacity operation offers energy-saving benefits that you will feel throughout your home:

    • Consistent Indoor Comfort – With its ability to adjust cooling output, your two-stage air conditioner or heat pump may minimize the peaks and valleys of cooling often found with the ON/OFF cycle of a single-stage unit. The lower stage capacity is able to maintain the pre-set temperature longer than if the system turns off when it reaches the pre-set temperature. This allows for steady cooling comfort in your home.
    • Dehumidification - The extended operation of a two-stage air conditioner or heat pump runs longer which removes more moisture from the interior spaces structure.  While the main job of the air conditioner or heat pump is to condition the air to a set temperature, these comfort-creating pieces of equipment may lower the indoor humidity level as a by-product of the cooling process.  Better humidity control leaves you with more comfortable interior air. When humidity levels are better controlled, you may be able to increase the set temperature on your thermostat or control system and still be comfortable in your home.
    • Energy-Efficient – You may think that because a two-stage cooling unit operates longer than a single-stage unit that it would use more electricity, but electricity usage peaks when a system turns ON. The two-stage feature actually reduces the peak start/stop load cycle which reduces the draw on your electricity. The capacity of the air conditioner or heat pump compressor changes to meet the cooling demand and therefore reduces energy consumption.

     

    While full cooling capacity provides indoor comfort on the hottest days of the year, the extended operation at the part capacity helps maintain the indoor temperature for a longer period of time and dehumidifies the conditioned air in the process. With two-stage cooling, your air conditioner or heat pump may help you enjoy steady and consistent cooling when compared to the single-speed unit.


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  • What's the Difference Between a Heat Pump and Air ...

    Heat Pump and AC Difference

    What do fashion and HVAC equipment have in common?  From the outside, an air conditioner and a heat pump may look nearly identical. Yet, one of them can be classified as the “reversible jacket” of the HVAC world, serving a versatile purpose depending on your indoor thermostat or control system settings.
     

    The Similarities

     

    When it’s hot outside, both an air conditioner and a heat pump cool your indoor spaces. These systems are designed to remove humidity from the air inside your house, creating the sensation of cooler, conditioned air in your home.  Air conditioners and heat pumps rely on the same principle of a “closed-loop” refrigeration cycle.  This means that the same refrigerant is continuously circulated as it passes through the air conditioner or heat pump and the evaporator coil.

    How do air conditioners and heat pumps keep you cool?1

    1. The warm air from inside your home is pulled into duct work by a motorized fan. To cool your home, the heat is pulled out of that air.

    2. The air is cooled by blowing it over a set of pipes called an evaporator coil. As the refrigerant flows through the indoor evaporator coil, the refrigerant changes from a liquid to a gas as it absorbs heat from the air.

    3. The cooled air is then pushed through connecting ducts to vents throughout the home, lowering the interior temperature because air with less humidity seems cooler than air that contains a high level of humidity.

    4. The refrigerant is pumped through a closed system to an outdoor coil in the air conditioner or heat pump, where it gives up its heat and changes back into a liquid. This outside coil is called the condenser because the refrigerant is condensing from a gas back to a fluid just like moisture on a cold window.

    5. A pump, called a compressor, is used to move the refrigerant between the two coils and to change the pressure of the refrigerant.

    6. When the indoor temperature reaches the set point on your thermostat or control system, the air conditioner or heat pump pauses until your indoor air gets too hot.

    7. The refrigeration cycle continues as needed for your indoor comfort, year after year, providing a consistent method to keep you cool.

    When comparing an air conditioner to a heat pump, be sure that you also compare the various features, SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) value, and the size or tonnage. The performance of the heat pump and air conditioner will only be identical if all of the efficiency aspects are identical, as well.

    The Difference is in the Valve!

     

    The heat pump and the air conditioner may rely on the same basic refrigeration principle, but if all of the cooling details are identical, there is still one key difference.  Just like a reversible jacket, the “magic” happens when there is a change in direction! In a heat pump, a flip in the direction of refrigeration results in warm air being pushed through the interior vents your home! 

    Unlike an air conditioner, a heat pump is designed with a reversing valve that automatically changes the direction of the refrigerant flow when heat is needed instead of air conditioning. The refrigeration cycle is based on the physical principles that heat flows to cold, and a liquid expanding into a gas pulls heat from its surroundings. When the reversing valve flips to the heat mode, the refrigerant becomes cold enough in the outdoor coil to absorb heat from the outside air. This is opposite from the cooling mode when heat is absorbed from the indoor air by the indoor coil. 

    Here’s how it works:

    1. The reversing valve changes the direction of the refrigeration cycle, causing the outside coil to function as the evaporator and the indoor coil to function as the condenser.

    2. As the refrigerant flows through the outdoor coil, the refrigerant changes from a gas to a liquid as it absorbs heat from the outside air.

    3. Although outside temperatures are cold, enough outdoor heat energy is absorbed by the chilled external coil and released inside by the warm indoor coil in the air handler.

    4. Cool air from the inside of your house is pulled into duct work by a motorized fan in the air handler. 

    5. Once the heat energy is transferred from the indoor coil to the cool indoor air, it becomes warm. 

    6. A pump, called a compressor, is used to move the refrigerant between the two coils and to change the pressure of the refrigerant.  

    7. This warm air is pushed through connecting ducts to air vents throughout the home, increasing the interior temperature until it reaches the set point on your thermostat or control system. 

    8. When the indoor temperature reaches the set point on your thermostat or control system, the heat pump pauses until your indoor air gets too cold.

    9. The refrigeration cycle continues, year after year, providing a consistent method to keep you warm.

    Many years ago, heat pumps were installed in locations that typically experience milder winters. However today, air-source heat pump technology has advanced  enabling these systems to be used in some areas with extended periods of subfreezing temperatures.

    affordable-heat-pumps-and-air-conditioning

    1 American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Top Ten Things About Air Conditioning. n.d. https://www.ashrae.org/resources--publications/free-resources/top-ten-things-about-air-conditioning#10. 4 May 2017.

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  • What Is SEER and Why Does It Matter?

    What is SEER

    If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner or heat pump, you have probably noticed that each unit comes with a SEER rating related to the unit’s energy efficiency and performance for cooling.  But what exactly is SEER, and why should it matter to you?

    Higher SEER Equals Higher Efficiency


    SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use.  The higher the SEER value, the less energy the unit will use.  Many older residential air conditioning systems in the U.S. may have a SEER number of 10 or less. The good news for homeowners in the market for a new air conditioner or heat pump is that current high-efficiency residential equipment can boast SEER values of 25 or higher. Higher SEER units typically cost less to run, which can save homeowners money on energy costs.

    Before the SEER rating was adopted, cooling equipment was rated based on how much energy was used while running at full capacity in a controlled environment.  The method was similar to calculating the average fuel efficiency of a vehicle while driving it 100 mph on rollers in a climate-controlled lab. The test results would not be an accurate measurement of the vehicle’s typical efficiency.

    As a result, the SEER rating was developed in order to provide consumers with a more accurate representation of the typical energy use of an air conditioning unit or heat pump in cooling mode. The SEER rating takes into account a number of important factors:
    • Climate zones
    • Part-load efficiency
    • Energy consumption in standby mode
    • Varying load requirements

    Minimum SEER Standards?


    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sets energy efficiency standards for air conditioners, heat pumps, and other HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) equipment. In 2006, the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement from 10 SEER to 13 SEER nationwide in an effort to promote energy savings that benefit the consumer.  In 2015, the DOE again raised the minimum SEER requirement for central air conditioners and heat pumps installed in certain regions of the U.S.1 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.  

    What’s a Good SEER rating for Me?


    Your air conditioning system may get a lot of use in warmer months. While in some areas of the country, these systems are running almost year round. For homeowners in these locations, you may want to consider an air conditioning or heat pump with an Energy Star rating to possibly save even more in energy costs. However, if you live in a more temperate area where you go much of the year without cooling; a minimum SEER rating may make the most financial sense.

    To reduce your energy costs and learn more about Goodman’s high SEER products, speak with an independent Goodman dealer in your area.


    cta-outline_find-dealer

     

    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for
    Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly newsmagazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com/publications

    1 Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. (n.d.). Retrieved from Appliance Standards Awareness Project: http://www.appliance-standards.org/product/central-air-conditioners-and-heat-pumps

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  • Three HVAC Factors for Indoor Comfort

    Three Factors of Indoor Comfort

    A lot may have changed since you bought your last home. Overall, today's homes can be more energy efficient than homes built as recently as the early 2000s. This higher efficiency is due to thicker and better insulation, window Low-E glazing, sealing of air gaps and other factors.

    Why is this important?  Understanding how efficient a new home is will help you better understand why the Heating, Ventilation, and Air conditioning (HVAC) system was selected specifically for your home.

    Calculated Installation


    Licensed contractors should perform a system sizing calculation using industry standard Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Manual J. The calculation determines how much heat gets into the home from external sources and calculates the necessary tonnage of air conditioning is needed to effectively cool your home

    The sizing calculation is based a variety of site-specific information, including:

    1. Square footage
    2. Sun or shade
    3. Number of windows
    4. Building materials


    The Right Size


    Too Small

    • Likely consumes more energy
    • Might be unable to cool the home properly
    • Potentially higher utility bills
    • May require extended time to achieve and maintain a satisfactory comfort level in home

    Too Big

    • System may not operate a long enough cycle to efficiently remove the humidity from the home indoor air
    • Short blasts of cold air infrequently leading to irregular level of home comfort
    • Cool damp air = Clammy feeling on skin due to lack of proper humidity removal

    Right Size

    • Designed to provide the most efficient amount of time
    • Properly dehumidifies indoor air throughout home
    • Can help lower utility bills
    • Helps keep home comfortable all year

    Maintenance


    An HVAC system needs care just like a car needs oil changes, tire rotations and other regular maintenance suggested by the manufacturer.

    • Change your air filters every 90 days, what is indicated on filters, or frequency suggested by your local HVAC Dealer.
    • Have system maintenance performed by a licensed professional HVAC contractor each spring and fall. Preseason prevention can help lessen future costly repairs when you rely most on the comfort provided by your system.
    • Ask your licensed professional HVAC contractor for additional information to help your home comfortable for years and years to come.
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  • Is a High-Efficiency Furnace Right for Me?

    Is a high efficiency gas furnace right for me

    In North America, many homes are heated using forced-air systems. Your gas furnace, which is often located in the basement, attic, crawl space or utility closet, may use natural gas or propane as the energy source to create heat within the furnace’s heat exchanger.  Air is moved across the heat exchanger, which is then distributed through the ductwork to heat the home.


    What Factors Affect Efficiency?


    Each gas furnace model has an energy efficiency rating in the form of a percent. This number is its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), or the ratio of annual heat output of the furnace compared to the amount of annual fuel energy it consumes. For example, if a furnace has an AFUE of 80%, it means 80% of the energy in the fossil fuel is being converted to heat while 20% escapes and is wasted.1


    How AFUE Can Save Me Money?


    Many older furnaces may have efficiencies of only 56 to 70% AFUE, which can cost the homeowner more to heat their home compared to a higher AFUE model. Switching to a newer, more energy-efficient gas furnace that can reach upwards of 98% AFUE means nearly all of the energy from the fuel is effectively used to heat the home.1 As a result, the homeowner’s monthly heating bills can be reduced.

     

    Condensing Vs. Non-Condensing


    The gas furnaces available in North America can be put into two categories: condensing and non-condensing.


    • Non-Condensing Furnace: A mid-efficiency furnace (80% and 90% AFUE) vents exhaust gases out of the home, typically through the roof.
    • Condensing Furnace:A high-efficiency furnace (90% AFUE or higher) utilizes a second heat exchanger to heat the air from condensed exhaust gases in order to reach higher efficiencies. A high-efficiency condensing furnace requires specialized venting.

    Choosing a Furnace


    The initial cost of a high-efficiency condensing furnace can be more expensive than a less efficient model. According to The Department of Energy, homeowners will likely save more money on fuel bills over the life of a high AFUE product when compared to a lower AFUE or less efficient gas furnace. 1 However, when determining if a higher-efficiency furnace is cost-effective for your budget, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership to determine how long it would take to recuperate initial costs of a higher AFUE model.


    • Are you currently in your “forever home”?
    • How long to your expect your current home to fit your lifestyle?
    • Do you plan to sell your home in the near future?
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?

     

    Additionally, many states and utilities offer tax credits and other incentives to homeowners who install high-efficiency furnaces. An experienced local dealer can assist you in determining whether a higher efficiency gas furnace or a mid-efficiency model is right for your needs.



    cta-outline_energy-star
     

    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, the former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly news magazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com



    1 Furnace and Boilers. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://energy.gov/energysaver/furnaces-and-boilers

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  • The Pricing Puzzle: The Cost of a New AC

    Cost of a new air conditioner

    When it comes to cars, trucks, and SUVs, each varies in size, efficiency, comfort and price. On top of that, each car dealer may have their own pricing model that impacts your final cost of your new vehicle. The same can be said of air conditioners —except they aren’t operational without installation!  Air conditioners should be professionally installed to perform the way they were designed!


    There are multiple considerations that go into an HVAC dealer’s estimate or final bill for installing a new energy-efficient air conditioner in your home. Below are a few of the considerations that may contribute to the cost of a new air conditioner for in your home.


    The Cost of an Air Conditioner and Features

     

    Like automobiles, air conditioners range from basic to high-end models. The minimum efficiency model may initially cost less than an energy-efficient air conditioner with added features. However, some of these additional features are designed and engineered to improve the energy efficiency of the air conditioner, which could save you in energy costs over the life of the unit.

    Features that may contribute to the cost of the cooling equipment may include:


    • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)
    • Communications compatibility
    • Sound inhibitor options
    • Condenser speed
    • Compressor type
    • Motor capability
    • Other manufacturer specifics


    Square Footage and Design

     

    Would you buy a small car to tow a large boat? Probably not! It’s important to make sure your purchase has the ability to perform its required task! An air conditioner must be sized correctly in order to do its job — effectively cool your indoor spaces!


    You home’s square footage, construction and age impact the necessary size and required capacity of your cooling system. For instance, how well your home is insulated often affects the way your air conditioner operates. Higher R-value insulation ratings can help keep your home cooler and work in conjunction with your home’s air conditioner to help lower your utility bills. Higher insulation values may result from weatherized doors, walls, roofs and/or windows.


    Typically, as a specific AC model’s size and cooling capacity increases, so can the price. Your local HVAC dealer can help determine the size of the air conditioner that best fits your home design, budget, and indoor cooling expectations.


    What’s Your Address?

     

    Every location has cost-of-living variables, supply/demand characteristics, and site-specific regulations. Your home’s location may impact the cost of housing-related products, including your new air conditioner.


    Many states and local municipalities have specific requirements that specify the cooling equipment permitted in your city and the method of its installation. These local codes can impact your cost by influencing the efficiency rating, sound levels or underlying technology of your new air conditioning system. Your local, licensed professional HVAC dealer should be knowledgeable of your site-specific requirements and meet the required codes of AC installation.


    Installation and Labor

     

    Once the specific size and model are determined, the air conditioner installation and labor costs are calculated. For every home installation, a license or professional HVAC dealer has to determine:


    • Additional parts required
    • Time length of job
    • Number of professionals required

     

    Each cooling system installation is unique. Your installer must create a balance between the new AC mechanics and the pre-existing equipment, duct work and necessary air flow. The more complex the installation, the more it may cost for labor, installation and additional parts.


    • If ducts are used to distribute the cool air in your home, the quality of these ducts plays an integral role in the effectiveness and efficiency of your new cooling system. If your licensed professional HVAC dealer finds that your existing ductwork is inadequate, they may need to modernize it.
    • Cost may also be influenced your cooling system’s location.  For example, tight spaces both indoors and outdoors can make it more difficult to remove the current unit and install the new air conditioner.
    • Licensed professional HVAC dealers have various levels of experience, qualifications, and labor limited warranties that back their work. These variables may elevate the quality of your installation. 

     

    Installation is crucial to the effective operation and longevity of your new air conditioner. Proper installation may eliminate the need for unplanned visits, added costs and inconveniences, as well as ensure your system is running at peak performance. The lowest or even the highest bid may not be the best installer for your project. To ensure you hire a qualified professional that best fits the job, read “How to Select a Heating & Cooling Contractor?


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  • Which AC Features Can Save You Money?

    Money-saving Air Conditioner features

    Unless you live off-the-grid and have cut the utility cord, you probably have a monthly electric bill. The bad news is that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that residential electricity costs will continue to rise into 2018.1 This is not the best news for homeowners who have enjoyed lower electricity prices for the past few years - especially for those with older central air conditioning systems!

    In July 2007, the average U.S. residential electricity price was 11.07 cents per kilowatt hour*. The EIA forecasts the July 2018 price to be near 13.33 cents per kilowatt hour* – that’s over a 20% increase in 10 years.1

    cost of electricity over time

    But there is good news too! If you are in the market for a new air conditioner, there are energy-efficient units with advanced features that can help reduce electricity bills and improve indoor comfort.

    The SEER Factor


    Before we get into the specifics of SEER, we need to understand what it means! SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use.  

    The higher the SEER rating, the less energy an air conditioning unit will use to operate.

    Air conditioning systems in the U.S. installed before 2006 could have SEER ratings of 10 or less. Currently, the minimum U.S. SEER rating for central air conditioners and heat pumps is 14 in the South and Southwest regions and 13 in the North.

    There is good news for homeowners looking to replace their current AC! Higher SEER air conditioners may include features that provide premium cooling performance and money-saving efficiency.

    Let’s Shift Gears


    Imagine driving your car in the same gear, year after year, regardless of the driving conditions. There is a good chance that it won’t get the efficiency or longevity that you would like. The same concept can be applied to your central air conditioning system.

    The good news is that certain high-efficiency air conditioners use two-stage technology that offers part-load efficiency. This means that your central air conditioning doesn’t have to run at 100% in every circumstance, but can adjust to load requirements in an energy-efficient manner.

    If you lower your thermostat or control system more than a few degrees, your AC compressor and circulating fan will operate at 100% cooling capacity to reach the desired temperature. If your air conditioner only needs to maintain the set temperature, it may not need to run at 100%! This is where two-stage technology comes in! A low-stage demand from the thermostat can result in up to 35% speed reductions at both the compressor and indoor unit circulating fan. Two-stage cooling generally results in extended operation at a low speed, providing improved indoor comfort, and using less electricity than single-stage systems.

    Variable-speed cooling is driven by a variable-speed compressor that can adjust output to match the load requirement. This type of compressor provides premium cooling performance which can result in lower energy bills when compared to a single-stage compressor. Because the unit doesn’t have to start and stop as frequently, it uses less energy than a standard AC would use.

    Let’s Review


    Even if electricity is getting more expensive, it is possible to save energy while cooling your indoor spaces. But a high-efficient air conditioner with advanced technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence cooling efficiency levels include, but are not limited to:

    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • AC installation and maintenance
    • Insulation and construction methods
    • Windows and doors

    If you want to trim costs associated with indoor cooling, talk to your local, professional licensed HVAC dealer. Or, you can always cut the cord and move off-the-grid!

    cta-outline_stay-cool


    1 Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from US Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/electricity.cfm
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