6 Factors In Choosing a Heating or Cooling System
Choosing an HVAC system replacement is an investment in the future. The combined average service life of a central air conditioner and furnace is over 15 years. It is important to make an informed choice because you’ll be living with the results of that choice for some time to come. The comfort of your household day and night will have a definite impact and depend on the performance of the heating or cooling system. The operating costs you’ll be paying every month for many seasons to come will be directly affected by the new unit’s energy efficiency. For optimum comfort and lowest monthly expenses, making an informed choice will pay off now as well as years from now.
Here are six important factors that should be part of the decision-making process when choosing a heating/cooling system:
Get The Right Size
When decided on a heating and cooling system, the “sizing” refers to the BTU (British Thermal Units) which is the capacity of a specific unit. For a furnace, it’s the BTUs of heat per hour the unit can generate. For an air conditioner, it’s the BTUs of heat the unit can extract from indoor air per hour. BTU requirements depend on factors such as square footage, the number of windows, the amount and type of insulation and other characteristics such as the air-tightness of the structure which are very specific for each individual house. Approximate estimates and generalities are not accurate enough for sizing a unit. A qualified HVAC technician can perform a sizing survey to determine the precise BTU requirements of the house using industry-standard sizing software, then identify a heating/cooling system with the capacity specs that match these BTU requirements. Accurate sizing is a very important first step because oversized and undersized units waste energy, cost more to operate, and tend to provide inefficient performance for the comfort of your house that you’ll be stuck with as long as the system is installed.
Understand the Efficiency
Energy efficiency is built into a furnace or air conditioner. Manufacturers are required to use standardized lab tests to determine energy efficiency of a unit. A yellow “EnergyGuide” sticker affixed to all new units shows the unit’s energy efficiency rating. Efficiency is expressed by the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating for an air conditioner. The SEER rating will determine efficiency and cost of your unit. The higher the air conditioner’s SEER number, the more energy-efficient the unit is and the lower monthly operating costs will be. Today, depending on which region of the country you live in, federal regulations require a minimum SEER of 13 or 14. With a higher up front purchase price, high-efficiency air conditioners will deliver SEER ratings over 20. Furnace efficiency is expressed by the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. A more efficient the unit will have a higher AFUE percentage. More expensive high-efficiency units that capture spare heat from the exhaust stream offer AFUE over 90% while a standard efficiency furnace has a slightly lower AFUE of 80%.
Consider the Short Term and Long Term Units
It is important to consider initial expense versus future costs when deciding on your HVAC system. Be cautious about considering only the upfront purchase price when selecting a unit. A lower-efficiency unit from a lesser-known manufacturer may indeed have a lower price upon purchase. But, these low efficiency units will require higher monthly operating costs each year and expenses forced by reduced reliability and more frequent repairs. Cut-rate units, often, don’t offer warranty terms that are as consumer-friendly as units from recognized or name-brand manufacturers. From another point of view, an advanced unit with cutting edge, high-efficiency technology may come at such a high initial price that the payback time from lower operating costs may be too long for you—particularly if you aren’t planning to remain in the home indefinitely.
Replace Both Sides of a Central AC
An indoor air handler/evaporator coil and the outdoor condenser/compressor unit are the two components of a central air conditioner. It is a bad idea to attempt to save money by replacing only one half of the system or the other instead not both at the same time. All parts of a central AC are designed and engineered at the factory to operate together specifically as a set. Mixing brand new components with old parts of the existing system will result in reduced efficiency and higher monthly expenses. Furthermore, ordering new components collectively when they are replaced, as opposed to only changing a few parts, could run the risk of breaking the entire unit.
Require Professional Installation
Proper installation of a new HVAC unit will affect the performance and efficiency of the unit for as long as it’s in the house which is why it needs to be performed by a professional HVAC technician. This service requires expertise and specific training as well as the specialized tools to do the job. Because an unprofessional installation that doesn’t meet industry standards can negate all the household comfort you expect and deserve from a new HVAC system, it is important to make sure it’s installed by a qualified HVAC contractor with proper certification.
Evaluate Other Household Factors.
There are other issues within a home that will directly affect the performance and efficiency of your new HVAC system. As an example, connecting a brand new HVAC system incorporating the latest technology to old, deteriorating household ductwork is an action that may save money in the beginning but which, over a longer period of time, results in more money being spent to repair. With leaking duct work, you could lose a large volume of conditioned air before it reaches the rooms it is meant to cool or heat. In many areas, local codes require that the ductwork be tested for leaks at the time the HVAC system is installed, and your HVAC contractor can present options to seal the ductwork. Also, today’s standards may consider your home under-insulated if you haven’t upgraded the insulation in your home in many years. Check the level of attic insulation and upgrade if necessary to meet current Department of Energy recommendations for your local climate zone in order to ensure you get the full performance improvements and efficiency your new HVAC system is designed to deliver.
For professional assistance in selecting a new HVAC system, as well as qualified installation that meets industry standards, contact the heating and cooling experts at TemperaturePro.