HVAC Upgrade Advice

January 8, 2019 at 10:49 pm / by

Air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters, and HVAC systems have improved significantly in the past few decades. When it’s time to replace yours, research high-efficiency models that save energy and money over the long run.

Before you over-Google “Best HVAC” and “Reduce High Energy Bills”, or make any large purchases, hire a BPI-certified Home Energy Upgrade specialist to (1) assess your home’s overall energy efficiency, (2) provide building science-based upgrade and appliance recommendations that fit your home, lifestyle, and budget, and, (3) do the energy upgrade work – for the best possible outcome and use of resources.

According to the Center for Sustainable Energy:

  1. Air conditioners. Look for the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) number to compare efficiency levels in central air conditioners or the EER (energy efficiency ratio) for room air conditioners. ENERGY STAR-labeled central air conditioners are SEER 14 or higher. ENERGY STAR-labeled room air conditioners start at EER 9.8.

  2. Furnaces. The AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) is the number to compare. Your existing furnace might have an AFUE around 0.75 – meaning it is 75% energy efficient and 25% of the energy it uses goes to waste. ENERGY STAR-labeled furnaces have an AFUE of 0.90 or higher. In addition to using energy more efficiently, furnaces in the 90% efficiency range have sealed combustion chambers and pose fewer safety problems related to carbon monoxide and flame rollout.

  3. Heat Pumps. Electric heat pumps draw heat from outside air and move it inside (or vice versa). They can be used as part of a central ducted system or as individual room units. Look for the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) and the SEER (for centralized systems) or EER (for room units) to compare efficiency levels. ENERGY STAR-labeled heat pumps require an HSPF ≥ 8.0 and SEER ≥ 14 or EER ≥ 11.

  4. Ducts. It’s common to find ducts that leak 30% or more of a home’s conditioned air. In addition to wasting energy, leaky ducts can be a cause of inconsistent temperatures and poor indoor air quality.

    • Use approved materials like mastic and foil tape (not duct tape) to seal leaks.
    • Ducts should also be insulated to reduce heat transfer.
  5. Water heaters. Compare the EF (energy factor) when buying water heaters. To earn the ENERGY STAR-label a natural gas storage water heater must have an EF ≥ 0.67, a natural gas tankless water heater requires an EF ≥ 0.82 and an electric water heater requires an EF ≥ 2.0.