Efficiency is a top concern when shopping for new HVAC equipment in Foothill Ranch, CA. Not only are consumers looking to cut their spending, but there’s also a fast-growing movement to reduce carbon footprints and limit the environmental impact of residential living. With HVAC use accounting for approximately half of the average home energy bill, the six tips that follow will help you make an informed purchasing decision.
1. Start By Hiring a Licensed HVAC Company
You’ve probably passed by air conditioners and heat pumps when shopping in big box stores. Although homeowners can certainly buy certain forms of HVAC equipment without a contractor’s license, doing so is never a good idea. Proper installation is key to getting the most out of any unit you buy. Your next HVAC equipment should be properly sized for its service area, correctly attached to your HVAC ducting, air balanced, and more.
There are many efficiency-related drawbacks to buying your HVAC units in-store. Foremost among these is the fact that even big box stores have limited selections. Although you might find some of the lowest prices in these locations, you won’t find the highest-performing or most efficient models available. More importantly, you aren’t assured of getting the right equipment types for the local climate or your household.
Why Correct HVAC Sizing Is So Important and How We Can Help
HVAC equipment sizing has a major impact on efficiency. If your heater, heat pump, or AC is too large for its service area, it will rapidly cycle on and off numerous times throughout the day. These shorter and more intense heating and cooling cycles require more energy to accomplish far less.
Undersized equipment will run all the time or nearly all the time when the outside temperature is extremely hot or cold. Lacking enough power to maintain your preferred temperature, undersized units will break down often, wear down quickly, and drive up your energy bill and carbon footprint.
This is one of the most common problems people experience when shopping at big box stores. Nearly all general recommendations suggest using square footage alone to size HVAC equipment. We use the Manual J Load Calculation instead. This calculation accounts for:
- The size of actual living areas
- The layouts of homes
- Insulation types, amounts, and locations
- Ceiling heights
- Window sizes
Among other factors, it even accounts for the number of people living in a building. The Manual J is so complex that it’s often calculated using sophisticated software. This is the most effective way to ensure optimum HVAC performance, efficiency, and longevity.
2. Consider Grey Emissions
There’s a tremendous push for Californians to transition from natural gas-fired heaters to electric heat pumps or furnaces. However, when it comes to limiting your carbon footprint, it’s important to remember that these appliances produce exhaust too. Although they don’t do so directly, producing the electricity that fuels them does. These are known as grey emissions.
Installing an entry-level heat pump or ductless mini-split that might underperform when the outside temperature dips low could leave you with lots of grey emissions in your carbon profile. When replacing a furnace with a heat pump, go for one that will perform well even when outside temperatures near freezing. Some air source heat pumps struggle to source enough warm outdoor air whenever temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, many of the heat pumps you’ll find at big box stores are entry-level and only efficient in ideal operating conditions.
3. Consider Efficiency Ratings
Among the best ways to find highly efficient HVAC units is by considering their efficiency ratings. Heaters come with annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings. These compare the amount of heat energy produced to the amount of fuel burned or consumed to produce it. High-efficiency gas furnaces have AFUE ratings up to 98.5%. Only 1.5% of the fuel they consume is lost due to incomplete combustion.
All electric furnaces have AFUE ratings of 100%. Comparatively, heat pumps can produce more heat energy and more cooled air than they consume in electric energy. In some cases, they can produce three to four times as much. This is why heat pumps are sometimes said to be 300% to 400% efficient.
SEER and HSPF Ratings
When purchasing a heat pump, you’ll want to look at its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating and its heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) ratings. Heat pumps get two separate ratings because they provide both heating and cooling. Although a heat pump might have an exceptional SEER rating, it may not be the most efficient choice for your home if its HSPF rating is average.
SEER ratings compare the amount of cooling produced over a single season to the amount of energy consumed over this same time. In California, all heat pumps must have SEER ratings of at least 15 or SEER2 ratings of at least 14.3. The most efficient heat pumps have HSPF ratings between eight and 10 and SEER ratings of 16.
Air conditioners use the SEER rating system too. If you’re building your HVAC system using an electric furnace and an AC, look for air conditioners with SEER ratings greater than 15 and SEER2 ratings above 14.3.
What’s the Difference Between SEER and SEER2 Ratings
SEER ratings have long set the regulatory standards for minimum heat pump and AC efficiency. However, in recent years, researchers discovered that the SEER rating system did not account for the significant effects of blower motors and HVAC air ducts. While the SEER2 rating system works much the same, it accounts for the static pressure present in HVAC ductwork by incorporating the use of an M1 blower motor. While most new air conditioners and heat pumps have both ratings, SEER2 ratings are the most current and accurate determinants of efficiency.
4. Opt for Central HVAC Zoning
Much of the energy your household uses is likely wasted on rooms that no one is actively using. Central heating and cooling systems are designed to heat and cool entire homes uniformly. With HVAC zoning, you can sidestep this ongoing energy waste by dividing your home into separate service areas.
Each service area will have its own, independently controlled thermostat. A central control unit will assess the signals sent by each smart thermostat and trigger the opening or closing of duct dampers as needed. This will route conditioned air into the areas that require it so that you’re only sending heated or cooled air throughout your whole house when necessary.
5. Refine or Replace Your Air Distribution System
Even the most efficient HVAC equipment will consistently underperform if attached to old and ragged ducting. Most ACs, heat pumps, and furnaces last between 15 and 25 years. HVAC ducting lasts about 12 to 15 years. If you haven’t replaced your HVAC air ducts in over two decades, consider revising your project budget to include these features. If you’re unable to pay for total duct replacement, you can alternatively work with your service provider to incorporate essential modifications and repairs. This way, your air ducts won’t deposit much of the conditioned air your HVAC system produces behind your drywall or in crawlspaces, your basement, or your attic.
6. Incorporate Smart Thermostats
Among the easiest ways to ensure the optimum level of HVAC efficiency is incorporating smart thermostats. These devices are much like programmable thermostats in that you can use them to establish scheduled temperature changes throughout the day. However, they’re also Wi-Fi-enabled and can be monitored and adjusted from any connected device and location. Smart thermostats also track energy use, compile helpful reports for strategic energy management, and send out timely reminders for basic HVAC maintenance.
We help residents of Foothill Ranch, CA minimize their carbon footprints. We offer an outstanding selection of highly efficient HVAC products, including heat pumps, furnaces, smart thermostats, and air conditioners. We also provide exceptional HVAC maintenance, repair, and replacement services as well as advanced indoor air quality (IAQ) solutions. To schedule an appointment, contact us at White Mechanical, Inc. today.