Springtime in the Southeast brings many wonderful things: bursts of blooms, longer days, and open patios. For some, it will also bring news of the need to replace old or worn air conditioning systems. While heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) replacement is a substantial expense, it is also an opportunity to invest in the energy efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality of your home that only comes around every 15 years or so.
Heating and cooling costs account for nearly 50 percent of a typical household’s total annual energy bill. Replacing a 12-year-old system with an ENERGY STAR® model can save a typical homeowner $250 per year in heating and cooling costs. You may even qualify for tax credits or utility rebates with high efficiency systems (http://www.dsireusa.org/).
Want to know how to maximize your return on investment and turn lemons into lemonade? Look for these features and technologies when replacing your system.
High SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) measures air conditioning or heat pump cooling efficiency. A SEER of 14 is the minimum value allowed for new installations in Georgia now. Higher is better!
ENERGY STAR® – The first thing to ask for when choosing a new system is for an ENERGY STAR certified model. Regardless of brand or system type, these models meet strict efficiency and performance requirements. An ENERGY STAR air conditioner or heat pump will have a SEER ≥ 15, compared to the minimum code value in Georgia of 14.
Variable Speed -Variable speed systems allow the fan motor inside the air handler unit to speed up or slow down, depending on need. This can save energy and improve dehumidification. This feature is often found on higher efficiency units.
Two Stage – Two stage air conditioners and heat pumps have compressors that can run at a low level for up to 80 percent of the time, and ramp up to high on the hottest summer afternoons. When the system turns on, it may run longer, but this is a good thing, resulting in energy savings, increased dehumidification and often quieter operation.
Variable Capacity – Variable capacity systems provide even greater control of the compressor and refrigerant flow to ramp up and down in response to the cooling or heating need. These systems are usually top of the line.
Thermostats – Take advantage of the high-tech features available in today’s thermostats by setting temperature profiles that maximize energy savings, using your smart phone to update setbacks when you are away on travel, and many more custom features.
KEY TO SUCCESS With any new (or existing) system, quality installation is key to getting promised performance. Your contractor should follow manufacturer’s installation instructions, including performing ACCA Manual J & S load and sizing calculations; verifying that system airflow, static pressure, and refrigerant charge are within manufacturer specifications; and installing new or repairing existing ductwork so that it is airtight and provides sufficient supply and return airflows. Ask them to show you the numbers!