How to Choose a New Heating and Cooling System
Spoiler alert: Buying a heating and cooling system is not a fun expense. You don't get to pick the exterior and interior colors or decide if it comes with a sunroof or moonroof. But, heating and cooling systems account for 48 percent of the energy used in a typical U.S. household, which makes it the largest energy expense for most homes according to the Department of Energy. So, while it may not sound like a fun way to spend your money, it is an investment you need to carefully consider and research before making a purchase decision.
What is a high-performance heating and cooling system?
Honestly, there is no clear definition of a high-performance system, because the perception of high-performance varies greatly among building professionals. Some still believe that the minimum performance metrics allowed by law make a system high-performance/have high efficiencies. Others find the middle of the road efficiencies to be high-performance, and then there are the few that look at investing in the long-term comfort and well-being of you, your home, and the energy savings everyone can experience.
What to Consider When Looking for an Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling System
While there isn't a clear-cut, standard definition of high-performance, you should keep the following in mind when buying a new heating and cooling system:
- Energy Efficiency Ratings: Look at the energy efficiency rating of the air conditioning system, which is measured in SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), and the gas furnace, which is measured in AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). On a basic level, both of these technical terms measure how efficient the systems are and a higher number means the system performs better, similar to MPGs with your car. The law requires air conditioning systems to be 13 SEER and gas furnaces to be 80 percent AFUE at minimum (these vary slightly depending on where you are located in the country). The highest-performing conventional air conditioners reach 20 SEER and gas furnaces reach 95 percent AFUE. This is where most HVAC professionals stop, but there is a system that performs better than the highest-performing conventional units: geothermal heating and cooling. Geothermal heating systems are 5X more efficient than a 95 percent efficient gas furnace and the cooling portion of a geothermal system will save you 50 percent over most air conditioners purchased today. Geothermal heating and cooling is the most energy-efficient system available, according to the EPA.
- Energy Prices:With today's artificially low energy prices, it's easy to pick the less efficient system for a cheaper install cost, but keep in mind that conventional HVAC systems last for 12 years and energy prices are bound to fluctuate and increase before the end of the system's lifecycle. A geothermal system lasts almost twice as long, with a lifespan of 20 years or more and the ground loop lasts for 100 years plus. Since geothermal heating and cooling uses the consistent underground temperatures to heat and cool, its monthly rate is not influenced by energy prices. Replacing a heating and cooling system is a long-term investment, so the moral is: don't let short-term energy prices sway your decision too heavily. Take time to look at and evaluate the big picture.
- Properly Sized Equipment:When discussing HVAC options with your contractor, make sure they are quoting you the appropriate equipment size in their bid. You can do this by having them walk you through step-by-step how they came to their sizing recommendation.Many times, HVAC contractors will oversize both a furnace and air conditioner, which creates cycling losses that add to your monthly costs and decrease the level of comfort in your home. With geothermal heating and cooling systems, contractors match the load of your home with its heating and cooling requirements so there are reduced cycling losses and a much higher comfort level is achieved with both heating and cooling.
Americans spend approximately 4,000 – 6,000 hours per yearin their home. You deserve to be comfortable and experience energy savings for these hours, so I encourage you to take the time and educate yourself on the right high-performance heating and cooling system for you. With high-performance heating and cooling, cheap isn't good and good isn't cheap, but you will save in the long run.
This blog was developed by GeoComfort Geothermal Systems. All posts, sponsored and un-sponsored have been reviewed and approved by the Sustainable Community Media Editorial Team to ensure quality, relevance/usefulness and objectivity.
Companies: GeoComfort Geothermal Systems
Steve Smith is the CEO of GeoComfort, a geothermal heating and cooling brand dedicated to producing high-quality, energy-efficient systems.www