The Grim Reaper May Be Coming For Your HVAC.
Ready to Say Goodbye?
Equipment failure seems cosmically compelled to happen at the most inopportune times. It never fails that mechanical stuff malfunctions.
Certain items tend to give out when needed most. This scenario rings especially true for air-conditioning equipment. Summer is normally the time when deficiencies from an aging and inefficient HVAC system begin to show the most under seasonal stresses.
In the heat of the moment when cold air ceases, it may become difficult to spend the time necessary to research buying options. If consumers find themselves plunked into the market for a new HVAC system this summer, United can shed light on a few key purchasing points.
First and foremost, United recommends getting at least three written estimates from licensed HVAC contractors. Not only is the HVAC system the largest consumer of energy, but also it’s one of the most expensive appliances in the average home. With such a costly item, consumers should take time to price-match options and place all the bids on a level playing field—compare apples to apples.
The best value may not necessarily come from the contractor who offers the lowest price. It is important to understand what is included in each price and consider the cost of operating the system, not just the initial up-front cost.
Conditioning the average home accounts for almost two-thirds of monthly electric usage. It’s fair to say that an investment in more energy efficient (and possibly more expensive) residential climate control can be a boon to overall energy savings in the long run.
The efficiency of a cooling system is expressed as a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. All cooling systems sold today must have a minimum of a 14-SEER rating. Systems with higher SEERs cost more initially, but they have lower operating costs. There is normally not a significant increase in price from a 14, 15 or a 16 SEER unit, so United recommends entertaining this upgrade.
Replacing only the air-conditioning unit (outdoor unit) may appear to save money, but it may contribute to service problems later on. A mismatched system might not deliver the energy efficiency or performance that a homeowner expects. Doing so can negatively alter the SEER rating, depending on the specific pairing of both the inside and outside units. United recommends confirming the pairing with an HVAC dealer when installing a new unit and requesting an Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) Certificate. This certificate will show the SEER rating for your exact pairing of inside and outside units.
Consumers have many choices when it comes to selecting a central forced-air HVAC system. Those with all-electric homes or propane-fueled heating should consider installing a heat pump system. A heat pump is an all-electric unit that operates more efficiently than conventional straight electric units (electric coils) and propane furnaces.
Homeowners not only will notice savings during the summer months by upgrading the efficiency of an air-conditioning unit, but also they will notice savings during the winter months by increasing the efficiency of the heating unit.
Heat pump efficiency, or the heating efficiency, is expressed by a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), and all newer heat pump systems must carry a minimum HSPF of 8.2. Similar to the SEER rating, higher HSPF denotes greater energy efficiency. In order to compare the bids, the HSPF and the SEER ratings found on the AHRI certificate are excellent resources.
To ensure that a new HVAC system is the right size for the home, ask contractors to perform a detailed load calculation. This calculation determines the capacity of the equipment needed and the correct distribution of air to each room. An HVAC system that is too small cannot deliver adequate heating or cooling in extreme weather. A system that is too large will not only cost more with initial purchase and operating costs, but also will provide poorer temperature and humidity control. Contractors should design HVAC systems to fit a consumer’s home. The size, construction, orientation and location of a house all affect the size of an HVAC system.
While performing research for a new unit, homeowners should make energy improvements to their homes. This can reduce operating costs and also can mean a smaller, less expensive HVAC system is capable of handling the job. An energy-efficiency upgrade, such as adding insulation to the attic, can significantly lessen the strain placed on the heating and cooling unit.
United also recommends asking contractors to thoroughly inspect ductwork to identify any problems. Installing a new high-efficiency heat pump while still using old ductwork could affect performance. The ductwork may be leaky, restricted, inadequate and may not be sized for your new system. Ductwork should be properly sealed and insulated, and it should be sized for your new system.
United will continue to offer incentives for those members who are making great strides in becoming more energy efficient.
United’s Air-Source Heat Pump Rebates
United currently has an Air-Source Heat Pump Rebate to offset some of the cost associated with having that type of system installed.
Minimum SEER of 16.0 - $200
Minimum SEER of 17.0 - $300
Minimum SEER of 18.0 - $400
Minimum SEER of 19.0 - $500
Fuel Conversion Rebate
Replacing a central propane furnace with a NEW electric heat pump will qualify the member for an additional $100 rebate. Member must change the inside and outside unit to qualify.
Attic Insulation Retrofit Rebate
In order to qualify, the member must have 8 inches or less prior to the installation of new insulation. A free energy audit is required prior to the installation for all retrofit insulation rebates.
The energy auditor will pre-qualify the member for the rebate and let them know the dollar amount of incentives to expect once they perform the upgrade.
United Cooperative Services constantly strives to educate members about how to manage energy more efficiently, and to waste less. United is here to help. For more information about energy efficiency and best practices in energy management, please contact one of United’s energy experts and schedule a home energy audit.