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HVAC Blog | National Air Warehouse

  • Purchase a Higher SEER to Reduce Cooling Costs

    SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a specification that homeowners should take into account when purchasing a new air conditioner. This number, which ranges from 10 to 30 in newer units, indicates the amount of energy required to meet a specific cooling output. Higher numbers indicate greater efficiency. Homeowners with older air conditioning units may have a SEER of 6 or less, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Upgrading to a higher efficiency unit will save many homeowners money in the long term.

    What level of SEER efficiency is cost-effective for a homeowner though? Our 2.0 ton air conditioners have 14, 15 or 16 SEER ratings available. A customer that wants to purchase a Rheem air conditioner may spend up to $600 more for a SEER 16 as opposed to a SEER 14. Is it worth the extra cost? That depends on the temperature fluctuations in each homeowner's area. Let's look at some examples using the SEER Savings Calculator.

    Our first example customer lives in Phoenix, AZ. His current air conditioner has a SEER rating of 10 and he wants to upgrade. With an upgrade to a SEER 14, he will save 29% of the energy cost of his original air conditioner. However, by upgrading to a SEER 16, the same homeowner can save 38% of the energy cost of his original air conditioner. With the typical energy rates in Phoenix, Arizona, after five years, the SEER 14 will save $932 and the SEER 16 will save $1224. At this point, it doesn't seem like upgrading to the SEER 16 is worth the extra $600. However, air conditioning units are intended to last for 10 to 15 years. After 10 years, the increased cost of the SEER 16 will be offset by the savings in efficiency.

    It makes sense to upgrade to a high efficiency SEER in hot areas that require regular use of the air conditioner. No matter if the homeowner decides between the SEER 14 or the SEER 16, the reduced energy cost will offset the cost of the new air conditioning unit in about 10 years. That's also assuming that the current air conditioning unit is decent with a SEER of 10. Many people have much less efficient units, which means that upgrading saves even more money.

    Homeowners that live in cooler regions may not be as impacted by the SEER ratings. For example, in Seattle WA, there is little need for cooling except for one week a month. Upgrading from a SEER of 10 to a SEER of 14 will still save 29% of the cost, but the cost is much less. Many Seattlites spend only $65/year on cooling. Upgrading will not have such a large impact on the energy cost because the air conditioner is not used that often.

    To determine the right SEER for their needs, homeowners should evaluate how often they cool their homes. The more cooling that is required, the more it makes sense to upgrade to a high efficiency air conditioner.

  • Save Energy with an Energy Star Certified Thermostat

    Although Energy Star has been a marker for efficient televisions and other appliances for years, it has not been applied to thermostats until this year. This is interesting because setting the thermostat properly may be the biggest energy saver in a home. Commonwealth Edison estimated that 30-35% of cooling energy use could be reduced by choosing efficient thermostat set points. Consumer Reports notes that a thermostat has the most potential of any energy-saving device to save homeowners money. So, why wasn't there a certified thermostat until this year?

    Programmable thermostats have had a learning curve in recent years. Many homeowners didn't use them properly. This made it difficult to develop a standard for the thermostat itself because it was not used according to the specifications. Manufacturers have responded by making recent models more intuitive and easier to program. Based on these improvements, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency was able to issue a new standard for wifi-enabled thermostats at the end of 2016.

    The Nest thermostat was the first Energy Star certified thermostat under the new rules. Like other wifi-connected thermostats, the Nest offers the ability to access the thermostat from your smartphone. The system "learns" your preferred temperatures and starts to adapt the system for maximum efficiency. It also tracks energy usage, so homeowners can adjust preferences to save money and energy.

    The EPA estimates that using a certified thermostat, like Nest, can save homeowners up to 8% in energy costs per year. This amounts to at least a $50 savings per year. While that doesn't seem like a lot, the energy savings add up as more people embrace the Energy Star certified thermostats. If every thermostat worked as efficiently, the savings could reach 56 trillion BTU and offset 13 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. That's the equivalent of taking 1.2 million motor vehicles off of the road. Although it may take some time to pay off the cost of a new thermostat, the increased efficiency eventually benefits home and business owners.

    As part of a heating, air conditioning and ventilation remodel or new purchase, homeowners should consider an Energy Star certified thermostat. Even using the new thermostat with old equipment will lead to savings. Combining the new thermostat with a properly sized HVAC system is even better. That 8% savings will likely increase with the purchase of an appropriate HVAC system because older equipment is sometimes the wrong size or less efficient than newer models. For those not ready to purchase a new HVAC, buying an Energy Star certified thermostat is a good step in the direction of greater efficiency and cost savings.

  • How Energy Efficient Upgrades Impact your HVAC System

    Many homeowners and business owners have added energy efficient upgrades to reduce their environmental impact. Double-paned windows and high quality insulation can decrease the amount that owners spend on heating and cooling costs. These efforts are also more environmentally friendly because energy is not lost due to leaks. However, many owners don't take into consideration the impact that these improvement have on the HVAC system of the home or business.

    Energy efficient improvements change the heat load of the house. In fact, the US Department of Energy calculated how much the heat load of a 2000 square foot house in North Carolina would change with energy efficient improvements. The hypothetical house improved the insulation in the ceiling and walls, upgraded to double-paned glass, increased the window overhangs and eliminated duct leakage by moving the ducts into the conditioned space. Before the updates, the house's heat load would have been 46,100 Btu/hr by the Manual J calculation. After the updates, it would have been only 21,300 Btu/hr. The energy efficient upgrades cut the heat load in half!

    Unfortunately, many people don't realize the impact that this heat load reduction has on the HVAC system. In the original home, a 4 - 5 ton HVAC system would have been installed. This large HVAC system would have been appropriately sized for the home. However, HVACs are sized based on the heat load. Therefore, after improvements, the proper HVAC sizing would be 2 tons. If the HVAC system is not upgraded with the rest of the house, it will not be properly sized for maximum efficiency.

    The Department of Energy evaluated how much energy savings would result if the HVAC system was upgraded with the rest of the house. With a new 2 ton HVAC system, the homeowners would save 63 percent on heating energy and 53 percent on cooling energy. If the homeowners did the rest of the upgrades but did not upgrade the HVAC system, they would save 54 percent on heating and 47 percent on cooling. It does save energy to do the other upgrades, but homeowners that match the HVAC system to the current heat load gain an extra 10 percent increase in energy efficiency.

    Long lasting HVAC systems are often not included in home and business energy efficiency upgrades. However, they should be. As the heat load of the home or business changes, the HVAC system should be matched to the needs. A right-sized HVAC system could boost the energy efficiency of the home by 10 percent.

  • A Checklist for Heat Load Calculations

    To have an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system run at optimal efficiency, homeowners and business owners need to know the heat load of the building. This metric, measured in tonnage, determines which size of HVAC system to purchase. Selecting the right size system is important for efficiency. For example, over-sized systems don't properly de-humidify the air during the summer. Under-sized systems may not be able to effectively heat or cool a building. Homeowners and business owners want the right size to have efficient heating and cooling.

    The most common way to determine the heat load of a building is a Manual J calculation. A licensed HVAC contractor can complete this calculation for a fee. However, there are some online Manual J calculators that allow home and business owners to complete their own calculations. The key piece is not the calculation, however, but the inputs. Owners must know many details about the building in order to complete a Manual J calculation. The checklist below contains the inputs required to do a Manual J heat load calculation.

    Materials for Walls, Ceiling and Floors

    A heat load calculation takes into account the insulation properties of the house. For this reason, it's not enough to know that a home is “brick.” Homes with brick walls also may or may not have insulation. The insulation can be various types. The same principle applies to ceilings and floors. A building plan or an HVAC contractor may be required to find out this information.

    Window Type

    The insulating properties of windows can also vary, depending on whether the window is single or double paned. Even the frame type (usually metal, wood or vinyl) has an impact on the heat load calculation.

    Door Type

    Surprisingly, there are differences in insulation properties between wood doors. In fact, there are multiple types of wooden doors in the heat load calculation. The insulation depends on whether the door is hollow or solid. Metal doors also have drastically different heat properties.

    Ceiling and Window Height

    The ceiling height helps to determine how much air needs to be warmed or cooled. Window height also has an impact on the heat load calculation.

    Length x Width x Height of Walls, Windows and Doors

    This information helps determine the size of the home or business and how much air needs to flow through the building for proper heating and cooling.

    Orientation of the Building

    The orientation of the front door and windows can be north, south, east or west. Southern exposure tends to be warmer in the northern hemisphere, since the sun hits that surface year-round.

    With this checklist, home and business owners can begin to complete a heat load calculation. There are online resources available to assist. However, it's important to note whether the calculation assumes the house is a “block” or it asks for the inputs for “room-by-room.” Block calculations are simpler to complete, but they don't tell owners how much heating and cooling is required for each room. To properly size ductwork and maximize efficiency, a room-by-room heat load calculation is preferred.

  • Use a Heat Pump for Air Conditioning and Heating

    One way to think of a heat pump is as a reversible air conditioner, which means that one device can provide both heating and cooling. Heat pumps capture heat from the outdoors and compress it. The compressed heated air is then pumped around the home or business. The heat pump doesn't actually generate heat. The principle by which heat pumps work is the same as air conditioners. However, air conditioners cycle the opposite way, expelling heat to the outdoors, instead of drawing it in. While heat pumps are typically reversible and can function as air conditioners, not all air conditioners can be reversed to function as heat pumps.

    Although heat pumps have the advantage of both cooling and heating, their functionality is limited to a moderate climate. An example of an appropriate climate for a heat pump only system would be Washington, DC. As an air conditioner, a heat pump can provide cooling air during hot temperatures. When temperatures drop below freezing though, it becomes harder for a heat pump to work as a heater. Since it functions by drawing heat from the air, it struggles to draw heat from freezing air. One solution is to add electric resistance coils to the heat pump. These coils function as a furnace and provide heat when it's too cold to draw warmth from outdoor air.

    Above freezing temperatures, heat pumps can be up to 40% more efficient than gas furnaces. Heating air requires a great deal of energy. Gas furnaces physically heat the air with a flame. However, heat pumps transition the warmth outdoors into the indoors (though compressing the air can be energy intensive). Heat pumps are more efficient than furnaces until additional electrical resistance coils need to be used to heat the air, which usually occurs around freezing temperature. At this point, the electrical or gas resistance coils are not as efficient as a gas furnace.

    If a heat pump promises to meet your heating and cooling needs, there are a few options to consider. Heat pumps come in a variety of sizes, measured in tonnage. To properly size a heat pump, home and business owners should complete a heat load calculation. This calculation takes insulation, square footage and climate factors into account and then recommends a tonnage. Heat pumps are usually electric, but some resistance coils can be gas-powered, depending on your preferences. SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency rating, is another way to determine the best heat pump for a home or business. Higher ratings translate to a more efficient heat pump. With these options in mind, it's easy to select the appropriate heat pump for your home or business.

  • Do I need an air handler?

    Sometimes the number of components that make up an HVAC (heat, ventilation and air conditioning) system can seem overwhelming. Part of the reason is that HVAC systems are extremely flexible. You can pick only the components you need to heat and cool your business or home as efficiently as possible. In some cases, this involves buying an air handler.

    An air handler has a simple task, to take in air and send it around the home or business. Air handlers often include blowers, heating and cooling systems and filters. It handles much of the “ventilation” port of the HVAC system. Air handlers are commonly used in conjunction with air conditioners. The evaporator coil in the air handler can remove additional heat before sending the air throughout the house.

    Am I in the right climate for an air handler?

    An electric split system for air conditioning in a warm climate, like Florida, will benefit from an air handler. Working in tandem with the air conditioner, the air handler keeps the air cold and blowing.

    However, air handlers can also be beneficial in slightly cooler climates. They can contain both heating and cooling elements. The cooling element would be the evaporator coil, which removes excess heat from the air. Heating elements, like electric heating strips, can also be included in an air handler. In this case, the air handler adds additional heat to the air before blowing it around the home or business.

    While beneficial in cooler climates, air handlers are not as commonly found in cold truly climates, like Minnesota. A gas or electric furnace is commonly used in place instead. Pairing a heat pump with an air handler is typically not sufficient to warm a home or business in a climate that repeatedly drops below zero. A gas or electric furnace is a more effective way to heat the location.

    How do I select an air handler?

    If you live in a warm climate, where the combination of an air handler and air conditioner or heat pump provides sufficient heating and cooling, it's time to look at air handlers. The first step is to do a load calculation, which determines how much heating or cooling is required for the home or business. A Manual J calculation is standard and the most accurate, but rules of thumb can also be applied. The resulting number is the tonnage size of the HVAC system that you ought to purchase for the best efficiency.

    The next item to evaluate is what type of refrigerant the air handler uses. The most common types are R-22 and R410-A. Newer HVAC systems typically use the R-410A refrigerant, which is generally accepted as the more environmentally friendly and efficient refrigerant.

    Air handlers can also be sold with heating elements. This may or may not be necessary in your climate. If your home does not already have heat pump, the heating elements may be a good choice to warm the air in your home when it gets a bit chillier. The heating elements can also work in tandem with a heat pump for greater efficiency. It depends on the system you select for your climate.

    If you need any help determining if your home or business would benefit from an air handler, you can check with an expert or call National Air Warehouse at (888) 997-5160 for assistance.

  • HVAC Sizing: Why do a load calculation?

    A whole new vocabulary greets those who want to purchase a new HVAC system. Instead of seeing the normal housing “square feet” metric, people are likely to see measurements in “tons.” These are not the same tons that semi-trucks are hauling on the freeway. It's a measurement of the cooling rate, and it's about equal to 12,000 Btu/hr. To properly size an HVAC system, the buyer needs to determine how the home or office building loses and maintains heat.

    Since HVAC may seem like a complicated new world, new HVAC buyers might be tempted to use a 'rule of thumb' to determine the size of their HVAC system. These “rules” can be as simple as holding up a cut-out to the home. The hole that the house fits within is labeled with a ton amount. Other people will recommend a certain number of tons per square foot. This method is slightly better because it takes into account the weather conditions for the local area. However, there are disadvantages to using a rule of thumb.

    Using a 'rule of thumb' is like going to the store and picking out a shirt in your size without trying it on. If you are usually a medium, it's a good bet that a medium shirt will fit you. But, in some stores, a medium can be too tight to fit around your chest or so loose that the shirtsleeves go down to your elbows. Without accounting for the unique contours of your body by trying it on, it's possible that you can buy the wrong size. An improperly sized HVAC system is like an ill-fitting shirt; it does the job, but it doesn't do it as well as it could. For example, an over-sized HVAC system doesn't de-humidify the air as efficiently during the summer.

    The secret to purchasing the right size of HVAC system is to take more factors into account. Like the unique contours of your body, your home or business has unique characteristics. For a building, the unique characteristics are the materials used for the construction. Are the walls made of brick or siding? What type of insulation was used? How many vents are in the floor? The doors are made of what type of material? These characteristics (and others, such as your location) are used in a Manual J load calculation, an industry standard method to determine the HVAC size for a home or office building.

    With the internet, it is possible to do a Manual J load calculation yourself. There are many sites dedicated to the task. However, they do assume that you have the basic information about the materials used in the construction of the building. Many homeowners don't know what type of siding or insulation they have (or where to find it). If you don't know what ceiling type you have in your home, it's probably worth asking a professional to complete a calculation (according to Manual J or another method). A trained technician can quickly assess the location.

    An HVAC is a long-term investment, often heating and cooling a location for decades. Isn't it worth it to get the right size for maximum efficiency?

  • Gas or Electric Heat: A Cost Comparison

    One of the first decisions a homeowner or business owner has to make, regarding an HVAC (heat, ventilation, air conditioning) system, is whether to purchase an electric or gas heater. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. The up-front costs and long-term costs are one area that people typically examine.

    Up-Front Costs

    These are the costs associated with the initial installation of the heating component of the HVAC system. The first item to look at is whether the home or business has access to electricity and natural gas. Many homes and businesses have both electricity and natural gas lines already running to the house. However, some locations do not have access to natural gas. In this case, running a gas line to the location could be an additional upfront cost. Each home or business is unique and different costs may be taken into consideration for each one.

    The cost of the heater itself is also included in the up-front costs. If you are buying this as a single component, it's often called a furnace. At National Air Warehouse, the electric furnaces start around $700 and the gas furnaces start around $900.

    Looking at just the up-front costs, the electric furnace seems to be cheaper. However, most HVAC systems are meant to be used for years. The long-term costs look at how expensive it is to run each type of furnace for years to come.

    Long-Term Costs

    The costs associated with the furnace in the long term are: maintenance and the cost of the electricity/natural gas. When it comes to maintenance, the electric heaters are typically cheaper to maintain. One of the reasons is that electric furnaces typically outlast gas furnaces. An electric furnace can last for 20-30 years with regular maintenance. Gas furnaces, in comparison, typically have slightly shorter lifespans of 10-20 years.

    People commonly say that the cost of natural gas is lower than that of electricity. This is true in many locations, but it does depend on the location of the home or business. Electricity is cheaper in some cities than others. To truly determine the long-term impact of paying for electricity or gas, a homeowner or business owner can calculate the energy use. The amount of electricity used is typically tabulated as kilowatt-hours (kWh) and the amount of natural gas is often tabulated as therms. A homeowner could directly compare the costs by converting kWh to therms (1 kWh = 0.034 therms). Less money spent per therm will save the homeowner or business owner in the long-term.

    Making a smart decision regarding electric or gas furnaces may require a bit of thought, but there are many resources out there to help home and business owners decide between the two.

  • When do I upgrade my HVAC system?

    Air conditioner Unit Repair Air conditioner Unit Repair

    One of the most common questions asked about HVAC systems is, if my old system is running poorly, can I repair it cheaply? Or do I need to purchase a new system? Like most things in life, the answer isn’t simple: it depends on the age of the system, how well it has been maintained, and your current usage of it. In this article, I will go over a few of the things that you need to look at when deciding how to make your system more functional.
    First, consider the age of your system. It is important to examine not just how long you have used it, but how old the model is. Older models will usually be much less efficient, and can end up costing you more in the long run. So even if it seems to be somewhat fixable, if it is a very old system, it might be worth it to simply buy a newer model. You will save on energy, and have what is usually a quieter, more reliable system. A well-maintained HVAC system can last for 15 years or so, but generally if it is more than ten years old, it is time to think about a replacement.
    Second, look at the cost of a repair. Unfortunately, the cost to repair a system can sometimes cost near the price of a new unit. If you are facing a very expensive repair, then it might be a lot better to simply buy a new unit. This will be especially true if the unit is in poor condition, and will likely need more repairs in the future. Thankfully, lower end units can be purchased somewhat inexpensively if money is a major issue.
    Another important factor to keep in mind, is the energy efficiency of your old machine. Many older HVAC units have chemicals that are bad for the environment, in addition to being energy hogs. Check the SEER rating of your unit. A poor rating could definitely indicate that your unit is taking a lot more energy than would be needed by a newer unit.
    So, when weighing the cost of a repair with the cost of a new unit, make sure to keep these guidelines in mind. Often investing the money for a new system will save you money in the long run, and if you keep it well maintained, it will last you for a long time.

  • More Misconceptions about your HVAC System

    Air Conditioner Air Conditioner

    Many people are uninformed about their HVAC system and therefore they believe a lot of misconceptions about HVAC systems. Being informed about your system is a must and this information should steer you clear of any misconceptions you might hear about your HVAC system.

    One myth has to do with when to do maintenance. Something a lot of people believe or think they believe is that you only need to check your HVAC system when you think something is wrong. This is incorrect. Preventative care is necessary and checking your HVAC on a regular basis is a must. This will save you money in the long run as it will lower the amount of maintenance you do. It is also important to keep air ducts clean and service your system every so often.

    A popular myth encourages homeowners to leave appliances and computers running when not in use with the belief that it uses less energy than shutting down and restarting. Yes, there’s a small power surge when these appliances turn back on, but it’s a small surge that equals very little run-time power. When you leave these things on, all you’re actually doing is wasting energy.

    Many people think that when you close off your vents, you’ll reduce the amount of air that’s being pushed throughout your home, but in reality, (if you have a modern HVAC system), the pressure load will be balanced throughout your rooms. If you block a vent, you can throw your HVAC system out of balance and actually make it work harder.

    In blistering heat or bitter cold, you want fast relief. To many homeowners, this translates to turning the thermostat higher or lower than usual in an effort to bring the temperature to a comfortable level more quickly. The system is either on or off, and it doesn’t vary speed or temperature according to the thermostat set point. Cranking the thermostat ensures that the HVAC system runs longer, but it won’t change the speed of results.

    Many also think that using the system in short bursts is a way to save energy and money. Actually, it takes about 2-4 minutes for you system to get going. In this time the system uses more energy. After it has some time to get going it will use less energy so using it for longer intervals is recommended provided your house is at an optimal temperature.

    Using his information will help you save money and keep your system running smoothly.

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