In March 2017, Technavio published a report highlighting technology trends in the HVAC market. Building automation and remote control of HVAC systems were identified as major market trends. The report also noted that regular maintenance and incorporation of green technologies were trends. These trends are great for businesses and consumers because more efficient monitoring and maintenance are likely to reduce the cost of running an HVAC system. Here is how to capitalize on these trends.
Purchase a smart monitoring system
Businesses can choose from a variety of building monitoring systems. These monitoring systems often include other major building functions, like fire suppression and security. All the functions can work together for optimal efficiency.
Homeowners can invest in a smart thermostat, like a NEST. These monitoring devices learn how the homeowners like having the heating and cooling in each portion of the house. The program balances these needs with energy saving measures to reduce home energy bills. NEST recently received an Energy Star rating in the U.S., which demonstrates that meets federal regulations for saving energy.
The rise in smart infrastructure projects around the globe is propelling the demand for new heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning components…
This statement implies that HVACs will soon be joining the Internet-of-Things (IoT), smart devices controlled through the internet. HVAC components are being re-designed and optimized to work within this new system. New components, released in the near future, may work better with the IoT capability, leading to even greater cost savings.
Complete maintenance at regular intervals
Both homes and businesses can benefit from regular HVAC maintenance. Energy costs can be reduced by up to 40% with regular maintenance. Many homeowners and businesses owners don’t take advantage of these costs savings because they wait until something is broken. While waiting till a component breaks may be simpler, it is more costly in the long-term, especially since the HVAC system may have more downtime in order to complete a major repair.
Although many homeowners and business owners might not be surprised by the need for regular maintenance, the rise of the smart monitoring devices for HVAC systems can have huge consequences on cost. Not only do these smart monitoring devices reduce the energy bill, as they become more advanced, they could incorporate more functions. For example, a smart monitoring device could alert business owners when it was time to complete regular maintenance. By adding a smart monitoring device, HVAC systems now have the potential to add many new and practical functions.
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.
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.
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.