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How do Your Home or Business HVAC Costs Compare to Others?

It's sometimes difficult to determine if your building's heating and cooling costs are appropriate. The costs are dependent on multiple factors, like the type of fuel used, the square footage of the business or home and the weather in the area. The average cost for heating a 1200 square foot home in Florida is very different than heating a house of the same size in North Dakota. However, knowing if your building is above or below average can impact your decisions in upgrading, replacing or improving your HVAC system. A home that has higher than average energy costs may benefit from an upgrade to the heating and cooling systems.

The U.S. Energy Star site provides a calculator for comparing your building's energy cost to others. To use the calculator, you'll have to provide the following:

  • Zip code
  • Building Square Footage
  • Number of full-time occupants
  • Types of fuels used in the home
  • Last 12 months of utility bills

With this information, the Energy Star calculator is able to give insight into the efficiency of the heating and cooling in a home or business location. Other everyday utility uses, like hot water, appliances and lighting are separated. Finding 12 months worth of energy bills may require some work. However, some utilities may provide a shortcut called "Green Button." This is a file that stores your utility data. It can simply be uploaded to the Energy Star calculator in place of the 12 months of utility bills. If your utility sums the last year's worth of energy costs, that is also a good shortcut.

The Energy Star calculator will give the building a score between 1 and 10. Lower scores imply that the home or business location could benefit from an improvement in the heating and cooling system. The calculator also provides an estimate for how much money could be saved by upgrading the heating and cooling to a level 10 (the most efficient.) For those interested in the environmental impact of their building's HVAC system, the calculator also provides a sum of how much pollution is generated. An efficient home typically generates pollution similar to what one car creates. A monthly energy use graph is also generated to show the building's energy expenditure over time.

While there is a general rule of thumb that says to replace HVAC equipment more than 10 years old, home and business owners can get more insight into their building's efficiency through tools like the Energy Star calculator. A low score implies that the system could benefit from an upgrade. A higher score may mean that minimal improvements, like improving the ducting insulation, could be appropriate to reduce energy costs.

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