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  • Industry HVAC Trends Increase HVAC Performance

    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.

    Technavio adds:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • How is a Split System Different from a Package Unit?

    Split System Different than a Packaging system

    Central air conditioners come in two form factors: split systems or packaged units. These systems have significant differences and there are pros and cons associated with each.

    Split Systems
    These systems consist of two main parts: a metal cabinet that sits on a concrete slab outdoors and another cabinet that is installed inside the building, hence the term "split." The indoor cabinet may be inside a closet, basement or in an attic and will often include a furnace. The indoor and outdoor parts of the split system are connected to each other via a refrigerant line.

    The outdoor cabinet houses the compressor and condenser, while the indoor cabinet houses the evaporator.

    Split systems have the potential to be far more efficient (as high as 25 SEER), though installation involves two units instead of one like with a packaged unit. Two units may be more difficult to install than one; it’s also important to note that unlike a packaged unit, a split system cannot be charged until it’s installed. Homeowners should also note that proper installation is crucial for optimal performance. If a split unit isn’t installed properly, this can severely reduce its lifespan.

    Packaged Units
    The air conditioner's main components like the evaporator and condenser are all in one cabinet, and are thus "packaged." Most of the time, the cabinet is located somewhere outside the building, usually on the roof. In some cases, a packaged unit will include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace.

    Since packaged units are installed outdoors, installation is easier and they save on space in the building. Packaged systems may also work better once installed since they’re assembled in a controlled factory environment and come pre-charged with refrigerant; both factors can ensure optimal function once they are installed. However, their efficiency potential is much less than that of split systems (15 SEER at most). Another drawback comes from the fact that packaged units are placed in a harsh environment; the elements along with wild animals such as raccoons can cause problems. Animals can chew on wires or nest in the cabinet.

    Costs
    Price could be considered another factor. Packaged units are usually slightly more expensive than split systems but since the installation of split systems is more labor intensive, they both wind up costing roughly the same overall. A split system may be less expensive if the home is already equipped with a furnace and the property owner is replacing an older air conditioning unit.

    When choosing between the two, the determining factor may be the building in which the system is to be installed. While larger and newer buildings may have room for the indoor part of a split system, a packaged unit may be the only option in a smaller or older one.

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