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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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • HVAC System Design for Commercial Installation

    HVAC Systems HVAC Systems

    Did you know that your heating and ventilation and air conditioning system provides your home with about 30% energy? This is common for small offices and residential homes as well. When you have a well-designed air conditioning system, it does adequately cool a building, but it also reduces the energy consumption. In addition, it also improves the building’s air quality without causing any damages to the environment.

    Industrial and Manufacturing

    In a manufacturing warehouse or industrial building, the HVAC system has various combinations of devices for heating and cooling. Some of these devices include:

    • Electric heat
    • Heat pump
    • Rooftop unit
    • Furnace
    • Chillers
    • Boilers
    • Central AC units

    For the commercial HVAC system installation, there are various system designs to choose from. For this reason, the installation should be done by an HVAC technician with industrial installation experience because some of these designs can be complicated while others are simple.

    Industrial Plant

    In the industrial plant, a basic system would be utilized in a single zone. Modifications are made when necessary to offer coverage to multiple plants or other large areas. For the basic industrial system, the air comes in from the air intake feature, which is usually found on the side or top of the building. Through atmospheric pressure, the forced air goes through a damper. The air is regulated to take in the amount that is required to cool the building. The air that previously went through the HVAC system will subsequently join with the external air.

    The Combination

    This combination is then filtered through the air filter, removing any large particles in it such as bugs, leaves and dust. After this, there is a second filtration process that handles the smaller particles prior to going through the fan. Once the air comes through the fan, it is then cooled or heated by the coils. If there is any condensation, a drain pan does the collection from the coils. The air then goes through the air duct to heat or cool the building, after which it returns through the air registers to be combined with newly created air or it goes out the building.

    Conclusion

    A basic HVAC system offers comfort to a specifically small space while a commercial HVAC system covers a wider space and has elements that consist of:

    • Packaged units
    • Window units
    • Heat pumps

    You will find a commercial system with evaporative coolers, chilled water systems and direct expansion coolers. So, if you own an industrial plant and need to have your HVAC installation done, the complex nature of it will require an experience and specialized HVAC technician. With a bad HVAC installation, you can end up paying higher cost in energy and have terrible air quality.

    Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/elinoralex/6374891781/

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