When you choose a new HVAC system, it’s an investment in your future home comfort. A combined furnace and air conditioning system lifespan is around 15 years if the equipment is regularly maintained. So, this is a significant and relatively long term commitment, and it’s important to make good decisions. The heating and cooling performance will have a direct impact on your home comfort, but the energy efficiency is also important because the energy bills need to be affordable. In this article, we will look at six key factors that you need to consider before you upgrade to a new HVAC system.
- Choose the Right Size
When we talk about choosing the right HVAC system size, we’re not talking about the physical dimensions of the heating and cooling equipment. When HVAC professionals talk about the size, they are referring to the British Thermal Unit (BTU) capacity. The BTU is a measure of how much heat a furnace can produce each hour, and for an AC system, it’s the amount of heat that can be removed each hour.
Each home is a different thermal profile; the amount of BTU required for heating or cooling will differ depending on factors, such as insulation levels, sq footage, airflow, the number of windows, and many other factors. A guess on the correct size will not suffice, a load calculation is required; this is a formula based on data collected by an HVAC professional.
This will give the homeowner an accurate result that will help them to choose an HVAC system that’s the ideal size for their home. An HVAC system cannot be too large or too small because it will affect the home in different ways. If the system is too large, it will heat or cool the space too quickly and cause the equipment to turn on and off in quick succession, which is known as short cycling. Short cycling places a great deal of strain on your HVAC system; it damages components and reduces the useful lifespan. If the system is too small, it will run constantly because it’s not large enough to heat the space, and this will expend a great deal of energy for no appreciable gain in home comfort.
- Energy Efficiency
The energy efficiency on your prospective air conditioning system is measured with a SEER rating. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is a scale where the lower numbers are the least energy efficient, and the higher numbers are better. All new HVAC systems sold in our nation now have a 13-14 SEER rating to conform with federal regulations. The best high efficiency HVAC systems now have a SEER rating of 20 or even higher. The furnace efficiency is measure using the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), and again, the higher the number, the better the fuel efficiency. A standard domestic furnace would have an AFUE of 80%, and a higher efficiency unit may have an AFUE of 90% or higher. Higher energy efficiency costs more to purchase, but this is offset by energy savings in the medium to long term.
- Purchase Price vs. Future Costs
The initial cost is the primary concern for most people. This is understandable, an HVAC system is a significant investment, and everyone wants to get the best deal. But, the initial price is only part of the picture; the ongoing and future costs can vary depending on the equipment you buy. The HVAC system may seem inexpensive, but how reliable is it, and how much does it cost to run? It is true that a high efficiency HVAC system will cost more, but the energy bills are lower, and it’s possible to recoup the price difference quickly. So, when you consider a new HVAC system, don’t forget to look at the running costs for the entire lifespan of the system.
- Replace Both Sides at the Same Time
Every central AC system has an indoor unit (evaporator coil and air handler) and an outdoor unit (compressor and condenser). The two parts of the system are carefully designed to work together to keep you home cool. Essentially, they are a matched pair, and replacing either without the other will lead to issues. Many people try to save money by replacing the unit that has failed, but this is a bad idea. A mismatched AC system will have lower energy efficiency, a shorter than expected lifespan, and higher expenses that can really add up.
- Always Choose a Professional HVAC Installation
It’s tempting to save money by installing your new HVAC system yourself or hiring a “handyman” to do it for you. But, this is a mistake; the quality of the HVAC installation will determine how well it works and the energy efficiency. An HVAC technician undergoes specialist training to meet industry standards, and they are certified to work on your system. The best HVAC professionals have extensive experience and specialist tools to ensure your system, as the manufacturer intended. If you go with an amateur installation, your energy bills may be higher, and the performance could be affected.
- Evaluating Other Factors
There are many other factors to consider, and they will affect your installation to varying degrees, depending on your own circumstances. Let’s start with the existing ductwork, if it’s in poor shape, it will allow treated air to escape, and this will compromise the efficiency of your new HVAC system. Some older ductwork systems can be repaired, but given the expense, it’s usually cheaper and better to replace them. Another key issue is the level of insulation in your home; if you don’t have sufficient levels, this will affect the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. Finally, it’s a good idea to check for air gaps around your doors and windows where treated air could escape. Smaller gaps can be fixed with mastic, and larger areas would benefit from a draft stip or weather stripping.
As you can see, installing a new HVAC system requires a little forethought and advanced planning. If you’re thinking about an HVAC upgrade for your home, contact your local specialist for expert help and advice today.