The Benefits of HVAC Upgrades
Upgrade your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and streamline your energy bill with these tips.
By: Karin Beuerlein
Is your HVAC system more than 10 years old? Are you making frequent repairs or enduring hot and cold spells in certain rooms? Don't wait until the system dies. Take a proactive approach and have its performance evaluated by a professional. Replacing an old, inefficient system with an Energy Star-rated model can save you about $200 per year on your utility bill, plus make your house far more comfortable.
Aiming to replace your HVAC system before it actually fails will ensure that you have time to price and research options. But since the price tag is hefty, it's not a project to undertake if your only motivation is trimming costs. You should check first for underlying problems, such as leaky ductwork, that can be fixed to increase your comfort and energy efficiency with less cash outlay.
Consider These Things First
An HVAC system works at its peak with a good supporting cast: a properly programmed thermostat, well-sealed ductwork and adequate insulation. Make sure these items are in place before you make a purchase decision, as they could actually be the source of your problems.
Choose Your System
If your HVAC pro says it's time for an upgrade, your options depend on where you live. For most U.S. residents, the most efficient units combine a natural gas furnace for heating and an electric unit for cooling. But if you live in a moderate climate, an air-source heat pump may be your best choice. For in-depth information, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Selecting and Replacing Heating and Cooling.
It may be feasible to replace the furnace or the air conditioner only rather than putting in an entirely new system. But replacing components isn't always the best option, especially if your system is several years old; the old and new parts may not work together efficiently. You'll save significantly on labor if the whole thing is replaced at once.
No matter what type of unit is most appropriate for your needs, look for Energy Star models, which are about 10 percent to 15 percent more efficient than standard models.
Size It Properly
Getting a more efficient system is a great idea, but don't be tempted to get a larger system than you need for your square footage. A system that's designed for a bigger house won't run well and can actually make your house less comfortable because it cycles on and off too much.
Your HVAC system serves as a dehumidifier. An oversized system will cool the house too quickly and shut off prematurely, which means incoming air won't be completely dehumidified. The combo of colder surfaces and wetter air in your house can cause condensation and mold growth. If mold spreads to drywall or joists, you could face an eye-popping repair bill.
Leave It to the Professionals
Improper installation can reduce your system's efficiency by as much as 30 percent. In other words, it can actually cancel out the savings you're expecting from upgrading to a more efficient model. HVAC installation is a job for a licensed, insured contractor with good references.
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