The majority of Americans (74 percent) care about the environment, according to Pew Research. If you recycle regularly and have a programmable thermostat, you’re already doing something positive for the environment. But when it comes time to replace your heating, ventilation and cooling system, will you know how to make choices that protect your wallet and the environment?
Your home’s HVAC system accounts for about half of the energy your home uses, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. You can lower your utility bills by choosing an efficient HVAC system that uses less energy. A more efficient system can also reduce your home’s environmental impact. NPR reports heating a home with natural gas produces about 6,400 pounds of carbon dioxide and about 4,700 pounds if you heat with electricity. Air conditioning can produce up to 6,600 pounds of CO2 if you live in a warm climate.
Many factors can affect how efficient your HVAC system is, and how it affects the environment inside and outside your home. An inefficient system or an older one that’s no longer functioning at its best can cause uneven heating and cooling, make loud noise, create humidity and run in frequent stops and starts. If you’re experiencing these problems, it’s likely time to replace your furnace, air conditioner or possibly both.
The HVAC professionals at YORK Heating and Cooling offer some guidance on how to choose an energy-efficient system that’s kind to the environment:
Learn about rating systems
Rating systems are intended to help consumers better understand what they’re getting when they make a purchase, and make more informed decisions about what to buy. When you’re evaluating the energy efficiency of an HVAC system, it’s important to understand these ratings and what they mean:
* SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) — SEER speaks to the efficiency of a system’s air-conditioning unit by measuring performance over a hypothetical cooling season. The ratio compares the amount of cooling provided by the AC unit (measured in British thermal units, or BTUs) with the amount of energy the central system consumes (measured in watts per hour). The size and installation of the equipment, and your energy use patterns, will determine the unit’s actual efficiency, but SEER can give you an idea of probable performance.
* AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) — AFUE measures heating efficiency for furnaces, boilers and water heaters. Manufacturers use AFUE to help them complete the federally required EnergyGuide label you’ll see on these appliances. The label gives an idea of how much energy the equipment will use, compares it to similar products, and approximates the annual operating costs. AFUE is also a factor in equipment qualifying for ENERGY STAR certification, which requires manufacturers to demonstrate their products are energy efficient.
* HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) — For electric heat pumps, energy efficiency is measured a bit differently. HSPF uses BTU information to calculate heat output divided by the total electricity the heat pump consumes during a heating season.
“For all three rating systems, the higher the number, the more energy efficient the equipment will be,” says Steve Hoffins, director of marketing with YORK Heating and Cooling. “Our newest home comfort system is our most efficient to date, largely in part due to its 20 SEER rating, which can reduce energy costs as much as 50 percent.”
Right-sizing your system
Many homeowners have no problem understanding a system that’s too small for their home won’t function efficiently or do its job well. However, purchasing a system that’s too large for your home can be just as bad. Systems that are too large waste energy and boost utility bills, create uneven temperatures, are poor at controlling humidity and can develop maintenance problems over time.
If you’ve never purchased an HVAC system component before, it can be difficult to know exactly how much power you need in a unit. Your local YORK contractor can help you decide the size and type of unit that’s right for your home and needs. Visit www.YORK.com to learn more about residential heating and cooling, and to find a local YORK contractor. You can also follow the company on Twitter at @YORKHVAC.