With cold winter weather fast approaching, many Chicago homeowners are bracing for higher utility costs. One way to reduce heating bills this winter is to consider more energy efficient HVAC equipment. Choosing a new furnace or air conditioner may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, a government program known as Energy Star makes shopping for efficient HVAC equipment easier.
Furnaces, air conditioners and other HVAC equipment must meet minimum efficiency standards to receive the Energy Star rating. Installers must also adhere to efficient installation guidelines to receive the Energy Star stamp of approval.
The following tips will give you an understanding of how to choose Energy Star appliances and how those appliances should be installed to maximize energy savings.
Energy Star rates furnaces by looking at their annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE, ratings. AFUE measures the efficiency of a heating unit in percentage terms. Many Energy Star furnaces are condensing units with more than 90 percent efficiency. Condensing units transfer heat so effectively that they often produce a by-product of water or condensate. Energy Star furnaces also often have efficient blower motors to help circulate the warm air.
Unlike furnaces, boilers don't use ducts to circulate heat through your home. Rather, they burn fuel to heat water or steam, which is then distributed through radiators or floor heating systems. Boilers are similar to furnaces in that they're rated by AFUE. The highest AFUE rated boilers tend to have electronic ignitions and are able to extract more heat from fuel sources. These traits are common among Energy Star qualified boilers.
Central Air Conditioners
Air conditioner efficiency is gauged by two ratings: seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and energy efficiency ratio (EER). SEER measures how well an air conditioner performs over the course of an entire season, while the EER reflects how well the unit performs at a specific temperature. Air conditioners that qualify for Energy Star are highly-rated in both of these categories.
If you purchase a new Energy Star air conditioner, it's important to know that an air conditioner has both an indoor and outdoor component. To get the most efficiency out of the air conditioner, it's important to replace both the outside compressor component and the indoor evaporator coil at the same time. Using a new outdoor component with an older indoor component, or the other way around, could lead to poor performance.
Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling to the home. They're rated by both the SEER and EER measurements, as well as heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF), which measures the pump's heating efficiency. Energy Star rated heat pumps will have high ratings by all of these standards.
Energy Star Installation
While purchasing Energy Star equipment is a good first step toward greater energy efficiency, it's also vital that the equipment is installed correctly. Improper installation can lead to a reduction of energy efficiency of up to 30 percent. Energy Star has created the following guidelines for proper, efficient installation. When in doubt, ask your installer if they follow Energy Star Quality Installation standards.
- Properly sized equipment -Bigger isn't always best. An air conditioner or furnace that's too big for a home will actually operate less efficiently because it will turn on and off frequently. Energy Star installers make sure the equipment is consistent with the size of the home by performing load calculations to get the precise size needed.
- Sealed ducts-Leaky ducts can silently suck efficiency out of your HVAC equipment. An Energy Star quality installer will check ducts, repair leaks and, if necessary, recommend duct replacement.
- Check refrigerant-An improper level of refrigerant can also reduce efficiency, sometimes by as much as 20 percent. Energy Star installers check refrigerant to make it's at the appropriate level.
- Check airflow-Airflow that's too high or too low doesn't just affect your utility bill, it can also affect your comfort. An installer who follows Energy Star quality installation guidelines will measure airflow and calibrate it accordingly.
For more information on how Energy Star equipment can improve your home's energy efficiency, please contact us at Comfort24-7.com. Our network members proudly serve Chicagoland, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan.