As utility costs escalate, the return on investment for major energy efficiency improvements has become much more attractive. Homes that were built prior to the mid 2000s are often woefully inadequate when it comes to power and fuel economy.
Fortunately, building science and associated analytics provide the tools required to quantify energy consumption metrics, which makes payback calculations far more accurate. This is critical for large scale projects like an HVAC system replacement.
Major Energy Saving Projects
Energy efficiency upgrade projects can help save on monthly utility costs and enhance indoor comfort. Most major improvements relate directly to the HVAC system or include structural changes to the building itself.
HVAC Equipment Replacement
Modern heating and cooling systems are designed to operate dependably, and many homes are still serviced by equipment that is more than 10 years old. Some people assume that a furnace or air conditioner should only be replaced when the unit has suffered a catastrophic failure, but dramatic improvements in efficiency have fundamentally changed the discussion.
For example, a 16 SEER air conditioner can save up to 38 percent in annual cooling costs when compared to a 10 SEER system installed in the early 2000s. These savings do not include the reduction in repair costs or the subjective value of better comfort. Older furnaces were only 65 percent efficient while today's new furnace models are available in efficiencies up to 98.5 percent. Depending on the age of your current HVAC system, a complete upgrade can actually pay for itself over the life of the equipment.
Programmable thermostats are microprocessor controlled smart devices that strike an optimal balance between energy savings and comfort. Users enter a series of programming parameters that raise or lower the temperature based on the occupancy of the building. The thermostat goes into an energy savings mode when the home is empty but gradually changes the temperature back to its regular setting in anticipation of the first arrival.
Learning thermostats represent the latest generation of smart technology. They require very little input from the homeowner and use a series of sensors to monitor and record the family's living habits. A customized temperature management program is generated and continuously modified to provide the best combination of comfort and efficiency. Programmable thermostats can save up to 30 percent on annual heating and cooling costs when used properly.
Low-e Storm Windows
Low-e windows incorporate a special metallic-oxide compound in the manufacturing process. Depending on the climate, the low-e coating is placed on a specific interior surface of a dual pane window to maximize energy savings. The coating is not visible, but it significantly reduces the transfer of radiant and UV energy. In addition to improved thermal conductivity, low-e windows will also eliminate air infiltration around the frame. Installing low-e windows can save up to 35 percent on heating and cooling costs and will help extend the life of your HVAC system.
The ductwork in a home or office is hidden from view and usually doesn't receive much attention. However, leaks, breeches and loose connections in the air distribution network can degrade HVAC system performance by up to 50 percent. The majority of homes in America were built before national and local codes established duct construction standards. As a result, many systems are under a severe negative pressure. This condition allows outdoor air and indoor contaminants to be drawn directly into the return side of the system, which negatively impacts efficiency and degrades indoor air quality. Ductwork issues can be resolved through a special sealing process completed by one of the HVAC contractors found on this website.
Plan Ahead for Major Projects
The first step in planning a major energy efficiency upgrade is arranging for an HVAC professional to complete an energy audit on the building. These trained experts will determine your home's unique power consumption metrics and identify the most cost-effective improvements.