Do you long for a new furnace when your heating bills are too high? Or swear at the air conditioner when the upstairs bedrooms are too hot? Equipment alone is often blamed for these cost and comfort issues. However other components of your home’s interactive system could be the cause, or at least play a part.
What’s the Problem?
Within the HVAC system, these components may be the cause of your problems:
- Size of furnace and AC – Undersized equipment won’t deliver enough conditioned air to meet seasonal needs. Oversized furnaces are unnecessarily costly, while oversized AC’s produce cool air quickly, but don’t remove enough humidity. Today, many contractors use computer software to precisely calculate the correct size equipment for maximum comfort and efficiency.
- Air Delivery Ducts – Many homes have a piece of flat metal, called ‘panning’, that covers the channel between two studs. This results in air leaks and poor delivery. The best systems have whole rigid metal ducts with sealed joints. Those passing through attics, crawlspaces or under basement slabs should also be well insulated.
- Air Return Ducts – Rooms may lack an adequate number of air return ducts. This results in conditioned air getting ‘stuck’ in the space allowing no room for newly conditioned air to enter. The effect is unbalanced distribution of warm or cool air in your home.
The HVAC system interacts with, and is affected by, other home components:
Construction – The attic, walls and foundation may have gaps that leak air in and out of your home, or result in moisture/humidity problems. Your HVAC system has to work harder to compensate. In addition, the leaks reduce the effectiveness of insulation.
Insulation – Low levels and poor installation also make the HVAC system work harder.
Windows/Orientation to the sun – Poor design, installation and shading impact room comfort and HVAC efficiency.
Solving the Problem
Before you spend money on a new HVAC system, why not be sure if it’s even necessary? Hire a Certified Energy Professional who will precisely diagnose which components of your home’s system are at fault. The result will be a ‘Scope of Work’ plan that recommends and prioritizes solutions. For example, if you are planning a major remodel, this is a perfect time to correct leaky ducts.
If new HVAC equipment is part of the solution:
- Choose the most energy efficient you can afford. Look for the ENERGY STAR label. Equipment without it may be cheaper, but you will definitely pay more month after month in energy bills.
- Be sure the contractor uses software from the ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America), The “Manual J” program determines the correct size equipment for your home, and “Manual D” does the same for ductwork. The result will be the smallest, most energy efficient system offering maximum comfort.
- Read the Most Important Step
- Get a home performance assessment with a certified energy professional
- Hire the appropriate contractor(s) recommended in the Scope of Work
- Review additional resources to build your confidence:
- Air Sealing
- Weatherization of your home
- What is Home Performance Contracting
- Minnesota Department of Commerce Home Energy Guide
- More Than A Beautiful Home