Buying Guide: Heating & Air Conditioning

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As the single largest energy user in your home, the purchase of a new heating and air conditioning system is an important decision. A new system requires a lot of consideration, such as your comfort expectations, energy-efficiency preferences, equipment options and contractor selection.

As you begin to review heating and cooling solutions, start by evaluating your current comfort conditions. The following questions will help you determine if upgrading to a new HVAC system is an advisable option.

  • Are your heating and cooling bills too high?
  • Does your heating and air conditioning system breakdown often?
  • Does the furnace short-cycle (consistently turn off and on) in the winter?
  • Does the air conditioner or heat pump continuously run in the summer?
  • Do you notice any rooms in your home that are always too hot or too cold?
  • Is the heating or cooling system too noisy?

If you discovered that your response was often YES, then contact BGE HOME at 1-888-BGE-HOME or submit the Contact Us form, so an Energy & Comfort Consultant can find the right heating and air conditioning solution for you.

Comfort: Heating & Air Conditioning

Comfort begins by maintaining the perfect temperature in your home, whether thats toasty warm on a chilly winter night or pleasantly cool on a steamy summer day. Maintaining the right temperature is the responsibility of your heating and cooling equipment. However, many factors attribute to your comfort and should be considered when purchasing a new heating and cooling system.

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  • Customized Comfort Solution: A heating and air conditioning system should be designed to meet your indoor comfort needs, to ensure the environment is ideal for you and your family.
  • Peace & Quiet: Improved designs of new heating and air conditioning equipment means less noise pollution. Operation will be amazingly quiet.
  • Healthy Air Quality: The quality of indoor air is not only important for comfort, but for overall health. Indoor air quality solutions, such as whole-house humidifiers, whole-house air cleaners, duct cleaning, and carbon monoxide detectors, can improve overall air quality and comfort.
  • Achieving a comfortable indoor environment depends on a heating and cooling solution that is designed specifically for your home. A custom solution will improve comfort, while saving you on operating costs.

Efficiency: Heating & Air Conditioning

As the single largest energy user in your home, the efficiency of your heating and air conditioning equipment is critical. Technological improvements of furnaces, central air conditioners, heat pumps, boilers and geothermal heat pumps have drastically improved within recent years, allowing you to significantly reduce heating and cooling energy usage.

Higher Efficiency Ratings = Greater Energy Savings


The energy used to operate old heating and air conditioning system will continue to rise as the equipment ages. When you are ready to replace or upgrade your equipment, understanding equipment efficiency ratings is important. Learn how you can save money by reducing energy usage with a high-efficiency heating and air conditioning system.

Cooling Efficiency Ratings:

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) is the measure of energy efficiency for the cooling process of air conditioners and heat pumps. The SEER rating indicates the efficiency of the equipment in the conversion of electricity into cooling power. The higher the SEER rating means the greater the energy savings potential. The minimum government standard for SEER is 13, a 30% increase over prior standards.

EER (Energy Efficiency Rating) is the measure of energy efficiency for the cooling process in relation to the outside temperature of a heat pump, commonly referenced for geothermal heat pumps. The higher the EER rating, the greater the energy efficiency of the system.

Heating Efficiency Ratings:

AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) is the measure of efficiency for the heating process of gas and oil-fired furnaces. The AFUE rating indicates the efficiency of the equipment in the conversion of fuel into heat. As an example, an AFUE rating of 90% translates into 90% of the fuel is being utilized to heat your home, while the remaining 10% is wasted. The minimum government standard for AFUE is 78%.

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) is the measure of energy efficiency for the heating mode of heat pumps. The HSPF rating indicates the efficiency of the equipment in the conversion of electricity into heating power. The higher the HSPF rating means the greater the energy savings potential. The minimum government standard for HSPF is 7.7.

COP (Coefficient Of Performance) is the measure of efficiency for the heating or cooling process in relation to the outside temperature of a heat pump, commonly referenced for geothermal heat pumps. The higher the COP ratio, the greater the energy efficiency of the system.

Equipment: Heating & Air Conditioning

While preparing to replace an existing or install a new heating and/or air conditioning system, there are numerous factors to consider.

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Type: The first step is determining the type of equipment you need, whether you require a heating solution, such as a Furnace or Boiler; a cooling solution, such as a Central Air Conditioner; or a heating and cooling solution, such as a Heat Pump. Or, if you want a renewable heating and cooling solution, a Geothermal Heat Pump may be the right solution.

Fuel Source: The primary heating and cooling fuel sources are electricity, natural gas, propane, oil and geothermal. Equipment options and efficiency ratings will vary based upon fuel source. And, converting fuel types may provide additional savings, such as heating oil to natural gas or propane to electricity.

Size: The proper sizing of a heating and air conditioning system is essential to achieve a comfortable home. If too large, the stress of short-cycling (too many starts and stops) can shorten the life of the equipment and increase energy usage. If too small, the equipment will run continuously and probably never meet your comfort demands. By having a room-by-room load calculation and heat loss-heat gain analysis performed, you will ensure proper sizing.

Warranty: The availability of a manufacturer warranty, or dealer warranty, is often a valuable option that can provide parts and labor coverage in the case of equipment malfunctions. The peace-of-mind protection is invaluable in the case of equipment failure.

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Accessories: Optional heating and cooling system accessories can enhance comfort, while creating a healthier indoor environment. Such options include: programmable thermostats, whole-house humidifiers, whole-house air cleaners, duct cleaning, and carbon monoxide detectors.

Selecting an Installation Contractor: Heating and Air Conditioning

A new heating and air conditioning system can be a significant investment. Whether you are installing a high-efficiency furnace, air conditioner, heat pump or boiler, the new system will only be as good as the company that installs it and stands behind it. Weve compiled a checklist to help you select a company that has the expertise and experience to best meet your comfort needs.

  • Check Credentials. Research the company and reputation by reviewing customer testimonials and references.
  • On-site Evaluation. Anticipate a personal visit to your home, so the company understands your comfort needs and can perform a thorough survey of the home and equipment for a custom solution.
  • Check Local and State Licenses. Ask to see applicable licenses, as well as insurance forms for liability and workmens compensation.
  • Qualified Technicians and Installers. Ask about the training, certifications and screening processes of employees.
  • Warranties and Maintenance Agreements. Inquire about the availability of manufacturer warranties and service agreements to ensure your system maintains optimum efficiency and performance.
  • Sales, Service and Installation. Ensure the company repairs the equipment they install, and provide emergency service if something goes wrong.
  • Ask Questions. A new heating and cooling system is a large investment, so dont feel pressured to make a quick decision. Ask about the installation process, permits, warranties, financing options, and the pros and cons of the presented options.

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