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Buying Guide: Heating and 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. Use our Heating and Air Conditioning Buying Guide to help you find the right system for your home.

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?

Comfort begins by maintaining the perfect temperature in your home, whether that’s 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 determining which is the best heating and air conditioning system for your home.

  • 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 cleanersduct 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.

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 conditioning, heat pumps, boilers and geothermal heat pumps have drastically improved within recent years, allowing you to significantly reduce heating and cooling energy usage.

  • 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.
  • 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.

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

  • Type: The first step is determining the type of equipment you need, whether you need a heating system, such as a Furnace or Boiler; a cooling system, such as a Central Air Conditioner; or a heating and cooling system, 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.
  • 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.

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