Right here, we have all the answers to your questions on AFUE, including a quick video on Ron’s Story, the five essential questions you should be asked before your job is priced, and US Department of Energy guidelines that will help you along the way. AFUE can be confusing at first, but once you are armed with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision tailored to your specific situation, you will feel empowered.
“The Five Essential Questions Your Service Company Should Ask You Before You Buy Into AFUE” includes –
A Brief Overview of AFUE
When you’re on a quest for information about AFUE you’re most likely in the fact-finding phase of HVAC replacement or repair. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, which not many are aware of, and refers to the heating and cooling industry as a whole. So, let’s discover the meaning of AFUE together and start a discussion on why it’s important to have a clear comprehension of what it is. Additionally, what are the questions you need answers to before you make any decisions about your home heating system? In this blog post, we have the five essential questions your service company should ask you before you buy into AFUE. If they don’t ask you these questions or haven’t asked you them yet, you may want to consider a second opinion on your furnace or boiler diagnosis.
AFUE is a commonly used acronym within the HVAC industry. The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is a percentage that expresses the amount of heat you will benefit from throughout your home versus the amount that will escape through the flue.
Yes, something has to keep the birds warm. (You can insert your smile here.) It is true, the heat escaping through the flue from lower efficiency equipment is a major ouchie for your heating bill. The good news, though, is the higher efficiency level your equipment is, the less fuel you will literally “lose to the birds.” That might mean you pay more money for a furnace up front, but over the lifespan of your system, you’re spending less on fuel.
The heat produced by your furnace in correlation to the level of fuel used is the AFUE. Some older homes have furnaces with extremely low or even unmeasurable levels of AFUE, which means those homeowners are spending much more money on fuel than recommended by US government agencies like the Department of Energy. New Energy Star rated equipment is rated between 80-98% AFUE, as opposed to older homes with no AFUE rating on their equipment at all. Homeowners with much older systems waste a lot of fuel to these lucky (and warm) “birds” we are referring to.
Upgrading to a new system can save you a lot of money on fuel, which means you will be getting more bang for your buck, but how will you know whether its time to replace your furnace or simply repair it??
Before you even get to this decision-making step, there are a few questions your service company should ask you as a homeowner in a time of need.
Here’s a quick tip to keep in the back of your mind throughout the process. As of the year 1992, the US Department of Energy set the standard that all furnaces sold in the US must be minimally 78 AFUE. Other specific types of furnaces have different standards, and as of 2015, even higher levels of AFUE are required between 80-83 AFUE. So, to comply with these standards, when purchasing new equipment should operate at this efficiency level.
If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the meaning of AFUE, there is a plethora of information on the What is AFUE post. Click Here.
Learn more about AFUE and the Five Questions Your Service Company Should Ask You By Watching THIS VIDEO about Ron’s Story.
As some of you can relate, Ron’s story is not uncommon to those with older homes. But like Ron, you, too can take this crash course on heating terminology and get yourself up to speed to make an informed decision. With that in mind, we’ve curated a list from industry experts on the top 5 questions you have to listen for… Your service company should be asking you these 5 questions, and if not, perhaps it’s time to make sure they know your answers.
The 5 Questions
These questions lead to your system diagnosis and a recommendation or repair or replace. Please bear in mind, however, that if your system is 10 years or older, most will advise you to replace.
Many sales people will tell consumers that they’ll save a lot of money by installing a high-efficiency furnace. But if you’re replacing an older furnace that has an AFUE rating between 55-70%, then installing an 80% AFUE furnace will already be a substantial upgrade, and you will immediately see a huge savings on your utility bill.
If you plan on living in your home less than five years, the payback time period may not be enough to justify the additional cost of a high efficiency furnace if you buy from a contractor.
The distribution channel for furnaces consists of a manufacturer, distributor, and then a dealer (the installing company). Each channel adds a markup. The dealer usually adds a 100% markup. Costs vary, but compared to an 80% furnace expect to pay $1,100 dollars or more for a 90% AFUE furnace. A 95-99% AFUE furnace will probably cost you between 150-200% more than an 80% AFUE furnace.
When they ask about your budget, just be honest. What do you expect a new system to cost? What about a repair? The thing you must know here is that the repairs on a more efficient system, or – one with a higher AFUE, will cost more money than they will on a lower AFUE system.
That brings us to the final of the five essential questions your service company should be asking you before you repair or replace. So, here’s a question or two for you to ask yourself. Are you a sharp, smart consumer? Do you pride yourself in seeking knowledge before you invest your money in a large purchase? If yes, then you will be rewarded by arming yourself with information and seeking pricing for HVAC replacement equipment online. This is a great way for you to see a real breakdown of what you should expect to pay for a replacement.
Understanding ENERGY STAR
When you are looking for information on energy efficient equipment to replace your existing system or occupy a new home, you will want to have a concise understanding of government standards. ENERGY STAR certified, guaranteed products are not only good for you and your home, they have beneficial-for-the-environment operational standards. They meet strict criteria in order to carry this label. For detailed information on products that carry the label, you can visit their website (Link to: energystar.gov ).
Here are a few criteria furnaces must meet in order to carry an ENERGY STAR label:
Gas furnaces in the southern United States must be a minimum of 90% AFUE. In the northern parts of the US, gas furnaces need to operate at 95% AFUE (as a minimum efficiency level standard). Oil furnaces must have an 85% or higher AFUE rating. For a specific breakdown of the US states per region, please click here.
As a general rule of thumb, if your equipment was or is heating your home comfortably, it is the proper size you’ll need for a replacement. You can search the model number written on the product tag online to see what type of system you have.
Money conscious consumers who want to avoid paying a retail markup are encouraged to get a bid and compare online at Pricefixer.com. At Pricefixer.com there is never a retail markup, or commissions paid to sales people that drive up the price – just complete transparency and the guaranteed lowest prices on central heating. Search for replacement equipment in the comfort of your own home or office, or from the library, or from Starbucks, or the car! You can access the information you need on your phone or tablet, on-the-go or on your couch. Call or chat if you have questions.
Now that you know the essential questions your service company should be asking you – what are you going to do to resolve your home or office heating woes?
The Acronym AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency and is an indication of how efficient a furnace is at converting fuel to heat. AFUE is measured as a percentage, and the higher the rating, the greater the fuel efficiency. Please read below for further demystifications on AFUE, so you can decide which level of efficiency is best for your needs and budget.
Here’s what we will cover below:
Your Personal Efficiency Guide to AFUE includes –
The Introduction to AFUE
If you live in Florida, where the Pricefixer corporate offices are located, you most likely lean toward traditional condensing units to cool your home as your primary temperature control method. However, you never know when a cold front is going to come through, so it’s essential to be prepared to weather the fallout from the storms. If you’re in other parts of the United States such as the chillier climate near the Great Lakes or throughout the mid-west, you are certainly going to be interested in educating yourself about furnaces and AFUE, especially if you own a home or are considering becoming a homeowner. So, what exactly is AFUE, and why does it matter to you? Read below for a clear definition and your complete personal efficiency guide to AFUE, and to review supporting visuals like photos and a video explainer depicting John and Rita’s story, if you prefer to watch instead.
The acronym AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. It’s important to understand what AFUE means while contemplating the purchase of a furnace for your home, because a misunderstanding could lead to a lot of lost money, time and effort. The overall definition of AFUE, in neophyte terms, is a measurement of the efficiency level of the furnace to utilize the fuel within. To examine this concept a bit deeper, the amount of heat a furnace produces in direct relationship to the amount of fuel used is called, AFUE.
An AFUE furnace that is 92% efficient means that for every $100 of gas consumed, it will generate $92 worth of useable heat. To find out where that $8 goes, watch the video below.
But, if you’re still unsure, no worries because there’s an even more in-depth definition, and beyond that, we will give you another example.
Let’s break it down here into individual word segments. Annual refers to the efficiency on a yearly basis, and how well your system performs over a 12-month time span. Fuel is a material that is burned to produce power, or to produce heat, in this instance. A few examples of fuel in this application could be heating oil, natural gas or propane. The word Utilization refers to the action of making use of something in a practical way. Efficiency is the part of the acronym that is defined by the productivity level of a system or machine (or furnace, in this instance) to achieve the highest levels of output. These words make up the larger concept of Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, and when you can break it down into smaller meaningful parts, sometimes the explanation becomes more digestible. Please note, AFUE does not refer to the electricity usage of your furnace or boiler, it directly refers to the fuel efficiency of the equipment in regard to gas, propane or oil.
For a Quick Video Explanation, Click Here!
Now, let’s get into AFUE by the numbers, and what they mean. Newly manufactured furnaces vary in levels of AFUE from efficiency levels of 80% up to the level of 98%. (Lower efficiency models exist in some homes built before energy efficiency standards were put into place by governing agencies. So, it is possible your home has a much lower level of AFUE. More on that later.) For now, back to the example: this means a furnace with 90 AFUE will convert 90% of the equipment’s fuel consumption to consumable heat. Sounds great, right?
So, when you look at an 80 AFUE furnace, it will convert 80% of the fuel consumption to heat. So, how much heat does a 98 AFUE furnace convert? Well, now you are armed with all the powerful information! Now you know a 98 AFUE furnace will convert 98% of fuel to consumable heat, and so on. Your knowledge in heating will make it much easier for you to determine the best system for your needs when the time comes. If you take 100% and you subtract the amount of AFUE, you will know the amount of heat loss your equipment will be responsible for. For example, in an 80 AFUE furnace, 20% of the heat produced escapes through the chimney or other places.
FTC and US Department of Energy
The FTC or Federal Trade Commission has guidelines in place that make it a requirement for manufacturers of furnaces and boilers to display the AFUE on equipment so consumers like you can determine the energy efficiency of your system. There are also a plethora of rules and notices put forth by the U.S. Department of Energy that delve deeper into the standards of operations for consumer furnaces and more, available here.
What does AFUE have to do with MPG?
Another way to think about AFUE is to draw a parallel to a similar topic that you may have dealt with in your lifetime. For every dollar of fuel consumed, AFUE measures the amount of heat produced. Here’s an example for you that will put you on a clear path to strong knowledge around this topic. You can compare the way AFUE applies to: heat a furnace produces, similarly to the miles per gallon on a car, SUV or truck you are considering purchasing. If you’re not currently in the market, perhaps at some time you were, or know of someone who has been. For this purpose, let’s use you for the example.
Your fuel costs will increase the lower your AFUE, and similarly, the money you spend on fuel for a higher AFUE heating system will be less than what you spend on a low efficiency system. The higher the efficiency, the less money the equipment will cost you to operate, specifically regarding fuel. (See graph below.) When your vehicle gets 30 MPG or miles per gallon, it has better fuel efficiency than, say, a larger gas-guzzler that might only get 12 to 15 MPG.
When you go to the dealership, do you purchase the vehicle based solely on the miles per gallon it gets? Or do you make your decision based on multiple factors that ultimately weigh into examining and determining your best option?
Questions for Clarity
Some other factors you should consider are:
Benefits and Regulation
If you are most interested in a high efficiency, or 80+ AFUE heating system, consider keeping your eyes open for an ENERGY STAR® label, which can be found on the most efficient models. The government standard on new heating equipment is a minimum of 80 AFUE, so no matter what, when you purchase a new furnace or boiler, make sure it operates to this level of efficiency and that the equipment is clearly labeled.
Types of Fuel
Types of fuel utilized within your heating system bear a significant weight on the costs of operating the equipment, additionally. Different types of fuel include natural gas, propane, heating oil, firewood and more. For details on fuel types and associated AFUE, check out our post here. (insert link to fuel article.)
If you prefer an electricity-operated system instead of a fuel-reliant method such as a boiler or furnace, you can learn more about heat pumps here. (insert link to heat pump blog.)
Here is a recap of what was covered in this article:
To learn more about replacing your heating unit, click here.
You’ve decided it’s time to update your home’s heating and air conditioning unit to a more energy-efficient system, and you’re excited about all the money you’ll be saving on your utility bills and shrinking your carbon footprint. But, as you start to do your due diligence research on HVAC systems, you discover there’s another energy-efficient cooling system besides the traditional central AC unit that many people are choosing to put in their homes instead: the heat pump. You begin to wonder, “Should I get a heat pump?” “What’s the difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner?” “Which HVAC system is the best one for me?” Luckily, you’ve come to right place. Below are answers to questions you’re probably asking yourself regarding the heat pump vs. air conditioner dilemmayou are currently facing.
I’m really not sure what I need…a heat pump or an air conditioner?
If you’re looking for a cooling system for your home, don’t let the name fool you – heat pumps are great for providing you with cold air during the warmer months. Heat pumps also operate just as efficiently, if not more so, than traditional air conditioners. The main difference between a heat pump and a standard air conditioner is that an air conditioner provides only cool air, while heat pumps provide both cool and warm air. There are air conditioning systems that provide heat also, but they do so by using electricity to create heat, which is not nearly as efficient as a heat pump which moves warm air around rather than generating it.
I want to ask for help but I don’t want to pay a trip and diagnostic fee.
Although it’s always a good idea to consult with a certified HVAC technician, we’ll try to help you out here a little. If you’re trying to determine whether a heat pump is a good choice for your home, the first place to start is to think about your area’s climate. Heat pumps work best in warmer climates with mild to moderate winters. If the temperature in your region frequently drops below freezing, it will be more difficult for a heat pump to draw heat out of the air, which may cause it to run non-stop or switch to an auxiliary heat source driving up its energy consumption and operational costs.
However, advancements in heat pump technology are making them suitable in areas that experience extreme cold weather, as much as 20 degrees below freezing. Newer heat pumps are gaining in popularity in colder climates because they are a good deal more efficient and cost much less to operate than oil-burning systems.
Once you’ve decided which system you’re going to get, it’s very important to have a technician visit your home to perform a load calculation. This will determine the size of the heat pump or air conditioner you need to properly cool and heat your home. Systems which are too small or too big will not be as efficient or will not effectively remove humidity from your home as a properly sized unit would.
Do I need an AC or a heat pump to cool my home?
If your home is already equipped with ducts, then central air conditioners and heat pumps are both good options for cooling your home. In fact, both systems share a number of common components, such as an outdoor unit that houses a compressor, condensing coil, fan, and motor, and an inside unit with an air handler, evaporator coil, and blower. Heat pumps are just as effective at providing chilled air as air conditioners, and they both pretty much work the same when it comes to cooling your home.
Central air conditioning units provide cooling by removing warm air from inside your home and using a refrigerant to the air when it enters the evaporator coil. This chilled air is then distributed throughout your home via a duct system and a blower located in the air handler unit. Heat pumps also remove warm air from your home in the same manner. However, the main difference between the two systems is that heat pumps have a reversing valve which, when switched on, reverses the direction of the refrigerant and transfers heat from the air outside to the inside of your home making it nice and toasty.
The heat pump’s ability to move air around and transfer heat from outside to inside and vice versa, makes it the perfect all-in-one-system that can provide both heating and cooling comfort. Plus, it’s extremely efficient since it’s merely moving hot air around as opposed to generating heat as a traditional HVAC system do.
Do I need an AC or a heat pump to heat my home?
As just mentioned, the great thing about a heat pump is that it both cools and heats. Air conditioners only cool the air unless the system is outfitted with electric heat strips. If you live in a climate where it is cold most months of the year, this type of system is going to use up a lot of energy to run since heat has to be created. This is where the heat pump has an advantage over traditional HVAC systems as it transfers heat from the outdoors to warm your home, which requires very little energy. Switching from an air conditioner with a heating element that generates heat to a more energy-efficient heat pump, which moves hot air around, can reduce your utility bill by up to 40% throughout the winter months.
Can I run the heat in the summer?
It is not recommended to have your heat pump in heat mode when it’s really warm outside as it could damage some of the internal components. If you want to test your heat pump system in the summer to make sure it will work during the winter, just switch it to heat mode for a minute or two to see if warm air comes out. If it does, then the reversing valve is working properly.
Can I have cooling in the winter if I need it?
If you need to have cool air in your home during the winter (perhaps because you set the thermostat to 90 degrees to shake off the chill when you woke up and left your house for the day forgetting to turn it down….. and you can’t open your windows to let the warm air out because they are all sealed shut for some reason) then you just have to switch the reversing valve from heating to cooling and you’ll be all set!
Are heat pumps a good choice in a four-season climate vs. a climate with less variance?
Heat pumps are a great choice for climates that stay mostly warm with little variance, such as Florida, or mostly cold, such as Maine, and everything else in between. They are just as efficient as top-of-the-line air conditioners for cooling your home during the summer and are the best choice efficiency-wise for heating your home in the winter. Heat pumps are an energy-efficient solution for most of your heating and cooling needs.
How do I know if I have a heat pump or an AC?
To find out if whether the system you currently have is an air conditioner or a heat pump, look for the yellow EnergyGuide label located on the outdoor or indoor air unit. Located just below the “ENE” of the “EnergyGuide” title will be a description of your type of system. For example, you might see the words: “Central Air Conditioner – Cooling Only – Split System” or “Heat Pump – Cooling and Heating – Split System.”
If you are unable to see the label on your system, then another way to tell if you have a heat pump or air conditioner is to walk outside to the big metal box unit located next to your house, and take a peek between the slats. If you see a copper-looking device shaped like this….
…then you have a heat pump.
Wait, what about a furnace? What’s the difference?
Furnaces, which are more popular in northern states, generate heat by burning oil or natural gas and blowing the heated air into your home. Heat pumps transfer heat from the air outside into your home to provide warmth. Even if the outside air seems cold to you, a heat pump can still pull the heat from cold air. However, how much heat is transferred into your home depends on the outside temperature. As it gets colder, there is less heat available to extract.
Typically, when temperatures reach around 25-30 degrees, a heat pump will run longer and may even trigger a supplemental heating source, such as a furnace or electric heat strips, to aid in warming the air. When this happens, the heat pump becomes less efficient and consumes more energy to run. If you live in a climate where the temperature frequently drops below 30 degrees, a heat pump may not be the best option for you. Furnaces, on the other hand, can provide heat even in the coldest of cold climates.
Any shocking information about heat pumps?
Probably the most “shocking” thing about heat pumps is the different types of heat pumps that are available! We’ve mostly been talking about “Air Source” heat pumps, which are the most popular, but there are also “Geothermal” heat pumps, and “Absorption” heat pumps. Here’s how they differ:
What’s the Department of Energy say about heat pumps?
Recognizing the energy-savings advantages heat pumps have over other HVAC systems, the Department of Energy (DOE) states that heat pumps can provide equivalent heating and cooling for as little as one quarter the cost of other systems. When used for heating, the heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity used by approximately 50% compared to furnaces and baseboard heaters. The DOE also notes that high-efficiency heat pumps are better at dehumidifying than standard central air conditioners, which result in less energy being used and more cooling comfort during the warmer months.
You can always call us or visit our website for a walk through on AC vs. heat pumps.
If you have additional questions, or still aren’t sure whether an air conditioner or heat pump is the right system for you, then just visit Pricefixer.com or call us at (877) 774-2334 and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions!
Heat pumps are often thought of as being a device which help keeps your home warm during the cooler months, but what is often overlooked is the fact that heat pumps are also one of the most energy-efficient ways to cool your home during the warmer months as well.
Definition of a heat pump
A heat pump is a mechanical system that moves available heat from one area to another. Since heat flows naturally from a higher temperature to a lower temperature in an effort to reach thermal equilibrium, heat pumps use very little energy to push or “pump” warmer air around. During the winter months, a heat pump provides warm air by removing heat out of the air or ground and transferring it into your home. During the summer, the heat from your home is transferred outdoors leaving cooler air behind. Moving heat from place to place instead of generating heat, as a furnace or central air conditioning unit would do, uses significantly less energy providing huge cost savings over other types of HVAC systems.
Brief history of the heat pump
In the 1940s, Robert C. Webber, an American inventor, noticed that the outlet pipe of his freezer became very hot when he lowered its temperature. He soon realized the potential applications for the heat which was being discarded. Running pipes from his freezer to his boilers, Webber captured this displaced heat to provide his family with hot water. Next, he piped hot water into coils and used a fan to blow over the coils sending warm air into his home. Soon after, Webber figured out how get heat from underground and use to warm the air thereby inventing the first ground-source (geo-thermal) heat pump in the late 1940s. Soon after, electrical and gas heat pumps were developed.
It hasn’t been until the past 10-15 years, however, that heat pumps have gained significantly in popularity due to their eco-friendly manner of operation, their ability to both heat and cool, and their cost-savings energy efficiency. Additionally, advancements in heat pump technology are improving their performance even further. Newer, high-efficiency models utilize the heat that is wasted heat when the system is in cooling mode to heat water at two to three more efficiency than an electric water heater would.
Understanding your heat pump
Heat pumps operate via the principle of heat transference. When in heating mode, a heat pump extracts heat from the outside air and moves it into your home. While in cooling mode, the heat pump removes heat from the air inside your home to the outside leaving cooler air behind. Only a small amount of energy in the form of electricity or gas is required to transfer the heat from indoors to outdoors or vice versa.
When the air outside is too cold for extracting heat, the system’s “backup heat” will come on using an alternate form of heat, usually heated coils knows as “strip heat” or “aux heat” to warm the air inside. This backup heat, however, is powered by electricity or gas which consumes a lot more energy to run.
How does a heat pump work?
Heat pumps provide heating and cooling to your home by moving heat around and by employing a reversing valve, which changes the directional flow of the refrigerant depending on whether cooling or heating is required. Heat pumps are similar to split central air conditioning systems in that they have both an indoor and outdoor unit. They also share some of the same major components, which are:
Unlike central air conditioning systems, though, heat pumps are much more efficient at heating your home in the winter because it removes heat from outside air and pumps it indoors, whereas a central AC system must use a great deal more energy in the form of gas or electricity to create heat in your home and raising the amount of your utility bill.
How does a heat pump cool?
Heat pumps can cool your home just as effectively as energy efficient air conditioners can. Warm air is pulled out of your home by a fan while refrigerant is pumped from the exterior condenser coil to the evaporator coil indoors absorbing the heat from the air. The air handler then pushes the cooled air through the ducts into various rooms of your home. This cycle starts again and continues on a repeating loop until the desired interior temperature is reached.
Can a heat pump dehumidify?
Heat pumps are great dehumidifiers due to their typically larger condenser coils which work better at treating and eliminating moisture from the air than regular air conditioners. After the liquid refrigerant is evaporated and turned into a gas, it is then compressed by the condenser unit and turned back into a liquid, releasing heat into the surrounding air as it does so. As the heat cools, the moisture in the air is removed by the condenser coil thereby lowering the humidity levels. Reduced humidity in the air will immediately make you feel a few degrees cooler than it actually is, providing additional energy and money saving benefits.
Advantages/disadvantages of a heat pump
There are a lot of advantages of having a heat pump in your home, not the least of which you can use it all year round as it provides both heating and cooling. Also, as the primary function of a heat pump is to transfer heat from one place to another, it’s a very economical and efficient way to make your living space comfortable.
There are some disadvantages to heat pumps, though. For example, they are not as effective in extremely cold climates where the temperature falls below freezing on a regular basis. There is more heat to transfer from one place to another in more moderate climates than in very cold climates, so if the auxiliary or backup heating system comes on frequently, then it’s not really operating as an energy-efficient system. Also, in colder climates there is still heat available in the outside air which can be pumped indoors, but the heat pump will need to work a lot harder to extract it.
Another possible disadvantage is that the heat produced by a heat pump isn’t quite as hot and intense as the heat produced by gas furnaces or electric HVAC systems. However, as heat pumps move heat around, heated air is more evenly distributed throughout your home with fewer “cold spots” that homes with traditional heating systems can often have.
The biggest advantage to using a heat pump, though, is that is the heat in the outside air, which is free(!), for heating and cooling making it much more efficient than other systems that use inefficient sources of energy such as oil or electricity. Though the upfront costs of purchasing and installing a heat pump may be higher than traditional HVAC systems, the payoff will be more than worth it as you’ll see reduced energy use and lower utility bills over the heat pump’s life span.
Types of heat pumps
There are three types of heat pump systems: air source, which is the most popular, geo-thermal, and absorption. The difference between them is where they get their heat source from.
Clear list of steps to operate the heat pump
Since heat pumps don’t generate heat from scratch, but instead use available natural sources of heat and move it around, there are some factors users should keep in mind when operating their heat pump system.
Also, it goes without saying that just with any HVAC system, proper maintenance is important to maintain efficient operation of your heat pump. Make sure to clean or replace filters on a regular basis (usually monthly), make sure there is no debris, vegetation, or clutter around the exterior unit, check ducts, coils, and registers regularly and clean when needed, and check for refrigerant leaks.
How much does a heat pump cost?
The typical range for installing a new heat pump is between $4,000 and $7,000, depending on the type of heat pump you purchase and the size of your home. Geothermal heat pumps are generally more expensive to install since there are component that require being placed underground. As a heat pump can provide both heating and cooling, it eliminates the need for a furnace and an air conditioner. Though upfront costs may be high, heat pump systems can significantly reduce your energy consumption and keep more money in your pocket making it a worthwhile investment for your home and your budget.
When you’re ready to purchase a new system, be sure to save thousands by shopping online with Pricefixer.com!
The short answer to the question “what is the best thermostat” is that there really is no “best” option. Certainly the so called “smart” thermostats are the latest technology and provide the most opportunity for energy savings, but the basic thermostats and programmable thermostats also provide specific benefits. The BEST thermostat for YOU is the one that matches your budget and lifestyle. Let’s take some time to address all of your options.
Basic / Manual Thermostats
The basic thermostat is widely used in many homes to this day. Basic thermostats are exactly like their name describes. You will simply need to walk up to your thermostat and adjust the temperature with a dial or lever. The basic thermostat is made up of bi-metallic strips that coil and uncoil at specific temperatures, and the basic thermostat does a relatively good job of maintaining a comfortable level of heat or cool air in your home. However, the dial or lever on your basic thermostat is not very precise and could be off by several degrees of the temperature you think you’re setting.
Why does that matter? Well, it’s a loss in potential energy savings! A good rule of thumb to go by when it comes to energy savings reflected in your utility bill, is that for every degree you raise or lower the temperature on your thermostat, it results in a 1% increase or decrease in your energy bill. So, if you were to start keeping your home at 75 degrees instead of 65, you can expect to see 10% savings. Because basic thermostats aren’t very accurate, you may think you’ve set your thermostat to 75 degrees, when actually it’s cooling your home to 73 or 74 degrees, so you’re using more energy than you want to and paying more than you expected.
To account for this, there are now many basic thermostats with digital displays which are more accurate. If you want the temperature to be 75 degrees, then just punch that number into the display. Basic thermostats that are digitized also allow you the option to punch an “up-” or “down-” arrow button to easily increase or decrease the temperature. Basic thermostats can save you money when you leave your house empty for long periods of time, but that’s only if you remember to manually adjust the temperature on the thermostat yourself before you leave.
The good news is that basic thermostats are the most inexpensive option because of their limited features. Basic thermostats are the least expensive type of thermostat you can buy due to their limited features. The non-digital basic thermostat typically costs between $15 and $35, but they are being phased out because they contain mercury. Basic thermostats with a digital display cost around $20 – $50.
As technology has advanced, the programmable thermostats were developed to improve upon the basic thermostat. Until just a few years ago these were the most technologically advanced option, but we will get to their successor in just a bit. A programmable thermostat allows you to set different temperatures for different times of day. Meaning, you can raise the temperature during times you’re out of the home to save energy, and lower the temperature at night to keep you comfortable while you sleep. In fact, programmable thermostats often allow you to pre-program up to four different set times for the week, and four different set times for the weekend. This is why the programmable thermostats have been such a popular option.
The good news is that if your schedule changes, for example if you have the week off of work, there’s also a manual override switch where you can manually adjust the temperature either higher or lower without affecting any of your pre-programmed schedules. Programmable thermostats show increased savings on the utility bill when used properly by the homeowners.
The best way to use your programmable thermostat is to spend a few days keeping track f your schedule. When do you typically leave home, return from work, go to sleep, and when you wake up. When you have that schedule you can better program your thermostat to maximize your savings.
Programmable thermostats are more expensive than the basic thermostats but can still be reasonable. They range in price from $25 to $150 and are a great mid-priced option for helping you save money each month on your utility bill – up to 33% more over manual thermostats!
Connected & Smart Thermostats
The newest and most technologically advanced thermostat option is the smart thermostat. Smart thermostats allow you to adjusting your home’s temperature remotely from a computer, tablet or even a smart phone. These have become a very popular option as the popularity of “smart homes” continues to rise. Performing the same functions as programmable thermostats, smart thermostats give you the flexibility to regulate the temperature in your home around the clock. On days you decide to go out to dinner with family or friends instead of going straight home after work. you can adjust your thermostat accordingly to continue your energy savings!
Thermostats that connect to the internet and allow you to make changes remotely are known as “connected” thermostats. All smart thermostats are connected to the internet, but not all “connected” thermostats are considered “smart.” Thermostats that are considered truly “smart,” are those that can learn from your behavior and automatically set your temperature schedule for you. Rather than programming it yourself, a smart, or “learning,” thermostat will monitor the temperatures you typically input during certain times of the day, and after a short period time will begin to automatically adjust the temperature on its own. Trying to figure out how to program your thermostat and set multiple temperature schedules has been eliminated – the smart thermostat automatically does it for you!
Other advanced features smart thermostats have are:
Smart thermostats are revolutionizing the way homeowners manage their energy consumption as we strive to improve the health of our planet. But, with costs ranging from $200 to $300, smart thermostats are certainly more expensive than basic and programmable thermostats. However, many homeowners who have them say that the energy savings, convenience, and numerous features they offer make them worth the added cost.
Should I upgrade to a smart t-stat? Will it save me money?
You have to decide what works best for your lifestyle. The convenience and energy saving features of smart thermostats make them very appealing, but they do come with a higher price tag. While the energy savings a smart thermostat can provide will cover the upfront expense over time, a programmable thermostat will can save you just as much money if programmed properly.
A smart thermostat makes it easier and more convenient to stay on top of your HVAC energy usage. According to a joint study of smart thermostats conducted by Pacific Gas and Electric and Honeywell, people liked being able to change the temperature of their home remotely from an app so much that they did so a great deal more than if they if they had to adjust the temperature using only the thermostat. This resulted in more than half of the participants in the study using less energy. Also, a study by Nest discovered that consumers saved on average 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling, which resulted in around $130 of annual savings.
It’s true a cheaper programmable thermostat can potentially reduce energy costs as much as a smart thermostat, but that’s only if you take the time to very carefully and accurately program your thermostat and keep a fairly regular schedule. And don’t count out the basic thermostat. If you stay at home more often, or are often away and are comfortable leaving your home at the same temperature for long periods of time, a basic thermostat with a digital display is very cost effective. However, if you don’t want to bother with programming a temperature schedule or your day-to-day schedule is constantly changing, then a smart thermostat is definitely the one for you.
Definition of programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat adjusts the temperature of your home based on preset temperatures and times you’ve programmed into it. No more forgetting to turn up the AC before you leave the house for work; a programmable thermostat does the work for you by automatically keeping your home warmer during the day when you’re out and cooler in the evening when you’re sleeping.
Brief history of the thermostat
One of the first thermostats was created in the 1830s by Andrew Ure, an inventor who constructed a device with two metal strips that would expand and bend when the temperature increased. When the metal strips would bend, they would cut off the energy supply of the system thereby helping to regulate the temperature. Not too long afterwards, Warren S. Johnson invented the first electric thermostat that also had bi-metallic and a mercury switch which transferred the currents turning on the system. He ended up patenting his design and creating the Johnson Electric Service Company in 1885 to manufacture his product.
Around the same time, Albert Butz utilized a spring motor and pulley system to create the “damper flapper,” which would automatically open and close the flapper of coal furnaces to regulate the temperature. This invention is the origin of modern automated temperature control systems. Butz patented his design also and formed a company which was eventually purchased by a young engineer named Mark Honeywell, who went on to develop the first programmable thermostat. His programmable thermostat included a clock so one could preset the temperature for the following morning. In the 1950s, dial thermostats were introduced by Honeywell’s company and are still in existence today. In the 1980s, thermostats with digital displays and programmable functions entered the marketplace allowing for more control and energy savings for the consumer.
Understanding your programmable thermostat
One of the most useful features of a programmable thermostat is the ability to program the temperature based on the schedule and routine of your day. So, if you like to wake up to a slightly warmer temperature in the morning during the winter, then you can program your thermostat to achieve a higher temperature starting one to two hours before you awake. You can also program it to get progressively cooler in the evening to help lull you into a sound sleep.
The ability to program your thermostat helps you save money by allowing you to regulate the temperature during different times of the day and according to your schedule. Therefore, one of the first things you should do after you’ve installed your programmable thermostat is to track your daily weekday and weekend schedule. Once you’ve done that, you’ll know how best to program your thermostat for money-saving efficiency and automated comfort for you in your home.
Programmable thermostats are quite advanced and come equipped with microprocessors that allow you to store multiple daily and weekly temperature settings. There are a variety of programmable thermostats available with different advanced features and functions, but at the very least they will have the following basic four settings:
Programmable thermostats also have the option for manual override settings that won’t delete of interfere with your pre-programmed settings.
Is there mercury in a programmable thermostat?
Most electronic programmable thermostats sold today are mercury-free. If there is mercury in your thermostat, the sign for mercury, “Hg,” will be clearly labeled on the packaging.
Setting up the programmable thermostat
Before setting up your programmable thermostat, make sure you’ve put in new batteries. The next step is to follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s guide that came with your thermostat. When setting temperature and times, allow enough time for your HVAC system to achieve your desired temperature before you actually arrive home, go to bed, wake up, etc. If you’d like to have the option of programming different temperature settings for Saturday and Sunday, be sure to shop around for a thermostat that has that feature, otherwise those two “weekend” days will be treated as one with the same settings.
How frequently should my heating and cooling cycle on/off?
An air conditioner’s run time is known as a “cycle” and most systems have 2-3 cycles per hour. A typical cycle during mild weather is about 10-15 minutes. In extreme weather conditions, you can expect the cycles the run a bit longer. If your system is constantly cycling on and off, more than 2-3 times an hour, then your system is “short cycling,” which could indicate a problem with your unit.
If you’re wondering how long it should take for your AC system to cool your home, just know there are several factors which could influence the length of your unit’s run-time. For example, the outdoor temperature, the size of your home, the size of your AC system, and how warm you let the inside of your home get before it starts cooling down can all factor into how long it takes to cool your home. If you think your system is running longer than it should, call a professional, as an HVAC system which is running more than it should will have a significant impact on your utility bill.
What are the symptoms of a failing t-stat?
There are several signs to be aware of that could indicate a problem with your programmable thermostat:
How do you calibrate a programmable thermostat?
If you suspect your thermostat is not reaching the temperature you’ve programmed it to, then you should perform a calibration to see if there really is a problem. To calibrate your programmable thermostat, do the following steps:
Diagnosing problems – why is the programmable thermostat not working?
If your programmable thermostat isn’t working properly, there are a few options you can try first before calling a professional.
If none of these troubleshooting tips provide a solution, it may be time to replace your programmable thermostat. Check your warranty or if there have been any recalls for your product to see if you can get a free replacement.
Clear list of steps to operate the programmable t-stat
To set your programmable thermostat, follow these steps:
How does a thermostat know the temperature?
Electric programmable thermostats use a “thermistor” to measure the temperature. A thermistor is an electrical resistor that changes its resistance with temperature changes. A microcontroller within the thermostat measures the resistance of the thermistor and displays that number to a digital temperature reading.
The cost of a programmable thermostat plus how much can I save a year with one?
Programmable thermostats are quite affordable with most models starting at around $40. With the ability to adjust the temperature based on predetermined times, which allow for optimum energy savings, you could save hundreds of dollars a year with this type of thermostat. Not only do they provide customized comfort based on your lifestyle, but they can also maximize your energy savings, nearly up 33% more than a manual thermostat would.
Should I upgrade to a programmable t-stat from my basic?
If you spend most of your time at home and don’t mind constantly getting up to adjust the temperature, then a manual thermostat should be fine. However, if you leave your house for long periods of time, want to save on energy and utility costs, and want the convenience of “setting it and forgetting it,” then a programmable thermostat is the choice for you. You may also want a “smart” thermostat. Click here to learn more about all of your options.
Often overlooked or unnoticed, the thermostat is one of most important and commonly utilized devices today. Regulating the temperature in homes, offices, and commercial buildings all over the world, this small apparatus has a very big job. Thermostats come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a variety of functions ranging from basic to “smart.” Here we will take a look at the basic thermostat and how it works to regulate air temperature.
Definition of basic thermostat
A basic thermostat is a device that functions to establish and regulate a desired temperature. It does this by turning off the air conditioning or heating system when the desired temperature is reached. When the temperature falls below or rises above the desired level, sensors in the thermostat detect this change and will turn the system on until the desired temperature is achieved. The primary function of a thermostat is to maintain the temperature, unlike a thermometer, which measures the temperature.
Your comfort and quality of life often go hand in hand with the ability to heat and cool your home to your desired temperature. But, heating and cooling your home uses a large amount of energy resulting in significant expenses month to month; and it’s the small, unassuming thermostat that regulates and controls one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home. This is why it’s important you not only understand how to properly operate your thermostat, but also how to utilize in a manner that is the most energy efficient.
Brief history of the thermostat
In the 1830s, Andrew Ure invented the bi-metallic thermostat, which employs metal strips that expand when the temperature would increase and cut off the energy supply. In 1885, Albert Butz invented the “damper flapper,” an early prototype of the modern thermostat. His device used a spring motor and crank arm to automatically control the lifting and closing of the damper, which usually needed to numerous times a day by homeowners in an effort to regulate the heat. Butz patented his invention and formed a business which was eventually purchased by, a young engineer named Mark Honeywell. In 1953, the Honeywell company unveiled their iconic, round thermostat, one of the most recognizable thermostat designs in the world and which is still in production today.
Understanding your basic thermostat
A basic thermostat, also known as a “manual” or “non-programmable” thermostat, operates as its name implies: you have to manually turn the dial or move a lever to your desired temperature. There are some basic thermostats that are digitized, where you can just push a button to adjust the temperature to a specific number, but you still have to manually walk up to it to perform this task.
Basic thermostats operate a simple mechanical principle whereby two strips of different metals, usually brass and steel, are welded together and formed into a coil. When exposed to high temperatures, the bimetal strip will expand and uncoil. When the temperature cools down, the bimetallic strip will contract and the coil will tighten. The expansion and contraction of the coil activates contacts on either side of the metal turning the HVAC system on.
How does mercury in a thermostat work?
Mercury is a heavy, silvery-colored liquid metal that moves like water. Within a thermostat, mercury is contained in a vial that tips either to the right or the left based on the expansion or contraction of the bimetallic coil, depending on whether you’ve adjusted the lever on the thermostat to raise or lower the temperature. Wires within the vial allow a current of energy to run through the mercury activating a relay switch that starts your system’s heater or air conditioner. When the temperature or your home starts to heat up (or cool down), a coiled wire gradually unwinds tilting the vial of mercury so that the current is broken and the HVAC system is turned off.
Not sure if your thermostat has mercury or not? Take off the cover of your thermostat and look inside. If you see a glass vial or ampoule containing a silvery-white liquid, then your thermostat has mercury. You can also check the packaging of any new thermostats you buy for “Hg,” which is the symbol for mercury. If you see this, then mercury is in the thermostat.
It is illegal in many cities to dispose of mercury thermostats in the trash. Therefore, it’s important to locate heating and cooling suppliers, or household waste facilities, which will properly dispose of the mercury for you.
Adjusting the basic thermostat
Changing the temperature on a basic thermostat is as easy as pushing a button, moving a lever, or turning a dial. Once you’ve set the thermostat to your desired temperature, your air conditioning system will respond accordingly.
How frequently should my heating and cooling cycle on/off?
A properly working heating and air conditioning system will automatically cycle on and off when the thermostat senses the air is too cold or too warm. Cycling off gives the temperature in your home a chance to regulate as well as saves energy and utility costs. There is no predetermined number of times a system will cycle on and off each hour, nor how long each cycle will run for. Rather, a cooling cycle will last until the air is cooled (or warmed) to the temperature you set on your thermostat. Once the thermostat senses the desired temperature has been reached, it will shut off the system. If the weather is mild outside, your air conditioner will likely run for only a few minutes at a time. During hotter temperatures, it will likely need to run longer to cool the air in your home to your desired setting.
There are other factors which affect how often your system will cycle on and off, such as the size, or tonnage, of your unit, the amount of moisture in the air that needs to be removed, and the temperature of the weather outside.
Diagnosing problems – why is the basic thermostat not working? Troubleshooting.
If you suspect your thermostat is not working properly, there are a few things you check before calling a professional for repairs.
How do you calibrate a basic thermostat?
If you suspect the setting on your thermostat does not match the temperature of your home, a simple calibration can determine if your thermostat is working properly or not. To calibrate your thermostat, do the following:
It’s important to make sure your thermostat is calibrated properly, otherwise the result could be a utility increase of up to 10%.
What is CPH?
The cycle rate, or “cycle per hour” (CPH) rate, refers to the number of times per hour your HVAC system will turn on and off. Though there are several variables which affect the CPH, it’s typical for a system to cycle on and off 3-6 times an hour. If your system’s CPH is significantly higher or lower, then you should call an HVAC technician right away.
Clear list of steps to operate the basic t-stat
With a basic thermostat, either the ubiquitous round model or the rectangular version, there will be “System” switch with the options setting the system to Heat, Cool, or Off. There may also be a “Fan” switch with the options of Auto or On available. If set to “Auto,” the fan operates when the HVAC system is running. If set to “On,” the fan will run continuously.
To set the thermostat to a desired temperature, just turn the dial or move the lever to a numbered setting listed. For a basic digital thermostat, just punch in a number or hit the up or down arrow buttons to increase or lower the temperature.
Digital and non-digital basic t-stats
Digital thermostats allow for more precise temperature control that moving a lever or dial on a manual thermostat. Just punch in the exact temperature desired, the thermostat will work to maintain it.
The cost of a basic thermostat
Basic, manual thermostats are fairly inexpensive and easy to fix or replace if they stop working. However, if you forget to adjust your thermostat at night or when you’re away from home for long periods of time, then that wasted energy will certainly affect your wallet.
Where a basic thermostat should be located in the home
The thermostat should be located in a place that’s not only convenient for you to easily access it for programming, but also in the part of the home where you and your family spend most of their time. Ideally placed about five feet off the ground, the thermostat should not be located near an outside wall or exposed to any heat sources, such as direct sunlight, heater vents, skylights, windows, or hot-water pipes.
Basic thermostats are inexpensive and easy to use. Many homeowners prefer them to the more complicated programmable or smart thermostats. However, as newer thermostats allow for more precise temperature control and efficiency options saving you money on your utility bill, it may be time to upgrade your basic one.
What Is a Ductless System?
A ductless air conditioning system is an energy-efficient system that can cool (or heat) rooms and zones of a home without needing ductwork. Ductless systems provide a suitable AC option for homes that don’t have the space for ducts or for homeowners who’d rather not tear up their walls to install ducts.
How Ductless Systems Operate
Similar to ducted, split central air conditioners, ductless systems also consist of an indoor air handling component and an outdoor component housing the compressor and condenser unit. However, instead of just one large air handler unit tucked away inside a closet, crawl space, or attic, ductless systems have multiple air handlers installed in different rooms of the house mounted on the wall. These individual air handlers operate similar to a window unit, where each one can be regulated to a different temperature.
The indoor and outdoor components are linked with copper tubing that passes through a small hole in the wall. Similar to split air conditioners, refrigerant travels through tubing to the indoor air handler(s), where the evaporator coil pulls the heat from the air leaving cool air which is blown into the room. The refrigerant, in vapor form, is then transferred to the condenser coil in the outside unit where it is changed back into liquid form.
Ductless systems were originally developed by a Japanese manufacturer in the 1970s and are predominantly used in Asia and Europe, but they have recently gained in popularity in the U.S. due to their energy-efficient capabilities. The ductless air conditioner was designed to be an improved version of the window unit, where it could provide localized cooling to homes and buildings where a larger, central air-type system was not an option due to building size or financial constraints. Providing greater efficiency than window units, the ductless system offers air comfort variability that can be controlled individually, room-by-room, which enhances its appeal as it gives all family members more control over their own comfort.
Pros and Cons of a Ductless Unit
Ductless System Set-Up
The outdoor component of a ductless air conditioning system can be installed on a concrete slab in a shaded area on the side or back of the house and unobstructed from shrubbery. The exterior unit can also be attached to the outside wall of the house with mounting brackets. With this type of installation, it’s important to have plenty of clearance, at least 4 inches, between the wall and the unit, and at least 20 inches of clearance above the unit.
Interior components of a ductless system are typically mounted high on an interior wall of the room it’s cooling. It should be centrally located in the room for even distribution of the cooled air. For less obtrusive locations inside a room, ductless interior units can also be placed recessed in the ceiling or near the floor. The indoor unit should be installed no more than 50 feet away from the outdoor unit.
Cost of Operating and Maintaining a Ductless System
The upfront cost of your ductless system will depend on the size of your home and how many units it will require – either one, two, or perhaps four or more. The more units required, the more the initial cost will be. There are also other factors which can affect the cost of a ductless system such as brand, the amount of cooling needed, system features and capabilities, integrated technology, and air conditioning support and services.
The high costs of ductless air conditioners can sometimes scare consumers away, but rebates and tax incentives are often available as they are energy-efficient systems. Plus, the initial costs are likely to be recouped before too long since ductless air conditioners, which have SEER ratings up to 26, are one of the most efficient and cost-saving air conditioning systems available. Ductless air conditioners use up to 30% – 50% less energy than central air systems so their overall operational costs are lower. Maintenance costs for ductless systems also tend to be lower than that for other systems, and with proper care and maintenance a ductless system should last for over 20 years.
Is a Ductless Air Conditioning System the Best Choice for Your Climate?
Ductless systems are a great option for most climates as they can provide individual heating and cooling effectively and efficiently. However, for those regions that reach extremely high temperatures and humidity levels in the summer, a ductless air conditioner may have difficulty cooling your home on some of those hotter days. Also, ductless systems are not as good as central air systems at removing moisture from the air so for those who live in a very humid climate, a ducted system may be a better option.
What Is the Difference Between a Ductless System and Other Types of Systems?
Ductless air conditioners resemble window units in that each are designed to cool one room. The similarity pretty much ends there as ductless systems are much more efficient than window units, don’t block the sunlight by taking up space in a window, and don’t pose a security risk as window units can easily be removed. Window units are still the cheapest and easiest air conditioners to install, though.
Compared to ducted air conditioning systems, such as split and packaged AC units, ductless systems work in a similar way to cool the home with the use of a compressor, evaporator coil, condensing coil, refrigerant, and blower. However, the cool air is delivered directly into each room through separate air handler units installed on the walls of each room instead of the cooled air reaching the room through a network of ducts. Not having ducts makes for much easier installation and maintenance for ductless systems, as well as improved efficiency and less dust in the air as there are no ducts on which it can collect.
Ductless systems come with a hand-held remote that controls just that one individual unit. With the remote, you can turn the AC system off and on, choose heat or cool, set the thermostat, and control the air speed. If you have multiple units in your home, then a programmable thermostat will allow you to pre-program your desired temperature settings and start/end times for all of the connected units.
Naturally, with the internet of things (IOT), there are smart thermostats available for ductless systems as well that can preheat or precool your home before you get home, monitor the temperature of your home, even while you’re away, adjust the temperature according to weather systems, and work with other applications for multiple features and benefits.
Ductless air conditioning systems are a great alternative to the ducted options and with their temperature variability control and energy-efficiency, they are an excellent choice for many consumers. However, your AC contractor may still advise you to get a ducted system if you already have ducts installed, are concerned with controlling the humidity, or want better air flow throughout your home, which a network of ducts help provide.
If you’re in a new house without any ducts already installed, then you will have the choice of which type of air conditioning will work best for you and your home. To learn more about the most common types of systems, click here. If you’re ready to shop for your new system and want to save thousands by shopping online, click here.
What Is a Split System?
The most common type of central air conditioning system used in the U.S. is the “split” type of system. It’s called a “split” system because it’s comprised of two main components, one located inside the home and one located outside the home. The interior component, also known as the air handler, has a blower and evaporator coil to distribute cool air through the ducts of the home, and the outside unit houses a compressor and condensing coil which pumps refrigerant into the system.
A split air condition system uses electricity as it power source and utilizes the ducts in a home to distribute cool air and warm air when needed. Using the same network of ducts for both heating and cooling makes the split system one of the most efficient types of air conditioning systems available.
To learn more about other types of systems, click here.
You can also watch this system explainer video which contains a condensed overview:
How a Split Air Conditioning System Operates
The compressor, which is housed in the outdoor metal cabinet, is a motorized unit that pumps a liquid coolant through pipes (also known as “refrigerant lines”) to the interior unit, where it then removes heat and moisture from the home. It does this through a process called phase conversion, where warm air blows over the evaporator coil causing the liquid refrigerant to change from a liquid state to a gaseous state (vapor). When a substance changes from a liquid to a gas, a unique result is the removal of heat from the air. Within the air handler, the cooler air is then blown through the vents into the home while the vapor is transferred back to the outside air conditioning unit where the condenser coil changes it back to a liquid and the process begins all over again.
Air conditioning has come a long way since a young engineer named Willis Carrier invented the first air modern air conditioning unit in 1902. While working for a printing press, Carrier was asked to solve the humidity problem in the plant, which was causing the pages of the magazines wrinkle and curl up at the edges. The system he designed controlled the humidity by sending air over water-cooled coils. Recognizing the usefulness of his invention, he went on to form his own company which focused on developing and improving the air conditioning system.
Today, air conditioning is considered an essential part of modern living allowing us to remain cool in our homes, places of work, restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc. Air conditioning has become an important and integral part of our everyday lives. In fact, Americans consume more energy each year running air conditioners than the rest of the world combined. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States is used by air conditioners, costing homeowners almost $30 billion in annual costs and producing nearly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the air each year.
This is why energy standards have been adapted for manufacturers to produce more energy-efficient appliances and air conditioning units. The air conditioners manufactured today are 50% more efficient than those produced just ten years ago, saving consumers millions of dollars and reducing the amount of harmful pollutants being released into the environment.
Split air conditioning systems are one of the most energy efficient systems you can find. With SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) values ranging in the high 20s, split systems are a great choice for the environmentally and budget-conscious consumer.
The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute also has a number of resources to help homeowners understand their systems here.
Split Air Conditioning Installation
The most important aspect of the split AC system is the installation. If it’s done properly, your system will perform at its optimum level, but if it is not installed properly, then the result could be higher utility bills, frequent maintenance problems, and uneven cooling. Before installing the two parts of a split air conditioning system, first it must be determined where the inside component should be located. Typically, the indoor unit is placed in a closet or cabinet, but if neither of those is available, then another space must be used.
Some interior units of a split system are housed in the attic. There are many contractors, however, who believe installing the air handler in the attic is not the best idea as attics are typically not air conditioned and, therefore, get very hot in the summer. This can affect the efficiency of the indoor unit. Ducts expand and contract with temperature changes and an area with unregulated temperature, such as the attic, could cause leaks and loosening of the duct seals. Additionally, with the indoor unit housed in the attic, one may forget about it and not perform regularly required maintenance, or may not want to if the unit is hard to get to. In older homes where space is limited, there may be no other option than the attic for the location of the indoor unit. In this case, it’s important that the ductwork be properly sealed and insulated and the installation is done by an AC professional.
The garage is a location many people think is ideal for installing the air handler as there is usually plenty of space, it’s not as hot as the attic, and there’s enough room to easily access the unit for repairs. However, there is a case to be made that the garage is probably the worst place for the air handler. Many people use their garages to store items such as pesticides, lawn mowers, paint, and their automobiles that often have the engine running before the garage door opens or closes. This can cause garages to have high levels of carbon monoxide and various other pollutants that contaminate the air, which could be getting sucked into your home through leaks or gaps in the air handler. Poor indoor air quality is a health concern and may result in serious health issues. If the garage is the only place available for your air handler, then it is recommended that it is placed in an insulated and air-sealed closet to reduce contaminants from entering the system. Other actions you should take would be to make sure the duct system is properly sealed and purchase a carbon monoxide monitor for the inside of your home.
Crawl Space Installation
Installing the air handler in a crawl space is a popular option as it keeps the unit “out of the way.” However, many crawl spaces are damp and dark and can get hot and humid during the warmer months. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your crawl space in encapsulated and not vented to the outside as this could cause mold growth and reduce air quality, especially if you live in a more humid climate. Installing a dehumidifier in the crawl space is beneficial as well.
Basements are also a place where air handlers can be installed as it offers an “out of sight” location like attics and crawl spaces, although the basement allows for easier access to the unit.
How Much Does a Split System Cost?
There are several factors which will affect the cost of an AC unit, but the usual range for installing a new split air conditioning system is between $3,700 and $7,200. The size of your home, whether or not ducts need to be installed, repaired, or replaced, and installation rates are the top determining factors affecting the cost of your new AC system. Also, it’s important to make sure you purchase the right-sized air conditioner for your home. This is where a professional AC contractor is key helping you determine the best AC fit for your needs.
First, the contractor will determine how much cooling power your home will need by performing a load calculation. This measurement takes in account a variety of factors affecting the temperature of your home such as square footage, number and types of windows, how much heat loss your home experiences, insulation levels, whether or not your home is located in the shade, etc. This data is then analyzed to determine how much air your air conditioning system is likely to lose and which system is the best one for efficiently cooling your home.
The climate in which you live is also an important factor that will determine the type of AC unit that will be best for your home. If you live in a hot, humid climate, you will want an air conditioning system that effectively cools and dehumidifies your home. You will also likely want a unit with a higher SEER rating for energy savings as an air conditioner in a state like Florida is going to work a lot harder in the summer than one in a state such as Minnesota. If you live in a drier or milder climate, then a lower-rated SEER model should suffice.
It’s important to make sure your HVAC equipment is sized properly for your home as a system that is too small won’t effectively cool the air, and one that is too large won’t properly remove all the humidity in the air, cause uneven cooling, and increased utility bills.
The SEER number you choose for your split system will also affect the price. Higher-rates SEER units will save you more money each month, but the upfront costs are more expensive than lower SEER models. To learn more about SEER, click here. To find out about SEER minimums where you live view this Seer Mimimums Map.
Pros and Cons of Split Air Conditioning Systems
What Is the Difference Between a Split System and a Ductless System?
A ductless air conditioning system is also split into two parts with an indoor and outdoor component, just like the split central air conditioning system, however, a ductless system does not require ducts. Ductless systems are a great option for those homeowners who don’t have a network of ducts already installed in their home, don’t want to tear up their walls installing ducts, or just don’t have the room for them.
Besides no ducts, this type of system differs from split systems in that instead of one air handler in the home, there are multiple “mini” air handlers which are installed in every room, usually high up on the wall. This type of installation allows for the temperature of each room to be individually controlled by the thermostat on the air handler unit. Therefore, if one person prefers a room temperature of 78 while another prefers their room temperature to be 72, then this system offers that type of temperature control variability.
Air Filters & Maintaining Your Split Air Conditioning System
Once you’ve installed your new central AC system, it’s important to perform regular maintenance, service, and repair to extend its life and make sure it operates at maximum efficiency. One of the most important ways to take care of your air conditioner is to replace the filters regularly. The large amount of air traveling through your AC system contains dust, debris, allergens, and pollutants, which is cleaned when pulled through the air filter. If the filter gets dirty and clogged, then the air cannot be cleaned as effectively and air flow is reduced. Clean filters equal clean air, dirty filters… less so. It’s best to check your air filters at least every two weeks and replace them as soon as they look dirty.
If you’re shopping around for a new central air conditioning system, you’ve probably discovered that there are three types of systems from which you can choose: Packaged Units, Split Systems and Ductless. All three systems work equally well and offer energy efficient options and state-of-the-art systems that can help you save money and effectively cool your home. In this article, we’ll discuss the packaged air conditioning system in more depth and whether or not it’s a good option for you. As a rule of thumb, it’s almost always a good idea to stick with the type of system you have – if you have been satisfied with it.
What is a Package System?
A packaged unit is a heating and cooling device that has all of its main components (condenser, compressor, and evaporator) combined together in one single, metal-encased “package.” Packaged air conditioners are a great option for homes that don’t have a lot of space for an indoor component. Not to say that a packed unit can’t adequately cool a large home – because it definitely can. Package units tend to be popular in the southeastern regions of the U.S. where homes don’t typically have basements or crawl spaces, but they can be used in any region.
A packaged unit hooks up to a home’s ductwork to pull warm air out of the house and replace it with cool air. The unit is located outside the home usually on a concrete slab next to the house, or, to save even more space, installed on the roof.
What Is the Difference Between a Split System and a Packaged Unit?
A split system has some of the air conditioning components located outside the home, such as the fan, compressor, and condenser, and the rest of the components located inside the home, such as the evaporator coil, air handler and blower. The advantage of a split system is that the indoor components are kept in a controlled, non-harsh type of environment and therefore have a longer life-span than if they were located outside. Another advantage is that split systems come in higher energy-efficient options with SEER ratings in the twenties, whereas packaged units typically have 14 SEER or 16 SEER options. The advantages of a packaged unit over a split system are:
Types of Package Units
There are several different packaged options to choose from depending on your cooling or heating needs:
Cooling only packaged air conditioner: Electric-power unit with no heating elements for those climates that are typically warm year-round.
Packaged air conditioner with heat: Electric-powered air conditioner that also has a heating element. Electricity heats up the element warming the air that flows over it. This warm air moves through the ducts to raise the temperature inside your home. This type of system is common in warmer climates where the heat is used only occasionally.
Packaged gas/electric systems: This type of system offers high-efficiency electric air conditioning during the warmer months and the efficiency of a gas furnace for heating during the cooler months. These are common in colder regions as gas heat is an energy efficient way of heating a home. Do you have gas or electric? You can learn more by using the instant low price quote tool here.
Packaged heat pumps: A heat pump moves warm air from outside the home to inside the home during cooler months, and then, reversing the cycle, moves warm air from inside the home to outside when cooler temperatures are desired inside. Powered by electricity, heat pumps move warm air around instead of generating heat which makes them particularly energy efficient. Heat pumps work best in moderate to mild climates.
Dual fuel heat pump (heat pump and gas furnace): Utilizing the heat pump to pull heat from the outside air to warm your home, the furnace part of this system doesn’t kick on until it’s around 35 degrees or less outside, making it a very energy efficient system, perfect for cold climates.
Electric furnace and heat pump: Similar to the heat pump plus gas furnace system, the heat pump does the majority of the air cooling and heating here as well, with a backup electric furnace that kicks on only when there is not enough heat in the air for the heat pump to sufficiently warm the home.
What type of air conditioning system is best for your regional climate?
It’s not just whether your climate is mostly warm or mostly cold, but also whether you have more of a dry climate as opposed to a humid climate that will affect the type of air conditioning system that will work best for you.
Packaged air conditioning systems are a great option for cooling your home, however, if you happen to live in a warm, humid climate like Florida, you may discover that split system air conditioners are more common. This is due to several factors: 1) an air conditioner in a hot, humid climate is going to work a lot harder to keep a home cool than one in a milder climate, so having a high energy-efficient unit is important. Split systems come with higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings than packaged units do, making them the preferred system for many due to their higher efficiency options; and, 2) split systems do a better job of dehumidifying a home than packaged units do, and a less humid home is a more comfortable home.
For drier climates, such as Las Vegas, packaged units that combine electric air conditioning with a gas furnace for heating are an excellent option. Also, packaged systems that combine a heat pump with a gas furnace are popular in drier climates as the heat pump is highly energy efficient because it moves warm air around to cool and heat rather than using energy to generate heat.
The heat pump plus gas furnace system is also common in colder climates as using natural gas or propane to heat a home is an energy efficient solution many northern homes employ. Similarly, the electric furnace and heat pump is frequently used in colder climates as well.
System Components of a Packaged Air Conditioner
When purchasing a packaged air conditioner, it’s useful to know the various components within that make it work. This way you’ll be able to “talk shop” with the contractor who is installing it and better understand how to perform maintenance on it.
The main components of a packaged AC unit are:
Maintenance Tips for Your Packaged Unit
Knowing the components of your packaged air conditioning system, how they work, and potential problems they may encounter that could affect your system’s performance will help you stay on top of maintaining your unit, which will go a long way in extending the life of your system. The compressor, for example, is the heart of an air conditioner and if this important (and expensive) component breaks down, you may find yourself opting to just purchase a whole new system.
What does a compressor in a packaged unit do?
The compressor, powered by a motor, compresses refrigerant into a high-pressure gas and forces it into the condenser coil where its heat is released and the refrigerant condenses into a liquid. The liquid refrigerant is then pumped into the evaporator coil where it evaporates into a gas (vapor), and in doing so, removes heat and moisture from the air. As a gas, the refrigerant returns to the compressor where the whole cycle begins again. Common causes of compressor malfunctions are dirty and gummed-up condenser coils, blocked refrigerant lines, contaminants in the system (such as dirt, debris, moisture, leaves, etc.), and inadequate lubricant levels can cause serious problems for the compressor.
Routine maintenance by a licensed professional is key in maintaining an efficiently-running system with a long life ahead of it. Besides routine maintenance, it’s important that you don’t delay when it comes to repairs. If you hear an unusual knocking, rattling, grinding, or rumbling sound, call your repairman immediately before even more damage is done. Finally, don’t forget to replace the filters regularly, especially during the summer months when your air conditioner is working overtime.
Since your air conditioner plays such an important part of keeping you comfortable in your home and considering it’s one of the largest expenditures on your utility bill, purchasing a new AC system should be thoroughly researched so you can make the best decision for your home and budget. Understanding the benefits of a packaged air conditioning system, how it works to cool (or heat) your home, and how to take care of it will help you have a long and enjoyable experience with your packaged air conditioning system.
To learn more about the heating and cooling options available to you, click here.