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AFUE: The Five Essential Questions Your Service Company Should Ask You Before You Buy In

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 –  

  1. A Brief Overview of AFUE 
  2. Ron’s Story/Quick Video Explanation 
  3. The Five Essential Questions 
    1. How? 
    2. When? 
    3. What? 
    4. Are? and… 
    5. Did? 
  4. US Department of Energy 
  5. Understanding ENERGY STAR  
  6. Your furnace or boiler (Do you need to buy the same equipment you have?) 
  7. Get a free quote instantly, without a tech visit to your home 


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 photo

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.  

Wait, what?!  

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.


Ron’s Story

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 

  1. How frequently do you operate your furnace? Is it running year-round, or is it running more seasonally, or occasionally? 
  2. When did you move into your home and how long do you plan to stay put? 
  3. What is your budget for a new heating system? 
  4. Are you aware the repairs on a higher AFUE heating system are more expensive than on a minimally required AFUE percentage? 
  5. Did you know you can cut out added costs by shopping online for your ideal AFUE system?  


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: ) 

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.


Your furnace 

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 At 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?

Do I Need an AC or a Heat Pump to Cool My House?

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….

copper device heat pump

…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:

  • Air source heat pump– extracts and moves heat between the air outdoors and the air indoors.
  • Geothermal heat pump– transfers heat to and from the ground or a nearby water source to your home.
  • Absorption heat pump– is similar to an air-source heat pump but uses heat sources, such as solar-energy, natural gas, propane, or geo-thermal water, instead of electricity to operate.


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 or call us at (877) 774-2334 and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions!

Pricefixer is Youngest Company Featured in Top 500 List

Pricefixer, a company founded in Sarasota, Florida has been recognized in the Business Observer’s 2019 Top 500. Ranked at number 488, Pricefixer is also the newest company to be featured on the list, having been founded in 2016.

Each year the Business Observer spends seven months researching companies on the Gulf Coast to rank the top 500 companies from Tampa to Naples by their gross revenues.

“Pricefixer is proud to have been founded in Sarasota. We have already seen such large growth, with franchises from Sun City, Florida to as far away as Palm Springs, California, and we are looking forward to the future,” said President Terry Nicholson. “This is just the beginning. We continue to be an innovative company and look forward to continuing to grow in Sarasota, and throughout the country.”

“Every year we’re scouting for companies, new and old, and it’s always exciting to see who’s new to the list and how veterans of the list have changed over the past couple years,” says Kat Hughes, executive editor of the Business Observer. “Covering nine counties that each have thousands of companies, the Top 500 really has become a who’s who for leading firms in the region.”


About Pricefixer

Pricefixer was founded in Sarasota, FL in 2016 and has franchises throughout the country. The company is revolutionizing the way people shop for heating and cooling equipment. Pricefixer is proud to provide consumers the option of working with hometown technicians to get a new heating and cooling system, while saving thousands of dollars, thanks to the buying power of a national organization.

Utilizing technology and their knowledge of the industry, Founders Jim Abrams and Terry Nicholson brought consumers an online retail space where they could get an instant quote. There are no hidden costs or fees, and every system includes installations, better warranties, and lowest price guaranteed.


About the Top 500

The Top 500 is the most comprehensive list on the Gulf Coast by including companies in nine counties. The main list ranks the 500 largest companies by gross revenues for consistency and comparability.

Revenues are mostly self-reported by the companies, and do not include pass-through revenues for industries such as real estate, advertising agencies, or professional employer organizations.

In addition to revenues for 2017and 2018, the list provides other information on each company, including the number of full-time employees, the year founded or incorporated, the top executive, line of business and of course, valuable contact information.

Two digital versions of the lists are available for purchase on the Business Observer’s website at

How Your Heat Pump Keeps You Cool

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:

  • Compressor:The compressor compresses and circulates the refrigerant which absorbs and releases heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor units.
  • Condenser & Evaporator Coils: The condenser and evaporator coils work with the compressor to heat or cool the air, depending on which mode the heat pump is in.
  • Air Handler:The air handler blows the warmed or cooled air into the ducts of the home to distribute the cooled or warmed air.
  • Heat Strips:Heat strips are an electric heating element used for auxiliary (back-up) heat when the weather outside is too cold for heat extraction and an additional heat source is needed.
  • Reversing Valves:Unique to heat pumps, reversing valves change the directional flow of the refrigerant to either heat or cool the interior of your home.

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.

  • Air-source heat pump: The air-source heat pump uses fans to transfer heat from the air outside to inside your home and vice versa. Since heat is being moved around instead of generated, relatively little energy is consumed in operating this type of system. Compared to electric or gas-operated heating systems, an air-source heat pump can reduce your utility bill by as much as 50% over these other systems.
  • Geothermal heat pump: Also known as a ground-source or water-source heat pump, the geothermal heat pump transfers heat from underground or a nearby water source. The earth is an excellent source of heat as it absorbs a large amount of solar energy, allowing it to maintain a moderate temperature just below the surface all year round. Geothermal heat pumps use refrigerant or water in pipes submerged underground to absorb the earth’s heat where it is extracted and then sent as warm air into your home. Very efficient, long-lasting, and environmentally friendly, geothermal heat pumps can provide heating and cooling for your home while reducing your utility bill by up to 65%.
  • Absorption heat pump: The absorption heat pump is an air-source heat pump that uses a variety of heat sources, such as natural gas, solar energy, geothermal energy, etc.) instead of electricity to operate the compression cycle for heating or cooling your home. Also, an environmentally-friendly ammonia plus water solution is used to generate heat instead of an ozone-destroying refrigerant.


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.

  1. Don’t set the temperature too high in the winter or too low in the summer. Heat pumps generate a more continuous moderate temperature to eventual reach the desired warm or cool temperature rather than higher- or lower-temperature blasts of air. Therefore, the air coming into the home may not seem warm enough, or cool enough, at first, but heat pumps run in longer cycles to achieve the desired temperature.
  2. If you want to raise the temperature in your home, do so gradually by adjusting the thermostat only 1-2 degrees higher at a time. Doing so will keep your system from employing the auxiliary heat which uses more energy and could affect your utility bill.
  3. Don’t do setbacks with your heat pump. Traditional HVAC users have been taught to “setback” their air conditioner and heater to a much lower or higher temperature when they are out of the house to save on their electric bill. However, doing this with a heat pump system may not only trigger the back-up heat to kick on, but it may also take the system several hours to reach your home’s ideal temperature. It’s best to just set your ideal temperature and then walk away to reap the most benefit in cost savings and comfort from your heat pump.

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!

What is the Best Thermostat Option?

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.


Programmable Thermostats

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:

  • Real-time your energy consumption statistics
  • Filter and maintenance alerts
  • Energy-efficient recommendations
  • Air quality monitoring
  • Zoning
  • Weather forecasting
  • Touch screens
  • Changeable colors to match your interior

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.

Programmable Thermostats – Everything You Need to Know

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:

  • Wake: If waking up to a slightly warmer environment is what you desire, then this is the setting where you’ll put in your “get-out-of-bed” temperature. You’ll want to set the wake time 30 to 60 minutes prior to your actual wake time to allow the system time to warm up your home.
  • Leave: If your home will be empty for most of the day after you leave in the morning, then here is where you’ll set the temperature of your home to be slightly warmer on those summer days to save energy. You can set the “leave” temperature 30 minutes prior to when you actually leave for even more energy savings.
  • Return: This is where you’ll want to set the temperature to start warming or cooling your home around the time the first person in your family arrives home.
  • Sleep: This setting allows you to program your thermostat later in the evening, say 10:30 p.m., to a cooler temperature when most of your family has turned in for the night.

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:

  • Thermostat is unresponsive
  • Heater or AC won’t turn on
  • HVAC system won’t turn off
  • Room temperature doesn’t match setting on 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:

  1. Place an accurate thermometer right next to the thermostat. You can affix it to the wall with tape. Wait 10 to 15 minutes for thermometer to adjust.
  2. Check the temperature reading on the thermometer with the temperature reading on the thermostat. If it there is a difference, then you’ll need to calibrate the thermostat.
  3. Consult the manufacturer’s manual or scroll through the menu options on your thermostat to change the temperature offset.
  4. Adjust the temperature of your thermostat to match the reading on the thermometer. Your programmable thermostat will now use this new number as the actual temperature going forward.


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.

  1. Check the batteries: Remove the front cover of your programmable thermostat and check or replace the batteries if necessary.
  2. Check the settings on your thermostat: Make sure you have the thermostat properly set to “heat” in the winter and “cool” in the summer.
  3. Remove dirt and dust: Make sure the exterior and interior of the thermostat are free of any dirt or dust. Gently wipe away any dirt or dust which could interfere with components on the inside.
  4. Check the circuit panel: Make sure the circuit panel doesn’t have a tripped breaker.
  5. Wire contacts: Remove the thermostat from its mounting on the wall and check the wire contacts to see if one has come loose.
  6. Check both heating and cooling: If your heat is working properly but you’re not getting any cold air, or vice versa, then the problem could be with the equipment and not the thermostat.

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:

  1. To set the air conditioner for the weekdays, switch the thermostat to “cool” and select a program.
  2. Select “Weekdays” and then select the times and temperatures you would like for Monday through Friday. For example, if you want to raise the morning temperature to 76 degrees before you wake up 7:00 a.m., then set the time to 6:30 a.m., and the temperature to 76.
  3. If you leave your home at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, you can choose to set your thermostat to a warmer 78 degrees at 8:00 a.m.
  4. Upon returning home at 6:00 p.m., set the thermostat to 74 degrees starting at 5:30 p.m. to ensure your home is sufficiently cooled before you get home.
  5. For cooler temperatures when you sleep, choose the time you typically go to bed and the temperature you prefer. This program will now repeat itself for the other days of the week.
  6. To set the temperature for Saturday and Sunday, choose “weekend” and select the times and temperatures. Most programmable thermostats allow four settings per day for weekdays and two for the weekend. There are also thermostats available that allow individual settings for each day of the week as well. 


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.


Understanding Your Home’s Basic Thermostat

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.

  • Remove the thermostat cover and make sure the inside is clean and free of dust, dirt, and residue
  • Check to see if the thermostat box is centered and level, as being askew can affect its internal components.
  • Make sure your thermostat is not exposed to external heat sources or is located in an area that gets direct sunlight.
  • If you have a digital thermostat, check the batteries to see if they need to be replaced.


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:

  1. Tape a regular glass thermometer to the wall a few inches away from where the thermostat is located. Place some folded paper towels behind it’s not directly touching the wall.
  2. Wait for 15-20 minutes for the mercury to stabilize.
  3. Compare the reading on the thermometer with that on the dial of the thermostat.
  4. If it’s off by more than one degree, remove the thermostat cover and make sure the inside is clean. Gently remove any dust or debris from coils and/or contact points.
  5. If there is a vial of mercury within the thermostat, use a level to make sure it’s not askew. If it is, loosen the screws and adjust the thermostat until it is level.
  6. After cleaning the thermostat and checking that it’s level, repeat steps 1-5. If still not calibrated properly, then the thermostat should be replaced.

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.

Choosing the Right Thermostat for Your Home

A lot has change for the once plain and lowly thermostat throughout the past twenty years. What started out as a relatively simple device used to control and maintain the temperature, has burgeoned into a hip, technologically-sophisticated smart home device that can do so much more than just keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

Originating as early as the mid-19th century, the thermostat was invented when the need arose to regulate the temperature and humidity in mills and production facilities to protect the products being manufactured. Today, thermostats are used around the world to keep homes, work places, and public buildings at comfortable temperatures and to protect us from the extreme heat and cold of Mother Nature.

There are three main types of thermostats available today: the basic (or manual) thermostat, the programmable thermostat, and the connected / smart thermostat.


Basic / Manual Thermostats

The basic thermostat is still widely used in many homes today. Originally designed with a rotating dial, and then as a rectangular box with a lever that move to the right or left to select the temperature setting, if you want to adjust the temperature you have to walk up to the thermostat and manually move the dial (or lever) to your desired setting. Comprised of bi-metallic strips that coil and uncoil at specific temperatures, the basic thermostat does a decent job of maintaining a comfortable level of heat or cool air in your home. However, the dials and levers on basic thermostats are not very precise and could be off by several degrees of the temperature you think you’re setting. This could lead to a loss in energy savings and an increased utility bill.

To know just how much the temperature plays a part in energy savings, a good rule of thumb to go by is that for every degree you raise or lower the temperature on your thermostat, results in a 1% increase or decrease in your energy bill. For example, if you like to keep your home a cool 65 degrees in the summer, then by moving the temperature up to 75 degrees, you’re saving 10% on your energy bill. Since 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.

There are basic thermostats with digital displays, however, that are more precise. 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. 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. Though still limited, the digital display allows you to set a specific temperature. Basic thermostats are best for those people who are home a lot and like its simplicity and ease of use.


Programmable Thermostats

Up until just a few years ago, programmable thermostats were the most technologically advanced and energy-saving thermostats available on the market. A programmable thermostat offers the convenience and energy-saving function of setting different temperatures for different times of days. So, for example, if your work-day routine typically has you arriving home at 6 p.m., then you can program the thermostat to start cooling, or warming, your home at 5:30 p.m. so it’s at the perfect temperature by the time you walk in the door. You can also program it to adjust the temperature higher or lower while you’re sleeping to save energy as well.

Most programmable thermostats allow you to program up to four different set times for the week (5 days) and up to four different times for the weekend (2 days). 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 are a great way to save on energy costs by giving you the ability to set energy-efficient temperatures for those times of the day when you’re either away from home or sleeping. No more leaving the house without forgetting to adjust the temperature and wasting money– just set it and forget it.

The four main settings programmable thermostats have are: Wake, Leave, Return, and Sleep. Before setting the times and temperature for each of these categories, it’s important to know your schedule. Spend a few days tracking the time you typically leave your home, the time you return, when you typically go to sleep, and when you wake. Now, you’ll have a better idea for when to program the thermostat to begin warming or cooling your home. Since it can take up to 30 minutes for the temperature to regulate once the system kicks in, it’s best to program the time for 30 before you want to wake up, go to sleep, leave, or arrive home.

Newer programmable thermostat models have even more programming options and allow you to have numerous temperature settings throughout the day and the ability to program each day individually, instead of being limited to just 5 days at a time and 2 days at a time. With advanced features such as touch screens and illumination for easy access at night, programmable thermostats give you more flexibility and control of your heating and cooling while significantly cutting your energy costs.

Programmable thermostats 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

Taking the convenience and flexibility of programmable thermostats one step further, “smart” thermostats allow you to adjust your home’s temperature remotely from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Performing the same functions as programmable thermostats, smart thermostats give you the flexibility to regulate the temperature in your home around the clock. So, for those days when you unexpectedly work late or go out to dinner with friends after work instead of going home as you normally would do, smart thermostats allow you to re-adjust the temperature setting remotely, so you can still save money on those days you veer from your routine.

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:

  • Real-time your energy consumption statistics
  • Filter and maintenance alerts
  • Energy-efficient recommendations
  • Air quality monitoring
  • Zoning
  • Weather forecasting
  • Touch screens
  • Changeable colors to match your interior

Smart thermostats are changing how homeowners manage their energy consumption and other smart features of their home. The Nest thermostat is a popular smart thermostat that works with over 115 other smart devices, such as garage door openers, lights, media centers, alarms, Alexa and Google Assistant. The Nest also supports Bluetooth and has geofencing technology, which uses your smart phone to track your proximity to your house so it can adjust the temperature accordingly and getting it to your desired setting by the time you arrive home.

Some smart thermostats, such as the Ecobee4, use remote sensors to measure the temperature in multiple rooms, thereby saving energy costs by not heating or cooling a room that doesn’t need it. The Ecobee4 also uses occupancy detectors to determine if a room is occupied resulting in extra energy savings from not needlessly heating or cooling a room that’s empty. With a built-in Alexa voice command system, the Ecobee4 can also give you the latest headlines, play music, and perform all the same functions as the Amazon Echo, without needing to buy one.

With costs ranging from $200 to $300, smart thermostats are definitely costlier than basic and programmable thermostats, but the energy savings, convenience, and numerous features they offer make them a very appealing choice. Plus, an upside is that based on multiple studies, people liked the ability to change the temperature of their home remotely so much that they did it a great deal more than if they had to adjust their thermostat manually, resulting in more than half the participants in the study using less energy. Another study reported that smart thermostat users saved on average 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling costs, which equaled nearly $130 in annual savings.

Basic thermostats and programmable thermostats can also provide energy savings, if they are programmed properly and you are diligent about keeping to a set schedule and you remember to adjust it every time you leave the house or go to bed. It’s hard to maintain but is doable. Smart thermostats, however, make is so easy to change the temperature for energy efficient savings, that you hardly even have to think about it.


What should I set my thermostat to?

After reading about how setting your thermostat to lower or higher temperatures can save you a lot of money each year, you may be wondering, “Well, what temperature should I set my thermostat to?” A lot of professional HVAC contractors will recommend a default setting of 78 degrees Fahrenheit for the air conditioner during the summer months. This may be a little warm for some people as the ideal daytime temperature for most Americans is between 70 and 75 degrees. Setting your thermostat as close to 75 degrees as possible, or even higher, is key to cutting energy costs and saving money. At night, the recommended temperature range for ideal sleep is 60 – 67 degrees. If you can still get a good night’s sleep with the temperature set closer to 72, then you’ll save even more money. During the cooler months, a setting of 60 – 68 degrees is recommended. If you can set it as low as possible and just throw on a sweater, or two, then you’ll really be saving on energy costs. In fact, if you can set your thermostat to as low as 50-55 degrees while you’re sleeping, you can save as much as 15% on your energy consumption!

Regardless of your temperature preferences, it’s important to be aware of how much energy your HVAC system is consuming. Taking up as much as 40% of your entire home’s energy consumption, consciously regulating the temperature of your home’s heating and cooling is not only good for the environment, but also good for your wallet.  The Department of Energy also has recommendations for your thermostat settings which you can view here.

When you’re ready to shop for your new thermostat, can help! When you get a new system quote using our free quote tool, we also include all of the thermostat options!

What is a Ductless System- Heating and Cooling Systems Explained

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 systems are very energy efficient due to the fact that they’re smaller so they use less energy to operate and because there are no ducts. An average home with a central air conditioning system can have an energy loss of 25% to 30% just from their ductwork. Ductless systems also have technologically advanced components such as an inverter-driven compressor, which allows the system to speed up and slow down as needed instead of shutting down completely. Other types of systems consume a lot of energy just on start-up alone.
  • Installation of ductless systems is easier and less complicated than ducted systems. The factory puts together most of the components of a ductless and not having to deal with ducts makes the installation process one where there are fewer chances for mistakes to occur.
  • Faster cooling – since there are no ducts for the air to travel through to reach its destination, ductless systems can cool a room much quicker since the air handler unit is already in the room.
  • Zoned cooling -each indoor unit of a ductless system has its own thermostat allowing that room’s temperature to be individually controlled. No need to cool a room that’s empty – just turn the unit in that room off. Plus, family members get to choose the temperature that is most comfortable to them.
  • Reliability – ductless systems have gained a reputation for being reliable and maintenance friendly. Also, without ducts, potential problems such as leaks, debris, or build-up which can clog air flow and reduce efficiency are not a concern.


  • Ductless systems are expensive. For a single-room installation, a ductless air conditioner will cost you several times more than a standard, comparable window unit. Compared to an air conditioning system for an entire home, such as a ducted central air conditioner, a ductless system will typically be more expensive than a similar capacity unit. And, if you are replacing your ducted central air system with a ductless system, the cost could be two to three times more expensive than replacing it with another ducted system.
  • Maintaining a ductless system can be cumbersome as each unit’s filter will need to be washed monthly, or more frequently if there are pets or a smoker in the house. Skipping this important step could shorten the life of your system.
  • Ductless systems are primarily used for spot-cooling rooms in an average-sized house and are not really ideal or cost-effective for cooling an entire building.
  • The indoor component of a ductless system may not be aesthetically pleasing to some, and they typically come in only standard white or beige colors, jut out from the wall, and cannot be covered.

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 – Heating and Cooling Systems Explained

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.


Attic Installation

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.


Garage Installation

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.


Basement Installation

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


  • Split systems are large and bulky with a unit located not only outdoors, but indoors as well. A significant amount of space is needed to house the large, unattractive metal cabinet of the indoor air handling unit and some smaller houses don’t have a lot of space to give up to begin with.
  • Ductwork needs to be installed if not already present and this can be costly. Also, if ductwork is present and was installed years ago, it will likely need to be cleaned, repaired, or even replaced if it is not a good fit for the new air conditioner.
  • Installation is more complicated and tricky with an indoor component, outdoor component, and lengthy network of ducts. There’s more opportunity for something to go wrong or mistakes to occur.
  • The indoor air handling unit may be housed in an area that is difficult to get to and repair.
  • Higher repair costs – with more parts, there’s more that can go wrong.



  • A consistent temperature is easily maintained and distributed throughout the home with central air conditioning.
  • The AC components are hidden away behind walls, in out-of-the-way-places, or outside.
  • Split systems have more availability of higher SEER rated options for saving even more money and energy than standard models. The U.S. Department of Energy has mandated that a minimum SEER rating of 15 will go into effect for southern states in 2023 (SEER 14 for northern states), but many manufacturers are already producing split system units with SEER ratings as high as 28.
  • Split air conditioning systems are better at removing humidity and cooling larger spaces.



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.



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