If you need to replace your home’s heating or cooling system, energy efficiency should always be one of the main factors to focus on. The energy efficiency of HVAC systems can vary dramatically, and you always want to choose the most efficient system you can afford. While you will have to pay more upfront for a higher-efficiency system, it will save you money over the long term.

In many situations, higher-efficiency systems may pay for themselves in reduced energy costs over their lifetime. In addition, higher-end air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces do a better job of precisely controlling the temperature in your home. This precision can make your home more comfortable for you and your family. Choosing the best, most efficient system for your budget can be challenging, but these tips should help to simplify the process.

Understand What Different Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

All HVAC systems are rated for energy efficiency. The problem is that each type of HVAC system uses a different rating method or scale. For instance, the energy efficiency of standard ACs and heat pumps is measured in SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). Heat pumps also have an HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) rating that measures heating efficiency. This rating is different from the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating used to measure the efficiency of furnaces.

AFUE Ratings

AFUE ratings are the easiest to understand and simply express what percentage of the fuel a furnace consumes is used to heat a home. Conventional furnaces range between 80% and 89% AFUE. If a furnace has an 80% AFUE rating, it means that it wastes 20% of the fuel it consumes to heat a residence. Condensing furnaces are more efficient and can be anywhere from 90% to 98% AFUE. They have a second heat exchanger that extracts heat from exhaust gases before they are vented outside. This process allows the system to reclaim heat energy that would have been wasted with a traditional furnace.

SEER and SEER2 Ratings

At the start of 2023, the US switched from the old SEER rating system to the new SEER2 system. SEER and SEER2 ratings are a ratio of the amount of energy a system uses to the amount of cooling it produces. The higher this ratio or SEER value is, the more efficient the system is. In New York, the minimum for all new air conditioners and heat pumps is SEER 14 or 13.4 SEER2, but there are also more efficient options that are over 20 SEER. For each additional value above SEER 14, the energy efficiency increases by just over 7%. This means that a 20 SEER unit would be more than 42% more efficient than a SEER 14 unit.

HSPF and HSPF2 Ratings

HSPF and HSPF2 ratings are mostly the same as SEER ratings, except that they express how efficiently a heat pump heats. These ratings are a ratio of the electricity used to the BTUs of heat produced. The minimum for any new heat pump throughout the US is now 8.8 HSPF or 7.6 HSPF2. Compared to an 8.8 HSPF heat pump, an 11 HSPF (9.4 HSPF2) unit will be around 18% more efficient.

Make Sure the System Is the Proper Size for Your Home

One essential factor in ensuring that your HVAC system is as efficient as possible is choosing a system that is the correct size for your home. This is something that needs to be done by a certified technician since it involves some fairly complex calculations and requires assessing various factors in the home. The space that needs to be heated or cooled, along with other variables like the number of people living in the house, the quality of the home’s insulation, and how much sun the residence receives, are all parts of the calculation. Oversized and undersized systems will always be far less efficient and will not work nearly as effectively as an appropriately sized system. The complexity of sizing a heating or cooling system makes it essential to hire a knowledgeable, experienced HVAC company to ensure that your new system is the correct size.

Learn Which Types of HVAC Units and Systems Are Most Efficient

A heat pump is almost always going to be the most efficient option. However, saying that is slightly misleading, as it depends on what type of system you’re comparing it to. The efficiency of a heat pump and a central AC unit is the same since they both cool the same way. The only time there would be a difference is if you were comparing two systems and one had a higher SEER rating than the other. If both systems have identical SEER ratings and are the same size, they will use roughly the same amount of energy and work equally efficiently.

The reason that we say heat pumps are the most efficient type of system is that they heat more efficiently than furnaces or other heaters. Even the least efficient heat pump system will typically use 50% less energy than the most efficient condensing furnace.

In addition to the type of system you choose, the type of heating or cooling unit also makes a significant difference in efficiency. Furnaces, standard air conditioners, and heat pumps all come in single-stage, two-stage, or variable-speed configurations.

Single-stage units are the least efficient, and this is because they can only ever run at 100% power. Two-stage units obviously have two power settings that they can switch between as needed. The high setting is still 100% power, but the lower setting is usually around 60%-65% of its total capacity. On average, a two-stage unit will operate on this lower setting approximately 80% of the time and use 35%-40% less energy than it does when operating at its full capacity.

When a two-stage system turns on, it always starts off running on the lower setting. The thermostat then continually monitors the temperature increase or decrease. If the system doesn’t start heating or cooling the building to near the desired temperature within approximately 10 minutes, it will then temporarily switch to full power. It will then switch back to the lower setting once the thermostat registers that the building is within a degree or two of the desired temperature. With a two-stage system, each heating or cooling cycle will usually last longer than a single-stage system. Nonetheless, two-stage systems are much more efficient since they mostly run on the lower setting, which uses much less energy.

Variable-speed systems are at least equally as efficient as two-stage systems and can be even more efficient depending on the outdoor temperature and how well-insulated the building is. Instead of having just one or two settings, variable-speed systems can have dozens or even more settings that they automatically switch between. Most of these systems can operate anywhere from 25% to 100% capacity.

Cool Power LLC is the company to trust for HVAC installation in Ronkonkoma and throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. We carry an extensive selection of furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps for residential and commercial HVAC systems. Our highly knowledgeable technicians will ensure you understand your options and help you choose the best, most efficient system for your home or business. We also provide indoor air quality solutions. Contact our team today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your options for a new furnace system or cooling system.

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