Choosing Energy Star Equipment Makes the Most of Your Investment
When you’re faced with a complete HVAC system replacement, you’ll get the best performance and savings when choosing Energy Star equipment. These systems have to demonstrate that they save measurable amounts of energy and pay for themselves in reduced energy consumption within a reasonable period of time.
The Energy Star program has two designations, each of which has distinctive labeling. The first is the familiar blue Energy Star label, and the most recent is the Most Efficient label that’s identical to the former, but it states that the product is Most Efficient.
Choosing the System
Central air conditioners and heat pumps carry ratings called seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and energy efficiency ratio (EER). Each of these indicates how well the system removes heat from your home. The minimum SEER currently stands at 13 and, depending on the type of system you choose, must meet higher SEER ratings to qualify for the Energy Star designation.
That rating stands at 14 for package systems and 14.5 for split systems—the most commonly installed. A package system has all its components in one outdoor unit, while a split system has a separate indoor air handler and an outdoor condenser. In addition, a heat pump must have a heating system performance factor (HSPF) of 8.0 for package systems and 8.2 for split systems.
If you’re also replacing a gas furnace, its annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE, must be 85 percent or higher, which means that the system was only 15 percent of the fuel it uses as water vapor or other combustion losses.
Another aspect of choosing Energy Star equipment is its installation. Even the highest-rated system won’t live up to its promise if the crucial aspects of sizing, installing and charging it aren’t properly followed. The Energy Star program also lays out guidelines that assure homeowners get the most from the systems they choose.
Beware of the contractor who uses rule of thumb measurements to size your system or simply bases it on the square footage of your home. When choosing Energy Star equipment, an HVAC contractor needs to conduct an analysis using Manual J software for the size of the HVAC system and Manual D to assess the capacity and compatibility of the existing ductwork.
This software takes into account many factors about your home that include its:
- Overall energy efficiency
- Floorplan layout
- Cubic footage
- Heat-producing appliances and lighting indoors
- Temperature preferences
A system that’s too large or small won’t offer the same energy savings as one that’s precisely sized for your home. When they’re too small, they won’t be able to handle the conditioning load during weather extremes.
A system that’s too large runs in short cycles that drive up energy costs, increases wear and tear, leaves summertime humidity behind, and reduces the system’s life. When air conditioners first start, they use the most energy. One that’s too big will cool your home too rapidly for the system to reach its ideal running speed and it’ll turn on and off more often daily.
Humidity removal is the secondary benefit of central air conditioners. These systems condense water as the indoor air blows over the cold evaporator coil. A system that’s too large won’t run long enough for the excessive humidity to condense on the coil and drain away.
You’ll get the best performance when choosing Energy Star equipment when the HVAC installation team tests the ductwork during the installation process. Ductwork leaks send conditioned air to places where you don’t need it, costing you more. Tightly sealed and insulated ductwork cut air and thermal losses substantially.
The outdoor condenser needs to be placed in as shady a place as possible to help it lose the heat from your home. It should also have clearance on all four sides so that fan inside the condenser pulls air through it freely.
Air Flow and Refrigerant
At the end of the installation process, make sure that installation team verifies that the system has the right amount of air flowing through the air handler and the ducts. They need to double-check the refrigerant level, as well, since too much or too little can drive up energy costs.
The experts at Wilson-Bryant have proudly served the HVAC needs of homeowners in the Macon and Greensboro area since 1960 and can help you with choosing Energy Star equipment.