Now we know that heating and air-conditioning systems can be one of the biggest energy hogs in the home, and that waste from inefficient or poorly sealed systems can be a big factor if your electric bill seems too high. But what if you need more than duct tape to repair the equipment? Well, if your system is between 15 and 20 years old and is experiencing problems or running inefficiently, it may be time to start thinking about your replacement options. Purchasing and installing a new system is a huge investment for any homeowner, and we want to help you feel confident about your ultimate choice. So, we talked to the experts at Touchstone Energy, our national brand, for more information on how to buy smart when the heat is on. Let’s go over a few important questions to ask when replacing your HVAC system.
- Should I replace all of my HVAC equipment at the same time?
Yes. You want to make sure that every part of your system works properly. Pairing your old ductwork with a new heat pump may seem to be cost effective upfront, but the two pieces could be incompatible, and impact your system’s overall performance. Be sure to ask your contractor to inspect and size your ductwork first, so you know it will work well with the new system.
- What size system do I need?
While an undersized system may not be capable of providing optimal heat during extremely cold weather, an oversized system will cost you more money. When you also consider the fact that you would also be sacrificing temperature and humidity control with an oversized system, it is clear that sizing your system correctly is crucial to its overall performance. Make sure your contractor supplies a detailed load calculation that backs up their sizing recommendation.
- What type of system should I buy?
You have many things to consider when purchasing a new HVAC system:
A). The cooling efficiency of your system is expressed as a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) number. All cooling systems sold today must have a minimum SEER rating of 13.
B). Heat pump efficiency is expressed by a Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF), and all heat pumps must have an HSPF of at least 7.7.
C). Systems with higher SEERs and HSPFs cost more upfront, but have lower operating costs.
D). You may be able to offset some of the initial costs for your system by applying for any available rebates. Surry-Yadkin EMC offers rebates for systems that have a SEER rating of at least 15, so check out www.syemc.com to see if you may be eligible.
- How do I select my contractor?
A). It’s always a good idea to ask your prospective HVAC contractor about whether they are licensed and qualified. Does the contractor also have insurance?
B). Make sure your contractor covers all your options, including warranties, guarantees, and follow-up services. Ask about whether the contractor offers any service agreements. If so, at what cost?
C). Are the technicians NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified? Will they perform detailed load calculations, and duct design/installation?
D). Get three estimates and consider the costs and benefits of each option. The best value may not necessarily be in the lower-priced option. Always consider operating costs.
- What can I do to get the most out of my system?
A). Inspect and replace your air filters at least four times per year.
B). Check the thermostat setting to ensure your system is operating at optimal temperatures. Settings of 68º F in the winter or 78º F in the summer can help you stretch your energy dollars further. A programmable thermostat may help you save money by adjusting your thermostat to an energy efficient setting when no one is home.
C). Don’t make that system work any harder than necessary. Make sure nothing is blocking your air vents, and that all air is circulating properly.
Energy hogs can be economically disastrous animals, but they may not be the only obstacle standing between you and the real energy savings you need. Next week, we’ll take a look at one of the most commonly feared animals of all: your electric bill. We’ll talk about where to find your billing rate, and how to know if you could save money by switching to a different rate. Stay tuned, and to download a printable copy of the tips we shared above, click here!