How Technology Impacts HVAC Energy Efficiency

Are your heating and cooling bills steadily increasing? Learn how higher efficiency technology can help.

According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling account for about half of the average home’s energy usage. One way to cut down on these costs is by having a high-performance heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

The DOE found that higher-efficiency technology can reduce energy usage by 50% for electric heating units and 10% for a gas furnace heating system. With proper installation, you can save between 10% and 30% on your energy bill each year. And by choosing an ENERGY STAR-qualified system, you can cut your bill by more than $115 annually. Over time, this price cut makes a difference, providing you with an efficient heating and cooling system while also saving money.

What Is an HVAC System?

HVAC systems include the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in your home. These systems include air conditioners, boilers, water heaters, heat pumps, furnaces and humidifiers.

These systems must meet specific energy codes, including fan energy limits, controls to save energy and outside air economizers, which flush out any heat in the building with cool air from the outside. In short, an HVAC system controls heating and air conditioning, ventilation and air quality.

  • Heating and air conditioning: An HVAC system provides air conditioning for thermal and humidity comfort, meaning that it should handle cooling, heating, humidification and dehumidification.
  • Ventilation: The HVAC system introduces outside air and filters it. The system can remove any undesirable air.
  • Air quality: The system controls infiltration and the makeup of exhausted air.

How HVAC Technology Is Energy Efficient

Emerging technologies continue to improve HVAC systems throughout the world. In fact, a U.S. study found that commercial building owners can save an average of 38% on heating and cooling bills by adding a few new controls. This study found that four main control methods can cut back on energy costs, including:

  • Air-side economizers: This technology brings outside air inside to cool a building but doesn’t create cold air with the HVAC compressor.

  • Cooling capacity controls: With this technology, the HVAC compressor runs at different speeds, depending on its needs at that time.

  • Demand-controlled ventilation: This method slows or speeds up fans and air intake. It does so based on carbon dioxide levels within the building instead of ventilation fans running constantly.

  • Supply fan speed controls: This method speeds up or slows down the ventilation fan. The fan circulates the building’s air to reach the desired temperature. This method saves energy by not continually running the fan at full speed and only running it when necessary.

Technology to Improve HVAC Energy Efficiency

You can add several accessories to your HVAC system to improve your home’s energy efficiency and your level of comfort. Although these accessories aren’t always necessary, they can help reduce your energy bills. You might also find that these accessories benefit your overall health by removing allergens from your home.

Some of the HVAC accessory options available to improve your comfort include the following:

  • Air filtration system
  • Furnace humidifier
  • Programmable thermostat

Air Filtration System

Over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, which are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. By adding an air filtration system to your HVAC system, you can reduce pollutants in your home. Removing pollen, dander, dust, bacteria and more can benefit your overall health. By adding an air filtration system, you can reduce up to 95% of the particles that pass through your HVAC.

Furnace Humidifier

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a humidity level between 30% and 50% for most homes. Keeping your home at the recommended humidity prevents your skin from cracking and possibly becoming infected. Too much humidity increases the risk of illness.

Adding a furnace humidifier can help your skin and respiratory system during the winter. With humidified air, your house will maintain a comfortable temperature, even if it’s cold outside. These dryer periods can also shrink wood in your home, which is why a furnace humidifier is a great option.

Programmable Thermostat

Regardless of the time of year, a programmable thermostat is a helpful tool. It allows you to set different temperatures for different times of the day or days of the week, which is particularly advantageous for those with strong afternoon sun shining in their windows.

During the hours that the sun is most intense, you can set a lower temperature to keep the home cool, keeping your house at a comfortable temperature at any time of the day. A programmable thermostat — paired with an energy-efficient HVAC system — can help optimize your energy usage.

Maintaining an HVAC System

Running routine tests to ensure that your system works correctly is a great way to identify inefficiencies in your current system. HVAC maintenance can prevent costly repairs and help your system run its best. It can also help you plan for upgrades, so you aren’t surprised with a hefty bill out of the blue.

HVAC maintenance is important to ensure that your system works efficiently and you don’t face costly repairs. Technicians maintain furnaces, mini-split systems, evaporative coolers, boilers, heat pumps and boilers. During these services, experienced professionals identify, diagnose and repair inefficiencies.

During an HVAC maintenance check, the experts should:

  • Check thermostat settings and review them with you.
  • Make sure that all system controls and safety circuits work.
  • Check the air filter.
  • Make sure that electrical controls function correctly.
  • Ensure that the condensate pump operates correctly.
  • Monitor and clean the condensate drain line.
  • Inspect the evaporator to ensure adequate airflow.
  • Lubricate the motor if needed.

Additionally, during the heating months, the person doing the maintenance should ensure that the flue piping works as it should. During this season, they should also check the gas valve operation, gas pressure, pilot burner, gas/oil connections, heat extractor and burner.

When to Upgrade an HVAC System

With older systems, you might miss out on savings and let the energy go to waste. Looking at the efficiency rating of your unit can help you understand if you should replace it. You might start to notice that your space is too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. If so, that’s an indication that you should update your HVAC system.

According to Energystar.gov, several instances indicate when to replace your HVAC system. Replacing an inefficient system will improve your system’s overall performance, reducing your home’s impact on the environment and your wallet. Below are instances when you should replace your HVAC system:

  • If your furnace is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing it. Replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-qualified furnace is 15% more efficient than a conventional furnace.
  • Alternatively, if you have a boiler more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing it with a standard model, which is 5% more efficient.
  • If you have a heat pump or air conditioner more than 10 years old, you should upgrade it. By replacing your air conditioner and heat pump with high-efficiency models, you can save 20% on heating and cooling costs.
  • If you find that the equipment needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are on the rise, it’s a good idea to consider replacing your HVAC, even if your system isn’t old. Over time, heating or cooling equipment can degrade, becoming less efficient.
  • Even if one room is the perfect temperature most times, but a few rooms are too hot or cold, you may decide to look into the issue, possibly caused by inefficient operation or duct and insulation problems. Having an expert inspect your HVAC system is a great way to identify the cause and address any issues.

Individually, these changes may seem insignificant. However, these changes together can reduce your energy spending and save you money in the long run. If you notice any of these changes in your home’s efficiency, it’s important to find the right professionals to fix them. In this section, we’ll go over the ratings for furnaces and air conditioners and how they can impact your energy bill.

Furnaces

The annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating measures how efficiently the furnace system converts energy to heat throughout a year. Higher AFUE ratings indicate a more efficient furnace, while a low rating indicates room for improvement.

Below is a breakdown of AFUE ratings, the costs associated with those ratings and potential savings.

How Technology Impacts HVAC Energy Efficiency

Upgrading your furnace or boiler might save you money. By improving your system’s efficiency, you can expect to see a change in your monthly utility costs.

Air Conditioners

The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating measures the energy needed to meet a specific cooling output. Like the AFUE rating, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit.

How Technology Impacts HVAC Energy Efficiency

It’s important to note that the minimum SEER rating for new equipment is 13, which complies with 2015 regulations.

HVAC Regulations

With over 17% of the world’s electricity used for cooling systems, you probably spend a significant amount of money on your air conditioner. Cooling systems today account for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, the energy use for cooling will grow sixfold, which means more greenhouse gas emissions. ENERGY STAR-labeled technology seeks to save you money and improve energy efficiency without sacrificing performance.

HVAC regulations changed in 2015. With these updated regulations, you can prevent 1,500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions when you replace your central air conditioning unit. Additionally, certified HVAC-efficient technology can cut your cooling costs by 30%. In the North, homeowners buying new systems will need split-air central air conditioners to have a 13-SEER rating, while Southerners will need to meet the 14-SEER minimum.

On Jan. 1, 2020, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation stopped the importing of HCFC-22 to the U.S. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are often referred to as “R-22” and are used for refrigerants. Studies show that these chemicals can reach the stratosphere, depleting the ozone layer, which protects us from radiation. Current HVAC systems made with R-22 aren’t affected. However, going into the future, companies can’t manufacture or import them to the U.S. Even though you’ll be unable to purchase a new system using R-22, you can continue to service your existing system.

In 2023, all new residential central air conditioning and air-source heat systems in the U.S. must meet new energy efficiency standards. Although the current SEER rating is 13, in 2023, that number will move to a minimum SEER rating of 14 for residential systems in the northern U.S. and 15 for the southern U.S. These new standards will require an increase of efficiency for air-source heating pumps. The DOE expects households to collectively save $2.5 billion to $12.2 billion on energy bills for the 30 years after implementation.

Installation for HVAC Energy-Efficient Technology

Correctly installing an HVAC system ensures that your system does its best job, saving you money in the long run. It’s important to look at the condition of your ductwork and your home’s insulation and to improve your home’s energy efficiency. With Sears Home Services’ electronic load calculation estimate, we can determine the type of HVAC system that works for your home.

It’s important to ensure that you get the right system for your space. Otherwise, you could waste money by paying too much for a small space or spend too much to upkeep a larger space. Our calculations consider the sun and wind exposure, the number and size of windows, insulation and the size of your home.

Improve Energy Efficiency With HVAC Technology

Whether you need help with maintenance, repairs or installing a new HVAC system, Sears Home Services experts can help. You should feel comfortable in your home without having a huge energy bill. Sears Home Services can provide the best service and is one of the best in the industry for quick installation and repairs. We have well-trained, local technicians throughout the U.S. who can help you, no matter your appliance emergency.

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