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HVAC systems burn a lot of energy, in fact, close to half of all the energy used in a home. Any plan to create more energy efficiency in the home has to include a dedicated look at heating and cooling options. We have a while to go before completely green alternatives become available large-scale, but in the meantime, there are some significant ways you can demand better performance from your HVAC system.
Energy Star Ratings
The Environmental Protection Agency created the Energy Star program to lower greenhouse gases and pollution while helping consumers buy products with significant energy savings. Products, like HVAC appliances, that have earned Energy Star ratings have gone through rigorous testing and have high standards in energy use, fuel efficiency, and product performance. Look for Energy Star ratings when you go shopping.
Good Home Insulation
Heating or cooling a home with air leaks is like trying to pump a bicycle tire with holes — it’s impractical. The HVAC unit will work harder to reach or maintain desired temperature levels, meanwhile the air escapes outdoors. This scenario hikes up the bill, wastes energy, and makes it harder to get the desired comfort in your home. Properly sealed ducts, tightly closed windows and doors, and an insulated attic will help the HVAC system work more efficiently.
Manufacturers have come a long way with HVAC technologies. Systems that were built more than 10 years ago do not reach the level of efficiency of today’s models. Although the field is still evolving, if you have a heating or cooling unit over 10 years old, you should start making plans to replace it. According to the EPA, replacing old models with new ones can slash energy costs by 20%.
Along with better technology comes more specialized options. An energy-efficient heat pump, for example, does not use fuel. Instead it runs on electricity. Furthermore, it moves heat in and out of the home, instead of generating it. Additionally, some HVAC units work with air purifiers and humidity controls that help reduce mold and air pollution. Remote or programmable thermostats are other add-on features that can help you micromanage when and how your unit turns on.
This may seem simple, but how well a system can conserve energy is dependent on how well it works. HVAC systems have electronic and mechanical parts, and are connected to ducts that run through the house. These parts and components are subject to the ordinary wear and tear of most machines. Maintenance helps keep them in good condition and includes tasks like changing air filters, annual or pre-seasonal tune-ups, checking electrical and gas connections, cleaning condenser coils, and maintaining duct seals.
Understanding some of these factors will help you make informed HVAC buying choices. It’s important to consider a big picture in any approach to greening a home. Looking at all the elements that contribute to the energy-efficiency of a system will help you to get the most out of it.