Many homeowners heavily rely on their HVAC systems to regulate the temperatures of their properties for maximum comfort throughout all four seasons of the year. A good quality HVAC system can last anywhere from ten to twenty years, but like everything else, the time comes around when they become aged, worn and start to fail. At this point, naturally many people start the hunt for a new HVAC system, but the reality is that this isn’t always a straight forward process, especially not for the layman. With this in mind, here are some of the most important questions to answer before you choose a new system for your property.
What is an HVAC System?
First things first, it’s important to be aware of what is meant by the term HVAC and from there you can understand what might be involved for your particular scenario. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning and as a multi-component system it aims to control and regulate the temperature, humidity and air quality of your property to make it a more comfortable environment to live in.
The different components of the system are designed to work in relation to one another in order to respond to the fluctuations of temperature and humidity in a room, keeping it stable and controlling the airflow. The exact configuration of your HVAC system will depend on a variety of different factors including property size, local climate, seasonal fluctuations and budget. Typically, a complete system includes a heating component such as a furnace, an air conditioning system, a programmable thermostat and ductwork.
With that said, here are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing the components for your HVAC system:
The first thing you need to consider when hunting for a new HVAC system is the size you’ll require to meet the demands of your property.
The main thing that will dictate this is the dimensions of your home and the frequency of the systems use.
- If you select a system that is too big for your property you will end up having to frequently turn it on and off, resulting in you wasting more energy and exhausting the system before it’s time.
- On the other hand, if you choose a HVAC system that is not large enough to meet your demands, it will result in the system being overused, resulting in increased energy costs and a system that requires maintenance and repairs much sooner than intended.
When determining which heating system is right for your property, two key measurements are used. The first is referred to as the heating capacity and it is measured in BTU (British Thermal Units), which in simple terms is defined as the heat required in order to increase the temperature of a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. The second metric is called cubic feet per minute (CFM) and is a measurement of the how much air (in feet) can pass a certain point per minute. In combination, these two factors are used to determine the correct sized heating appliance for your particular property.
The cooling capacity of air conditioning units are typically measured in tons and not BTU’s, with each ton being equivalent to 12,000 British Thermal Unit Per Hour (BTUh). The reason for this is an entire subject its own right and if you are interested you can read more about it here.
Just like the heating appliance you choose for your property, it’s important to choose a cooling appliance that will be the right size to meet your needs. A HVAC technician will be able to advise you on the types of appliances to best meet the demands of your property.
Although in recent years many new systems have been released that are much quieter than those from yesteryear, it’s important you check the noise levels before you make a purchase. There’s probably nothing worse than installing your new system only to discover it’s creating a considerable disturbance to your sleep, study or ambience.
To ensure you secure a HVAC system that doesn’t create a disturbance make sure to ask a HVAC technician all of the necessary questions and ideally opt for a system with noise levels below 60 decibels (db).
Check the Ratings
If you are not familiar with the HVAC industry and haven’t had your system replaced in years, it’s likely that you haven’t kept yourself up to date with the latest innovations and industry ratings.
The thing to remember is that things move fast in the HVAC industry and to ensure you secure a system that is most efficient and therefore offers the best performance and energy savings, it’s a wise idea to opt for a system boasting the latest technology.
By checking the ratings you can be sure what the performance of the system is going to be like and how efficient it will be. The most common rating systems used include SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) for air conditioners; HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) for Heat Pumps and AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency), for Furnaces and typically the higher the rating the better.
For instance, in 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) increased their minimum SEER requirement from 13 to 14. However, a rating from 14 o 22 is considered a system within the energy-efficient window, so try to at least acquire a system with a SEER rating above 14.
Consider Pairing a New HVAC System with a Thermostat
A programmable thermostat can really help you create a comfortable environment without having to lift a finger. All you have to do is set your HVAC system to start operating at a certain temperature and you’re done, you can also set it to only operate when you’re actually at home too. This means you will only be using energy when you actually need it, helping you to save money on your energy bills and live a greener lifestyle.
Even better is that there are smart thermostats available that allow you to make modifications from the comfort of your smart phone or other device. Although not essential, thermostats can help you run your home more efficiently, helping to save energy and money and lead a more convenient life.
With so many new brands releasing cheaper HVAC systems, it can be tempting to opt for these instead of those offered by more reputable brands that have been around for much longer. The major issue with this however, is that often new brands don’t stick around and in the event that your system faces issues or needs parts replacing, there is the potential for a lack of assistance and a real struggle to source replacement parts. This can mean having to replace the complete system, obviously not a great investment in the long term.
In terms of performance, trusted brands are often much better as they have something to prove to their customers and want their brand to be trusted well into the future. Its well worth checking the user reviews and ratings of the most popular systems and you will soon discover the contrast between them.
If you are replacing an old system or you live in an old style home it’s likely that your ductwork will also need replacing, or at least checking over by a HVAC technician. This is because over the years, ductwork can experience serious wear and tear as a result of heat exposure and humidity.
Not many people realise this, but the condition and type of ductwork is actually responsible for much of the efficiency of the system overall. Poorly insulated ductwork and those with gaps and holes can result in a considerable amount of heat loss. Therefore, by ensuring your ductwork is in good health you will be ensuring your system is operating at maximum efficiency.
Selecting a new HVAC system doesn’t have to be a difficult process, you simply need to ask the right questions. A HVAC technician will gladly advise you to the best solution to meet your specific requirements and be happy to answer any questions you may have. A good technician will also help carry out necessary checks to ascertain the energy requirements of your property and make recommendations based on these findings. The bottom line is that there are numerous factors involved, so it’s essential to consider all of them before drawing a conclusion and making a purchase.
This is a guest post by Dave Miller, a HVAC tech who now dedicates himself to sharing knowledge on his website HeatTalk.com. Dave has worked for over twenty years in the industry and for the last five has run his own contracting business. Dave can be found on Twitter with the handle @heattalkcom and you can also find him on Facebook.
Thanks for reading folks,