A healthy heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system should be a priority for every homeowner. An HVAC system not only cools a home during the warmer months and heats it during winter, but it also helps increase air quality inside the home, which impacts your family’s health. When you need a new HVAC system, several factors influence the right choice for your home.
The right HVAC system can improve air quality, save money on energy costs, and keep your home comfortable. HVAC installation, however, is crucial for optimal home comfort and energy efficiency. Use this comprehensive guide to learn what you need to know before partnering with a HVAC professional to install a new system.
Understanding HVAC Systems
When choosing a new HVAC system, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how it functions. Several components work together to create a comfortable home environment. Key components include the following:
- The air conditioner cools your home by removing heat and humidity from the indoors and transferring it outside.
- A heat pump is an electrically powered unit that can both heat and cool your home. Like an air conditioner, it uses refrigerant to absorb, transfer, and release heat; that flow can be reversed for heating.
- A furnace creates heat either using electricity or by burning a fuel source (typically propane or natural gas).
- An air handler circulates warmed or cooled air throughout the home.
- Ductwork carries and distributes the circulated air.
- A thermostat is connected to the HVAC system and allows you to set the temperature inside your home.
An HVAC system needs to be both well designed and properly installed to operate as efficiently as possible. If your system isn’t installed the right way, it could result in higher energy bills, and you could find yourself purchasing parts—or even a whole new system—much sooner than expected.
Choosing the Right Air Conditioning System
There are several types of air conditioning systems, but the most common are split, package, and ductless.
Ducted Air Conditioning
Split systems are probably the most popular throughout the nation. The system is split into two main parts, one inside the home and one outside. The indoor unit is connected to the ducts and uses a blower to circulate air, and the outdoor unit contains the condenser coil and compressor to pump refrigerant into the system. A packaged system works just like a split system, but instead of one unit inside and one outside, everything is housed together in one “package” unit that is usually installed outside the home.
Ductless Air Conditioning
A ductless system is exactly what the name implies: a split HVAC system that does not use ducts to distribute air. Instead, it has an outside component housing the condenser that distributes refrigerant via tubing to indoor handlers installed in separate rooms. This is a great choice for homes without ductwork.
Which system is best for you depends on multiple factors, including your home’s layout, your budget, and more. Consulting a professional to assess your home’s specific needs is the most important thing you can do as a homeowner when replacing an HVAC system.
Sizing Your HVAC System
In addition to deciding what type of system to purchase, you need to figure out what size is most efficient for your home. The correct system size is crucial for optimal performance, as oversized units make it very difficult to maintain consistent indoor temperatures. This can lead to a shorter system lifespan and substantially higher energy costs.
Several factors influence the size of an appropriate HVAC system. To determine what size system your home needs, it’s important to consider
- The precise measurements of the house
- The home’s layout and orientation
- The number and size of windows
- The R-value of the home’s insulation (a measure of its effectiveness)
Heating and cooling loads are measurements of the energy a home needs to maintain a comfortable temperature range, based on the factors like those listed above; a system’s capacity is the amount of heating or cooling the HVAC system can deliver. Your system’s capacity should match your home’s heating and cooling load as closely as possible. Consult with a professional before purchasing your new HVAC system to ensure you get the correct size.
Energy Efficiency and Environmental Considerations
An HVAC system’s environmental impact is another important consideration when making a purchase decision. While some energy-efficient HVAC systems may have larger purchase prices, these can be offset by lower energy costs, longer lifespans, improved air quality, and increased home value.
When shopping for an energy-efficient HVAC system, look for the ENERGY STAR certification logo. ENERGY STAR is a government program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Products that meet the EPA’s energy efficiency standards can display the logo. You can also check the system’s efficiency ratings, such as the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating for air conditioners, heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) for heat pumps, and annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) for furnaces.
Once your new HVAC system is installed, it needs regular maintenance and TLC to keep it running in tip-top shape for years to come. Follow these tips to prolong the life of your system and keep your energy bills low:
- Change the system’s air filters as indicated. A clean filter helps the system operate at maximum efficiency and keeps the air clean.
- A programmable thermostat can help minimize a system’s overall workload, extending its life and reducing energy bills.
- Regularly clean vents and registers to facilitate the free flow of air and reduce the strain on the system. Keep furniture away from these openings.
- Locate the A/C drainage pipe and ensure it isn’t damaged or clogged. Drainage problems can quickly create additional issues.
- Ensure your home’s insulation is sufficient to prevent your HVAC system from working harder than necessary. If your home is drafty, try adding insulation to your basement or the outer walls.
- If you have an outdoor unit, keep it clear of debris, and check it for damage after severe storms. If you notice any damage, large or small, contact a professional right away.
HVAC systems typically last 15 to 20 years. If your HVAC system seems to be breaking down a lot or just isn’t running as efficiently as usual, it may be time for a system replacement. Even if the system seems to be working fine, it can become less efficient as it ages. A newer model will not only operate at the peak of its efficiency but also give you the benefit of the latest technological advancements.
Benefits of Professional HVAC Installation
Even if you consider yourself an expert DIY-er, it is never a good idea to install a new HVAC system by yourself. If something goes wrong, you could end up damaging the system or injuring yourself or others. Always contact a professional HVAC company with expertise and experience in quality installations.
A professional installation helps ensure the system will work as efficiently as possible and reduce the risk of problems related to incorrect installation. Professional HVAC technicians have the training and experience to get the job done quickly and safely. They also can help troubleshoot any issues that may arise during installation, such as electrical connection malfunction or broken parts.
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