HVAC: Knowledge Is Power
As with any major purchase, when it's time to replace your heating and air conditioning system, we encourage you to take a little time to educate yourself. This knowledge will give you the power to choose the best option for your home's HVAC system while staying within your budget.
When I first started my career in this industry, I had never heard any of the jargon. SEER? AFUE? HSPF? They might as well have been speaking Japanese.... After understanding the impact these words have on our customers' overall comfort and satisfaction - I do my best to keep customers informed so they can make confident decisions without hesitation.
There are different applications for heating and air conditioning systems. The following are the most common components and applications.
Air Conditioner - designed to humidify and extract heat from your home. It's major component, the compressor, compresses, circulates, and pumps refrigerant to cool the air.
Air Handler (Fan Coil) - unit consisting of a blower/fan to circulate air throughout the home
Evaporator Coil - located at the furnace or inside the air handler and uses refrigerant to provide heat transfer
Furnace - adds heat to air by burning fuel (natural gas, oil, or propane) in a heat exchanger
Heat Pump - looks like an air conditioner, but it heats and cools. It removes heat from the indoors in the summer and reverses to bring heat inside from the outdoors in the winter.
Heat Strips - secondary or auxiliary heat consisting of wire elements located in your air handler that heats the air that flows over them
Zoning - a system of sectioning your home into "zones" which are controlled independently of each other with separate thermostats
SPLIT SYSTEMS: The most typical and traditional heating and cooling systems are split systems. They include products inside (attic, crawl, basement, or closet) and outside of the home.
Gas Split System - This electric/gas application includes a gas furnace and evaporator coil inside and the air conditioner outside.
Heat Pump Split System - This all electric split system application includes an air handler (fan coil) and strip heat inside and the heat pump outside.
Hybrid Split System - Hybrid heat, or dual-fuel systems, are a smarter, more energy-efficient variation of a split system. It combines a gas furnace with an outdoor heat pump, rather than an air conditioner. The heat pump is the primary source of heating the home. As the temperature drops outside, the system automatically switches to you secondary heating source (gas) when it becomes the most economical way to heat the home.
PACKAGED SYSTEMS: In a packaged system, all components of the HVAC equipment are built into a large piece of equipment that is placed outdoors. The primary advantage of a packaged system is that they are ideal for homes with space constraints that do not allow for a traditional split system. Packaged systems can also be Gas, Heat Pump, or Hybrid.
While shopping around, you don't always want to go with the best price. Understanding terms that describe HVAC efficiency ratings is essential in knowing you are comparing apples to apples.
HVAC - an acronym for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
BTU - British Thermal Units. This is a standard unit of measure for heat. 1 BTU is the energy needed to heat 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. The larger your home, the more BTU's you will need.
AFUE - Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. The AFUE of a furnace is indicated as a percentage and measures how much energy (gas) is being converted to heat. A 95% furnace will use 95% of the gas/propane you're paying for to heat your home while the other 5% is wasted as it escapes as exhaust through the flue pipe. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace.
SEER - Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER rating of an air conditioner is the measurement of cooling efficiency. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the system is at converting electricity into cooling power. Effective January 1, 2015, the US Department of Energy requires air conditioners installed in our region to have a minimum efficiency rating of 14 SEER.
HSPF - Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. HSPF measures the efficiency of a heat pump in terms of electricity used. The higher the HSPF, the more efficiently the heat pump heats your home.
There are optional upgrades to your heating and air conditioning equipment that can have an unexpected impact on your comfort and utility bills.
SINGLE STAGE GAS VALVE VS TWO STAGE GAS VALVE (furnace)
A single stage gas valve operates on a basic off/on principle. Each time the thermostat calls for heat, your heating system comes on at 100% capacity.
A two stage gas valve is capable of two levels of operation - low stage and high stage. Properly sized equipment would operate more than half of the time in low stage, enhancing energy efficiency, comfort, and quieter operation.
STANDARD BLOWER VS VARIABLE SPEED BLOWER (furnace or air handler)
With a standard blower motor, the motor is either running or it's off. When it turns on, it works at its full speed and consumes maximum energy to operate.
A variable speed blower motor adjusts automatically to different speeds based on your heating and cooling needs. This results in - reduction in electricity consumption, increased comfort, quieter operation, better air quality, and improved humidity control.
SINGLE STAGE COMPRESSOR VS TWO STAGE COMPRESSOR (a/c or heat pump)
Single stage compressors run at only one speed - high. When the thermostat calls for cooling, the air conditioner cycles on at full blase, whether you need that much or not. Often this equates to a significant amount of wasted energy.
Two stage compressors run on two speeds - low (for mild days) and high (for hot days). Longer cooling cycles produce more even temperatures, quieter operation, more efficient operation, and enhanced humidity control. This also means the air conditioner will not cycle on and off as often, extending the overall lifespan of the equipment.
When you're making an investment with new heating and air conditioning equipment, you want it to last as long as possible with minimal out-of-pocket repair expenses. That's where a good warranty can help. You have options for parts and labor. Knowing a little about each one can help you determine what is best for you.
PARTS - A limited parts warranty is provided by the manufacturer of the equipment installed against failure due to defect in materials or workmanship under normal use. This covers the cost of replacement parts should your equipment malfunction.
Standard Parts Warranty - Most manufacturers cover replacement parts for their equipment for five years.
Optional Extended Parts Warranty - Some manufacturers give you the option to extend your parts warranty to ten or more years - for FREE - by registering your new equipment online. When you purchase a new replacement system from Helms Heating & Air Conditioning, we streamline the process by doing this on your behalf.
LABOR - A labor warranty would cover the diagnostic fee and labor costs for any repairs. Without a labor warranty in place, you would have to pay for the diagnostic and labor fees for any repairs, even for warranty parts.
Standard Labor Warranty - This is standard coverage offered by the contractor that would cover the labor costs associated with a system failure. The length of this coverage will vary by contractor, but the most common warranty period is 12 months, as required by the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinker Contractors. Helms Heating & Air Conditioning provides two years of worry-free labor coverage.
Optional Extended Labor Warranty - An extended service agreement provides customers with complete 5-year or 10-year coverage on their new HVAC equipment. This agreement protects you from unexpected and untimely repair costs. The cost of an extended warranty when compared to the cost of one major service repair provides unparalleled value.
Explore the websites of the heating and air conditioning equipment manufacturers for specific information regarding their products, warranty, and incentives. We can install any brand, but our most common brands are: Carrier, Goodman, and Lennox.
Is it time to replace your heating and air conditioning system? Do you have questions about your options? Give us a call or schedule a free in-home estimate. We want you to make the right choices for your home comfort needs even if you don't choose us.