There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce energy consumption in your Baltimore home. However, during heating and cooling seasons, energy bills can still go through the roof. All the duct sealing, weatherstripping and other energy-saving measures you take won’t solve the problem if your air conditioner or furnace doesn’t operate efficiently. Fortunately, choosing Energy Star equipment is a simple and effective solution to this issue that can help you keep your home comfortable while saving you money and energy.
Choosing Energy Star Equipment
The federal Energy Star program identifies appliances of various types, including HVAC equipment, that are proven to save both energy and money without sacrificing performance or features. They can be identified by the blue Energy Star logo, indicating that they’ve received Energy Star’s seal of approval.
Here are some of the ways that choosing Energy Star equipment of various types can help you save energy:
- Furnaces – Furnace efficiency is reflected in the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. It measures what percentage of fuel is utilized as heat versus how much is given off as exhaust in a given year. The minimum AFUE rating for a furnace is 78 percent. Most Energy Star furnaces are condensing furnaces, which have an AFUE rating of 90 percent or more.
- Boilers – Boiler efficiency is also measured by the AFUE rating. Not only do Energy Star boilers have a higher AFUE rating than average, but they also often include other energy saving technologies, such as an electronic ignition, which can start or stop the furnace at will without the need for a constantly-burning pilot light.
- Central air conditioners – Air conditioner efficiency is measured by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). This shows the amount of cooling the system provides for the amount of energy it uses in a given cooling season. Energy Star A/Cs have the highest available SEER ratings. Air is distributed to your home via the blower motor, which is often part of your furnace, rather than your A/C. Therefore, in order to ensure maximum efficiency, it’s often a good idea to replace both your A/C and furnace at the same time, particularly if your furnace is 15 years old or more.
- Heat pumps – Heat pumps combine both heating and cooling into a single system, providing more energy-efficient heating than a standard furnace while taking on the qualities of an air conditioner in summer.
Ensuring an Energy Star Quality Installation
Choosing Energy Star equipment for your home is only half the battle, though. You can end up sacrificing up to 30 percent of your new HVAC system’s efficiency if the equipment isn’t installed properly. In order to ensure maximum efficiency, it’s essential to ask your contractor if their installation process adheres to Energy Star’s Quality Installation guidelines.
There are a few things that an Energy Star certified HVAC contractor will do to ensure efficiency. They’ll make sure your equipment is properly sized. A system that’s too small for your home will have to work overtime to heat and cool it properly, not only wasting energy, but wearing out the motor, causing frequent breakdowns and ultimately shortening its life. But if the system is too big, it can cause it to cycle on and off too frequently, which also wastes energy and shortens its life span. It also leads to disparate temperatures between rooms, which causes discomfort and even illness. An Energy Star Quality installation includes measuring your home to find the perfect size HVAC system for its size.
Here are some other steps that your HVAC contractor should take to ensure a proper installation:
- Test the system to ensure proper airflow.
- Inspect and seal ductwork to prevent energy loss.
- Make sure that the A/C has the proper refrigerant charge, according to the recommendation of the manufacturer. Over 60 percent of A/Cs are given the wrong charge upon installation, which wastes energy and damages the system.
- Install a programmable thermostat and demonstrate how to use it.
- Demonstrate how to change the air filter and advise you on the best kind to use and how often it should be done.
- Make sure the furnace or boiler can vent flue gases safely and inspect vent piping for leaks or damage. Fix or replace as necessary.
For more help choosing Energy Star equipment or finding Energy Star certified HVAC contractors, contact us at Griffith Energy Services, Inc.
Written by Kevin Spain.
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