Choosing the Right HVAC System

Nancy B. Alston

A home’s heating ventilation and air conditioning system can be extremely costly both for the system itself and in terms of the energy it uses. A quality HVAC system should be able to keep a home at a comfortable temperature without being extremely expensive to operate. Choosing the right HVAC system is therefore one of the most important financial decisions a homeowner has to make. Keep in mind that price is not the only factor as an HVAC system is what keeps the temperature within the home stable and comfortable. The ability to enjoy the comforts of home to a large extent rests on the quality of the indoor air and the effectiveness of the HVAC system.

What to Look For in a New HVAC System

Factors that should be taken into account when deciding on a new HVAC system include:

• The power requirements of the system. This will depend on the size of the space that must be conditioned. An undersized air conditioner will struggle to maintain a comfortable temperature; if it is too large it will cycle on and off too quickly without properly dehumidifying the air. The homeowner gets either a home that is too hot, or one that is cold and damp. In both situations, the units will undergo additional wear and tear; this may make them fail sooner than if they were the right size for the home.

• The warranties and services contracts that go with the HVAC system. The homeowner will naturally want to choose the option that will save them the most money over the system’s lifespan. Choosing a recognized brand-name manufacturer can sometimes ensure that they get the best value for their money.

• User-friendliness. The instructions for maintaining the system and for programming the thermostat should both be clear and easy to follow.

• The noise factor. An HVAC system should run quietly.

• Features. These include humidifiers and dehumidifiers as well as HEPA filters to ensure good air quality indoors.

• The condition of the home’s existing ductwork. Prior to installation it will be important to inspect the ductwork for cracks and holes. Ducts with cracks or holes allow air to escape and may reduce the system’s efficiency by as much as 20 percent.

Benefits of Zoning

A zoned HVAC system can provide warm or cool air to particular rooms in a home by controlling airflow. This means that the homeowner can cool some of the rooms in their home without cooling all of them. Zoning makes an HVAC system much more efficient, thus saving the homeowner money.

Furnace Efficiency

The main option for a furnace are single-stage and two-stage. With a single-stage furnace, there is only one option as far as temperature so that the unit is either on or off; the user has no option to change to a lower setting. With a two-stage furnace, they have a low setting and a high setting. The fact that it has two stages allows the furnace to use less energy since the high setting is reserved for very cold weather.

SEER Rating

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is a method of determining the efficiency of an air conditioning system. A higher SEER rating indicates greater efficiency and thus a lower cost to cool a home. In most cases, older air conditioners will have a lower SEER rating than newer models. A number of other elements also affect SEER rating, including the home’s insulation and the whether or not the ductwork is properly sealed. New air conditioners are required to have a SEER rating of at least 13.

Once an appropriately sized and rated HVAC system has been chosen, the next consideration is installation. The homeowner will need to find a skilled and reputable HVAC contractor. A large part of how well a new HVAC system will work has to do with how well it is installed. An HVAC contractor should be able to provide clear answers to all of their customers’ questions. If they are not able to do so, the homeowner should seek another contractor.

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