Guide: should you upgrade your comfort system?
It’s easy to take home comfort systems for granted when they work well. When you are comfortable they are easy to forget. But in the middle of the summer or winter they become extremely important. And when they stop working or need a repair suddenly we realize just how valuable those little machines really are.
That being said, with the prevailing emphasis on lowering energy consumption and being environmentally friendly the technology of heating and cooling systems has changed dramatically over the last decade.
New methods for getting the most out of as little energy as possible are being developed all the time. Systems can now do a lot more with a lot less all the while making less noise in the process.
So, if you find yourself looking at your old air conditioner or furnace and asking yourself, “should I upgrade?” We’ve put together a small guide to cover some points to consider. If your system is newer you may already have many of these features. If you are heating or cooling a very large home or business and enduring huge monthly energy bills, upgrading a system early may actually save you a lot of money.
Regardless of your situation it is best to know your options, learn about what is out there and have the knowledge at your disposal to help you decide when the time is right for you to upgrade.
So let’s get started!
Repair vs Replace
There are a lot of factors to consider when actually deciding if you should repair or replace your hvac system. We are going to cover a few quickly below. For a more in depth look on this aspect read our article: Is it time to replace that old air conditioner?
Does it use R22?
First off, if you’ve been keeping up with our blog on here then you’ve likely heard us mention this one a time or two before by now. Just in case you aren’t familiar, the EPA is phasing out R22 (commonly known as Freon) . The price on R22 is expected to continue to rise sharply as the available supply dwindles down until it is no longer available.
If your air conditioner is older there is a good chance it may still rely on this refrigerant for cooling, in which case it’s probably best to start planning on a retrofit or replacing your air conditioner with a new installation.
Learn more about the R22 phase out here.
Replacement of parts is a tricky thing. It will usually work just fine but the older the system is the greater a chance the old and new parts may have issues of their own either causing new problems down the road or simple using more energy as they weren’t designed exactly for the old system.
In some cases if many new components are needed it may be more cost effective to just fully replace the unit with a new installation.
Okay, so this one probably seems obvious. Sure, it’s new -it shouldn’t need repairs! Of course! Although, like most any equipment years of wear and tear will eventually take it’s toll until repairs are needed.
Many newer systems are now built to reduce the number of on and off cycles which is a big cause for wear and tear on machines. Especially big repairs!
Energy Star Models
Energy star models are usually quite a bit more efficient than standard models. Often times as much as 15% more efficient. If you are considering a new installation you of course want it to be as efficient as your budget allows.
What is variable speed technology?
This is yet another way newer systems can reduce their own energy usage while maintaining comfort levels. By keeping the airflow necessary for maintaining temperatures this allows rather than an all or nothing approach from older systems.
Have you considered renewable energy options?
Geothermal systems are an interesting approach to lowering energy consumption and utility bills. The initial investment is often much higher than a standard heating or cooling system but can mean big monthly savings in the long run. For example, a geothermal system harvests heat from deep underground and then uses that energy to transfer that heat into your home or uses that energy to pull heat out of the air to cool the home.
There are other approaches to reducing energy usage in hvac such as radiant floor heating which can use your already heated water to heat the floor. Or even pairing a traditional forced air system with a home using solar energy.
Don’t be afraid to ask your hvac experts about what options are best suited for your needs -give us a call!
Tax credits and Rebates
Installing new hvac equipment (especially energy efficient systems) might help you save money via tax credits and rebates for your home or business. For example there are Federal income tax credits under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 which renewed tax credits expiring in 2016 for residential energy efficiency. You can learn more about these and others via the energystar.gov website: https://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits
Its usually best to learn the minimum requirements for a tax credit or rebate before making the purchase, in fact it may actually help you decide how to get the most for your money. You may find that buying a system with a slightly higher SEER rating may entitle you to a larger rebate that negates the cost of a better system from the one you were already considering. Smart hvac shopping can go a long way here in terms of getting the most for your money!
Early Retirement Rebates
Some rebates will actually add incentive for replacing systems and parts early that are still in working condition with a newer more energy efficient one. These can also lead to some fantastic savings both on the purchase and the long term energy usage of your heating and/or cooling system.
No rebate too big or small
Some rebates are small,for example our state of Illinois has had rebates for Smart Thermostats around $50 or Programmable thermostats for around $20 in the past. So we aren’t only talking big ticket items here. These can add up to big savings and better comfort while enjoying lower monthly utility bills! When it comes to improving your home in any way that might reduce your demand for energy you may want to check to discover what is available to you as you may be surprised by what is available to you. Learn more about HVAC Tax Credits and Rebates!
Energy Efficiency Financing Programs
There are some interesting programs in Illinois to assist with the purchase of new energy systems. These usually require borrows to have good credit and manageable overall debt. Some are designed to be affordable with low interest. These are usually designed to encourage homeowners to upgrade to more energy efficient systems or even utilize renewable energy.
Saving energy with a new Air conditioner can be very… ‘Cool’
Illinois summers can get pretty hot. A new air conditioner can reduce how much energy your cooling system is using by approximately 30% depending on how out dated it is. It’s also not terribly uncommon for an older air conditioner to not be the right size for a house due to an improper installation or a renovation or expansion on the house.
For example, in situations where a new room has been added to a house, but the air conditioner wasn’t designed to accommodate for that extra square footage. The air conditioner in that scenario would have to work harder than it was designed to, using more energy and cycling on and off more frequently leading to more wear and tear on the unit.
It’s best to have an experienced HVAC technician help you determine which air conditioner is best for cooling your space.
Have a Plan!
Having an upgrade plan ahead of time is very important and can help you prepare for when your hvac system eventually needs repair or replaced. Doing so early will save you from having to have emergency repairs. There are a number of things to consider when upgrading so it’s best if you can be ready. Let’s look at some things you should know:
- Is your ductwork designed for proper air flow?
- Is your ductwork sealed and free from holes and damage?
- Do you have adequate insulation?
- A properly working thermostat?
- Has the square footage of your home changed?
- Is your air conditioner or furnace in the best location for efficiency?
- Do you have issues with humidity or air that is too dry?
HVAC systems should be appropriately sized for the size of the home or business they are being installed in.
It’s usually best, more time efficient, and less costly to have these issues handles at the same time along with an installation. Rather than rushing into an installation and ironing out the details later.
Always get a professional HVAC expert to help you determine what is best for your home’s comfort systems! An improperly sized system that is over sized can actually cool too quickly which doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it can be as the air that is coming in may not be completely dehumidified leading to moisture issues. Many people don’t realize how important proper HVAC design truly is! We actually covered the topic of good HVAC design recently: Read: The lesser known importance of HVAC design
Is it really worth upgrading?
Maybe or maybe not.
If your system isn’t doing it’s job well or is older then probably. If it isn’t that old, works well and you find that you are only looking at small improvements in efficiency then it’s probably better to put some more miles on your existing system and have a plan ready for your next one when it is time to replace it.
Then again, you may find the predicted monthly savings on energy are small, but there is a rebate or two that you qualify for that could lower the cost significantly -in which case upgrading may be affordable enough that you are just saving yourself repair bills and lower energy consumption is just icing on the cake! Consider the points above and don’t hesitate to ask us for advice!