How do you keep a home HVAC system at top efficiency? The answer lies in the latest technologies for keeping the home cool in summer and warm in winter to reduce energy, lower costs, and improve comfort and air quality. According to Energy Star, nearly 50% of a home’s energy output is used for heating and cooling purposes.
Most homeowners want to limit their heating and cooling costs; so what are the must-haves for doing this? You can certainly count on high-efficiency air conditioners and good air ducts and ventilation, and make use of a good heating and air conditioning services company.
Here are 12 essential things for maximizing your air conditioning system’s efficiency.
Think of your home as a sealed envelope. If air leaks out of the walls, doors, windows, and any other openings, you’re sure to lose a great deal of cooled or heated air. This translates into wasted dollars for the energy used to treat that air (and maintain set temperatures). Air can leak out through attic hatches, recessed lighting, duct registers, and plumbing vent stacks. Even leaks into the house reduce efficiency – vent fans, outdoor faucets, crawl spaces, dryer vents, and other openings must be sealed to minimize air intrusion.
2. High R-Value Insulation
Insulating materials with a high resistance to heat flow reduce heat loss. This property is measured by a material’s R-value. Spray foam and blown cellulose forced into the wall cavity with high pressure provide a dense filling within and around the framing. Insulation can be added to outside walls with exterior rigid foam. Such insulation minimizes conduction and also condensation.
3. Advanced Framing and Wall Construction
Wood, metal, and concrete are common house frame materials, but directly transfer inside heat outside. Advanced framing increases insulation space, reduces pathways for heat escape, and affords alternative ways to arrange materials. Thermal bridging is disrupted by staggering the wall studs so inner and outer walls don’t completely connect. A double-wall configuration and 2-by-6 studs (in contrast to 2-by-4) with insulation is effective. Pre-fabricated concrete and insulated panels, as well as raised heel trusses in the roof, increase insulation and efficiency.
If you don’t have plans that make it clear what’s used in your walls, ask an installation or A/C installer.
4. Exterior Air Duct Sealing
Poor exterior sealing can cause an HVAC system to operate below 60 percent of its rated efficiency, according to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. By sealing and insulating ducts, ENERGY STAR says system efficiency can be improved by 20 percent or more. Duct sealant or Meta Descriptionl-backed foil tape seals up most seams and connections. Ducts can also be wrapped in insulation to keep things from getting too hot or cold.
5. Triple-Pane Windows
These offer a high-performance, energy-efficient window solution for a sealed home. Three panes of glass are integrated into each window. Within, there are two sealed air cavities that make heat transfer difficult. Ask a window installer if you can talk to a few of their customers who have triple-pane windows to see how much they reduce the need for continuous air conditioning.
6. Air Sealing of Windows and Doors
Gaps around windows and doors, like with framing or passageways for mechanical components, can be sealed with caulk or liquid/foam-applied air barriers. A blower door test measures air leakage and whether the house meets ENERGY STAR requirements of four full air changes per hour or less. It can gauge the success or failure of any sealing work.
7. Indoor Air Quality Systems
Heat exchangers bring in outdoor air and warm it to room temperature via conduction as inbound/outbound air run side-by-side. Air is preheated without a furnace or heat pump while also kept fresh. A Heat Recovery Ventilator exhausts stale air and pollutants and allows fresh air to enter.
8. Heat Pump Water Heaters
Since up to a quarter of energy consumed by homes is from water heating, a heat pump water heater is an advantage. It transfers heat from the air to water in a tank, with much less energy use than an electric system.
9. Energy Saving Lighting
Using the right kind of lighting output in your home can be an energy saver, too. Saving energy on lights with LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs is the right step. These bulbs produce over 100 lumens per watt, give off less heat, and last much longer than compact fluorescent or incandescent bulbs.
10. Ceiling Fans
Thermostats can be set 4°F higher when ceiling fans and air conditioners run simultaneously, according to Energy.gov. The cooling effect, however, is on people, not the actual room. The additional air movement has an evaporative effect on our skin and makes the room feel cooler than it really is.
11. Thermostat Settings
Cooling bills stay lower by setting the temperature as high as possible without being uncomfortable. Lower the temperature when at home, but feel free to keep the thermostat higher when no one’s home. Keeping the house cooled at all times of the day is just wasting money. If you have to cool the home at various times during the day when no one is home, consider investing in a programmable thermostat to help you set the appropriate temperature at the right times.
12. Regular Maintenance
Changing the air filter regularly, checking that HVAC components and ducts are sized and working properly, and replacing them with more modern parts helps increase efficiency.
There’s a lot that goes into keeping a house cool – or warm. But your indoor climate impacts every moment when you’re at home, so it’s as important as your physical health or car maintenance. Do it right and your pocketbook and family will thank you.