A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing an HVAC System for the Home

Posted on: December 21, 2015 by in Buying HVAC Equipment
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buying an hvac unit

You have a lot to choose from

We all take our HVAC systems for granted because they tend to already be up and running in the homes and apartments we move to throughout our lives. This leaves us very unfamiliar with the details important to how HVAC systems work, how efficient they can be, and how effective they can be at regulating the temperature in a particular environment.

Then comes the day you actually do need to know a thing or two about them. How can you be sure you are getting a system that will save you money and be ecologically responsible? Well, don’t let the time you start learning about what makes an HVAC system the best fit for your needs be when you are sweltering in your home with all the sun-facing windows. Brush up on the relevant info right now so choosing your next HVAC system will be no sweat.

How HVAC Systems are Rated

It’s possible you may have heard or seen a few of the HVAC rating systems that are used to help informed consumers know what they are getting. Even if you do not know what each means right now, first know that they are effectiveness values similar to the miles per gallon rating of a vehicle. The higher the number, the better! If your new car gets more miles per gallon of gas consumed than your previous car, you made a good purchase. This applies to HVAC. Buying an HVAC system that gets the job done with minimal usage of utilities is great for the environment and great for your wallet. So here the HVAC ratings you should be aware of:

AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency)

This measures the efficiency of oil and gas burning furnaces. It will be listed as a percentage and the higher that percentage, the more the fuel used will actually generate heat for your home. Look for a furnace with an AFUE of over 90%.

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor)

This measures the efficiency of heat pumps. As with other ratings, the higher the HSPF number, the less energy you will need to consume to operate the unit.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)

This measures the efficiency of air conditioners and heat pump units with a compressor. The United States requires new AC systems to have SEERs of at least 13 and it is possible to find units more efficient than that.

Other Things to Consider when Choosing an HVAC Unit

So you are armed with the industry-specific knowledge to talk to any seller of HVAC units. What else will you need to consider before buying your new HVAC unit? Of course, the amount of money you will be spending is very important, but in order to know the true financial impact of this HVAC unit purchase, you will need to think in terms of both the retail price and the operational costs. Highly efficient HVAC units tend to cost more upfrontĀ but have lower operational costs during the life of the unit due to lower energy consumption. Furthermore, many HVAC units that cost more at retail are better and more reliably built so maintenance costs may be lower. They may even come with better warranties.

You also need to consider the most important climate concerns of the region you are living in. For instance, residents in the southwest will need to pay special attention to cooling since the average temperatures in the summer stay around 100 degrees for more days than other parts of the country. Likewise, those living in the northeast need to pay more attention to their heating systems since winters there are much harsher. The performance and operational costs of the HVAC unit you choose will all be affected by the operating conditions, so the unit designed to operate with great efficiency when cooling in a hot environment will be a better choice for someone living in Phoenix. And of course, you will want a more heating centric HVAC unit if you live in Philadelphia.

You can of course, make this even easier on yourself if you pick a good contractor to consult with. A professional cooling heating contractor should be able to tell you the right size of the equipment you will need for your residence, the best way to install the HVAC unit, and they should alert you to anything that will undermine the unit, such as some kind of structural flaw in duct work, wiring, insulation, etc. Unfortunately, many systems are not running at their true energy efficiency potential due to improper installation, but now that you are learning ahead of time, you are going to be able to get the most out of your new HVAC system!

installing a new hvac unit

Your HVAC contractor is crucial

HVAC Questions to Ask Yourself before Buying

What is more important; saving money now on the price of the unit, or saving money on monthly bills and repairs down the line?

Have I found a good contractor to advise me on my needs and perform the installation?

What are the rating numbers I want or need to get with my new unit?

Will I need to replace all HVAC equipment now, or can I go piece by piece?

And thanks to HVAC.com for this helpful infographic on choosing an HVAC unit.