Now that you’ve got a fancy new central HVAC system humming away in your home, don’t make the mistake of assuming that’s all you need for optimum performance, energy efficiency and indoor air quality. In order to accomplish those laudable goals for your home, you’ll need to take a whole-house approach. This means your energy-efficient, well-maintained HVAC system must work hand-in-hand with complementary conditions – effective air sealing, insulation and ventilation wedded to responsible and knowledgeable energy use and maintenance by home occupants.
Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these factors:
Energy-efficient HVAC equipment, both for heating and cooling. Modern furnaces, ACs and heat pumps are much more efficient than their predecessors, even as recently as 10 years ago. Technology has kept pace, and in some ways surpassed, minimum energy-efficiency standards set and enforced by the federal government. When shopping for a new cooling or heating system, discuss with your trusted HVAC contractor what energy-efficiency level makes the most sense for home and budget, as well as the climate you live in. Depending on where you live and how extreme the summer and winter temperatures, you may not need to invest in the highest-efficiency HVAC equipment. For example, someone who lives in Florida probably can get by with a medium-efficiency furnace. In Ohio, though, with temperature extremes occurring in both the cooling and heating seasons, high-efficiency equipment for both processes does make sense when it comes to long-term energy savings.
Regular maintenance, both professional an do-it-yourself. Any sort of HVAC system will perform more efficiently and effectively if it receives regular maintenance. This means frequent air-filter replacement and care in avoiding blocked vents and registers (both of which the homeowner can handle) and professional maintenance. Ideally, each part of the system (cooling and heating) should have professional maintenance performed annually. Typically, a homeowner will schedule maintenance on the heating system in the fall before temperatures begin plummeting, and on the cooling system, springtime before it starts getting hot.
Air sealing and insulation. Even the most modern, quality HVAC system won’t deliver optimum results if your home isn’t properly weatherized. Conditioned air that escapes into unconditioned areas or outside the house isn’t doing you any good, and that problem will be reflected in higher energy bills and unbalanced heating and/or cooling. It’s important to find where air is leaking from your home, especially on its outer perimeter and between the living spaces and the attic. Depending on the location and size of the leak, you can use weatherstripping, caulk or spray foam to seal it. Insulation also plays a vital role in whole-house energy efficiency. A house with inadequate or missing insulation in its walls, attic, ducts and other areas will be more difficult to heat and cool. The equipment will have to work harder to accomplish the same desired temperature as it would if your home were properly insulated. An energy audit conducted by a trusted Cincinnati HVAC contractor will determine where and how air or heat energy is escaping or entering your home (each of which is a problem).
And Last But Not Least…
Smart energy habits. This is up to you. The final ingredient to whole-house energy saving and comfort is your own wise management of the system. This includes responsible temperature control (don’t try to cool your home to 68 degrees F on a day when it’s 100 degrees outside); taking advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures (and giving the equipment a break) by opening windows; closing curtains or drapes to the sun on hot days; installing and using a programmable thermostat; and employing ceiling fans to make the home feel cooler rather than lowering the thermostat setting, among many other steps you can take.