5 Steps to Take for a More Sustainable HVAC System (That Are Also Good For Your Wallet)
The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in our homes and businesses play a vital role in providing comfortable environments all year round. However, they also account for a large portion of energy consumption in buildings. With electricity costs on the rise and an increasing focus on eco-friendly living, it’s crucial to invest in a sustainable HVAC system that is both energy-efficient and cost-effective.
1. Replace your current unit with a more sustainable HVAC system
If your current HVAC system is over 8 years old, replacing it is the simplest path to more sustainable heating and cooling. For systems in need of repair, be sure to weigh the age of the system along with the cost of repairs. Generally, this is calculated by HVAC industry experts using what is known as the $5000 rule. To apply this rule, multiply the age of your HVAC system by the repair cost.
Example: 7 years old x $800 repair cost = $5,600.
In this instance, the number is $5,600. This number is over $5,000, so it's best to replace this system, while a number under $5,000 indicates that one should repair it instead.
Remember that this is a general guideline and does not account for energy savings associated with newer, more sustainable HVAC systems. Because older HVAC systems tend to be less energy-efficient, they often cost more to operate and result in more greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, consider the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER2) ratings and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF2) when upgrading. By law, newer models must have higher ratings, and many are ENERGY STAR-certified, indicating both environmental and financial benefits for owners.
Size matters: Choose the right system for your home
In addition to SEER2, HSPF2 ratings, and ENERGY STAR certifications, choosing the right size HVAC system for your home is crucial.
Each system is designed with a specific home size in mind. An HVAC system designed for a 3000 sq ft home will struggle exponentially to maintain comfortable temperatures in a 6000 sq ft home. This will quickly wear down the system as it runs constantly without making strides. The same is true of a system designed for a much larger space. This is a common mistake as people believe it will lead to better cooling, but in reality, it leads to frequent cycling and bigger temperature swings. Likewise, it offers inefficient humidity control due to frequent on-and-off cycling. Your best bet for avoiding this problem is to consult a local professional HVAC technician. They have the proper knowledge and tools to determine which system best suits your home based on the square footage, insulation levels, and overall climate.
2. Invest in programmable thermostats
Traditional HVAC systems are often equipped with non-programmable thermostats. This is the most basic form, allowing users to turn the system on/off and adjust the temperature manually. Homeowners can drastically reduce their carbon footprint and utility bills by upgrading to a programmable (or smart) thermostat. These devices allow you to set temperature schedules based on daily routines, ensuring that the HVAC system runs only when needed.
For instance, you can set the thermostat to warmer in the summer when you are sleeping or away from home. In the winter, you can lower the temperature during these periods. In addition to this capability, smart thermostats take energy efficiency and home comfort a step further. They offer remote access, machine learning abilities, and smart home systems or device integration. This means that you can control the temperature inside your home from anywhere in the world from the convenience of your smartphone.
The Trane Home App, for instance, can be added to your phone and paired with your smart thermostat in a matter of minutes. With this convenient feature, you can turn your more sustainable HVAC system on hours before you arrive home from a lengthy vacation to ensure total comfort upon arrival. It is also helpful when you rush out the door and fail to adjust your indoor temperature manually.
3. Use natural lighting for more sustainable HVAC systems
The natural lighting in your home can be used to your advantage to pave the way for a more sustainable home heating and cooling (and lower utility bills). During the coldest months of the year, opening your curtains and blinds allows the sunlight to warm these spaces naturally. This can reduce the demand on your system, while also lowering your energy costs. Conversely, during the summer months, closing the curtains and blinds can block heat generated by the sun from entering your home. Blocking this excess heat means your system requires less energy to keep your home cool and comfortable.
4. Ensure proper installation and maintenance
A more sustainable HVAC system is only as good as its installation. While you might take on many D.I.Y. projects around the house, HVAC installation should never be one of them. This requires a licensed HVAC technician with the proper tools and knowledge to ensure their safety and the safety of the equipment after installation. Additionally, poorly installed systems can create inefficiencies, excessive energy use, and a shorter lifespan for the HVAC system. Working with a qualified HVAC technician ensures that your greener HVAC unit is the correct size for your home and has been properly installed and tested before use.
Maintaining a more sustainable HVAC system requires regular check-ups and tune-ups to identify issues and correct them before they lead to inefficiencies or significant damage to your HVAC unit. It is best to schedule these routine maintenance checks before each heating or cooling season starts. You may even be eligible for discounted parts or services in the event of a problem by signing up for a regular, annual maintenance program. In between these check-ups, be sure to take note of any strange noises, sudden spikes in utility bills, odd smells, or changes in your HVAC’s performance. All of these could indicate problems that warrant speedy repairs.
Likewise, remember to change the air filters in your HVAC unit regularly. This should be done every 30 to 90 days, depending on the number of pets in the home, occupants with asthma or allergies, and the level of use. Staying on top of this will enable your HVAC to run at its maximum efficiency, creating a more sustainable HVAC system.
5. Seal ducts and insulate your home
According to ENERGY STAR, approximately 20 to 30 percent of all air that enters the ductwork is lost due to holes, rust, or poor connections. With this much air escaping, it is impossible to have a more sustainable HVAC system. To solve this problem, those with ductwork should have it thoroughly inspected by a technician and sealed to prevent further energy loss. Consult an HVAC expert to discuss the best eco-friendly heating and cooling options for your home’s unique layout.
Ensure sufficient insulation throughout your home once the ductwork has been examined, sealed, or eliminated. Insulation plays a crucial role in enabling your home to retain hot air in the winter and cool air in the summer. The amount of insulation needed varies based on your location and home layout, so turning to a local professional is ideal. Their recommendations include adding insulation to walls, ceilings, garage doors, and floors; sealing gaps and cracks; and installing weatherstripping around doors and windows. While this requires an initial investment, the work will pay for itself through utility savings as you operate a more sustainable HVAC system from season to season.
Learn More About Sustainable HVAC Systems
In addition to these 5 steps, it is important to consider the unit itself. Some models are naturally more energy efficient than others, and discussing your interest in a greener HVAC system with your local HVAC installation technician is important. By working together toward this goal, carbon footprints can be drastically reduced while taking advantage of lower utility bills—without sacrificing home comfort. Find a local Trane dealer today to kickstart the journey to a more sustainable HVAC system.