Optimal efficiency in your HVAC system involves many factors. For those who invest some time and thought into optimizing their system, it can produce big savings in your cooling and heating needs.
One of the first steps to optimizing your system’s efficiency is understanding SEER ratings. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.
SEER is the ratio of the cooling output of an air conditioner over a typical cooling season, divided by the energy it uses in watt-hours. The SEER number is calculated over an entire cooling season, measuring the ratio between a consistent indoor temperature and a variety of outdoor temperatures ranging from 60 degrees to 100 or more. This calculation produces a ratio that applies to a typical season.
It’s good to keep a SEER rating in perspective, because it represents a maximum efficiency rating, like miles per gallon for a vehicle. For instance, a car may get 30 miles per gallon on an open highway, but much less while stuck in traffic. Same with your air conditioner. Even a unit with a high SEER rating can be less efficient depending on various conditions.
What is the difference between a heat pump and air conditioning?
Another consideration in exploring efficiency in your cooling and heating system involves the type of HVAC unit you choose – straight cool or heat pump.
Straight cool systems operate by cooling the air using an air handler and a condensing unit. The condenser removes moisture from the air, lowering the temperature, and the air handler distributes that cooler air throughout the home. Electric heat strips are used within this type of system to warm the home in winter.
A heat pump – despite the name – is used both to heat and to cool. When the weather’s hot, a heat pump removes heat from inside your home and disperses it outdoors, using a reversing valve. When the weather’s cool, it does the opposite, transferring heat inside from the outside to warm the home. (Even on a cold day, there is heat that can be captured out of cold air.)
The reason using a heat pump is more efficient than a straight cool process is that heat pumps move air (be it hot or cold) rather than generate hot or cold air as a straight cool unit does.
Are Heat Pumps a Good Choice in Warm States Like Florida?
Heat pumps are most efficient in areas of the country where the average temperature is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, including Florida. Even in Florida, depending on your location, temperatures can dip below that. To ensure you’re never chilly, most heat pumps have a second source of heat. Electric resistance coils are good choices for homes that run on electricity. Gas furnaces work well for homes with natural gas hookups.
If you haven’t replaced your HVAC system recently, you will be pleasantly surprised at the current heat pump options. The newest heat pumps are more efficient than ever, which can save you money on your utility bill. However, they may be more expensive to purchase than straight cool units. So, your choice may involve how long you expect to live in your home.
Other Ways to Optimize Heating and Cooling Efficiency
Along with understanding SEER ratings and choosing the right system for you, there are many ways to make your HVAC system more efficient, which saves you money and makes the system better for the environment by wasting less energy.
Here are some favorite efficiency tools and ideas from Alan Wilson, Millian Aire’s Vice President of Technology and Training:
- Smart thermostat
Also known as a connected or communicating thermostat, it allows you to create automatic and programmable temperature settings based on a variety of factors, including the daily schedule of those in the home, weather conditions, and temperature preferences
A cost-efficient way to reduce the loss of hot or cold air in your home long-term
- Duct sealant
Ducts can be major sources of energy loss and inefficient air flow if cracks or gaps are not patched
- Filter replacements
Set a reminder to replace filters every three months, or more often if you run your unit six months a year to year-round, or have pets
Periodic maintenance of your HVAC unit can increase efficiency
- Double-paned windows
The upfront cost can be offset by less energy loss for years, if you plan to stay in your home for a long period of time