It is easy to ignore your HVAC system when it is working. It is simply there, doing its job, keeping your home comfortable. However, as soon as something breaks, its importance in effectively cooling and heating is visible, especially when approaching extreme temperatures, such as the summer months. When you oversee HVAC repairs, probably your most pressing questions are whether to repair wearing parts as needed or to invest in an entirely new air conditioning system. Let’s analyze some essentials every homeowner should understand about his or her HVAC system. This information empowers you to ask the critical questions of your HVAC serviceman.
5 Things To Know Before Servicing Your HVAC System
1. Major Components
HVAC components last on average from 10 to 15 years. Heat pumps arrive at 16 years. AC units, 10 to 15 years. Furnaces can work for 20 years, but often replacement is necessary after 15 years. Before total system replacement, various HVAC components fail. Let’s understand the essential components within the HVAC system:
Furnace. This large piece is often located in a basement, attic, or closet. It pushes the cold or hot air into the ducts, which deliver this air throughout your home.
Heat Exchanger. Inside the furnace, the heat exchanger heats the air and blows it through the ducts. The heat exchanger is powered by electric coils or gas burners.
Evaporator Coils. Located on the side or on top of the furnace, they are responsible for cooling the air, which is blown by the furnace throughout the ducts.
Condensing Unit. This component is located on the outside of the home, away from the furnace. The refrigerant gas inside the condensing unit is cooled through the heat exchange from the outdoors air. That condenses gas into a liquid. The refrigerant liquid gets piped to the evaporator coil. There, small nozzles release pressure which turns the liquid refrigerant again into a gas. Then, the heat gets absorbed when the refrigerant changes from liquid to gas. This suddenly drops the surrounding temperature and supplies the furnace with cold air. Finally, the refrigerant gets sent back to the condensing unit again, and the process starts over.
What you have to know about an HVAC system
Other important parts of an HVAC system are the ducts that carry heated or cooled air throughout your home, the thermostat that sets and controls temperatures, the vents through which air is pushed into the different rooms, and also the refrigerant lines which carry the refrigerant between the condensing unit and the evaporator coils.
It can be a lot to think about every different part that might require replacement. Homeowners can be protected against unexpected replacement or repair expenses by buying extended service warranties. They can choose just one system and appliance warranty to cover all potential repairs for every appliance in their homes, which includes the furnace. Homeowners enjoy the simplicity of having just one contact for all repair calls, plus the improved cost-efficiency of a home warranty covering systems and appliance.
These were the basic parts of an HVAC system. Now it is time to understand how the HVAC energy-efficiency standards have changed over the recent years.
2. Recent Changes In Efficiency Standards
When comparing HVAC appliances, some important numbers define efficiency:
The SEER number informs you of the efficiency of a cooling unit. SEER means Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. According to the EPA’s Energy Star program, you should prefer a SEER of 14.5 or higher.
The HSPF means Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. It defines the heat pump efficiency. To earn the Energy Star rating, a heat pump’s HSPF must be of 8.2 or more.
Keep these definitions in mind because now we will review the recent changes to eco-friendliness and HVAC efficiency.
First, refrigerant 22 became illegal. You are forbidden to refill any appliances with R-22 since 2010. If your AC unit uses R22, you are bound to face high replacement costs. Manufacturers chose to switch to R410, a refrigerant that needs 150% higher pressure than R-22. So, some R-22 components, such as compressors and coils, must also be replaced. Another refrigerant, R404a, was also phased out on January 1st earlier this year.
The updated SEER standards apply to all heat pumps and ACs installed after January 1st, 2015. In most areas, the HVAC requirements were elevated from 13 to 14 SEER. The components inside a new HVAC system also must meet the requirements.
Also, all split-system heat pumps must meet the new 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF standards.
3. The Impact of New Efficiency Standards On Repairs
This new reality makes it nearly impossible to replace or repair just one section of an HVAC system. It also often causes a significant investment replacing the entire unit. In northern states, AC units require 13 SEER, while southeastern and southern states must achieve 14 SEER for both air conditioners and heat pumps. When repairing the indoor segment, your handyman will probably have to replace outdoor components also, in order to obey to the new energy efficiency standards.
4. Most New HVAC Units Are Very Energy-Efficient
Replacing the HVAC system can also deliver significant savings on your utility bills and for example, considering an older furnace that is only 75% efficient. The AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings for new furnaces in the 80s and even 90s are common. Some HVAC systems achieve 97% AFUE. Upgrade to a new furnace, and you instantly minimize your wasted energy and slash your energy bills. You will need more detailed calculations to know how long it takes to offset the cost of the furnace from energy savings.
5. Your Family’s Health Is Influenced By The HVAC
We breathe 11,000 liters of air per day. Much of it is in our homes. How clean is your indoor air? It depends on the state of your HVAC system. In other words, maintaining your HVAC system means taking care of your family’s health.
Healthy Family Home
We spend the vast majority of our lives indoors. Indoor air quality directly impacts our overall health. Poor air quality causes multiple health problems, including dizziness, respiratory congestion, headaches, fatigue, and multiple irritations for the skin, eyes, throat, and nose. Asthma and allergies are also worsened by indoor air of lower quality. Forced air cooling and heating systems are the main entry point for allergens in the home. Changing the filter in your system every other month greatly reduces indoor air allergens such as pet dander, dust, and dust mites. Also, a secondary UV purifier and/or HEPA can reduce allergens further for those with extreme asthma and allergy symptoms.