Choosing A New Cooling System

There are many features to choose from, and you want to be sure it's going to deliver the comfort you need since you will have it for the next 16 years. Here are some tips to get you started:

Consider comfort. Many air conditioning systems include extra features that will dramatically improve your home's comfort. Two-stage systems can run at a high and low stage, so they are quieter and provide a better mix of air throughout the home (no hot and cold spots). Also look for compressor sound blankets and swept-wing fan blades to reduce noise. Imagine not having to raise your voice when the air conditioner kicks on.

Buy the highest SEER. Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio - or SEER - is a measurement of the efficiency of your cooling system over the course of a cooling season. The higher the SEER rating, the higher the efficiency - and the more dollars you save on utility bills. Systems purchased to prior to 2006 were mostly in the 8 to 10 SEER range. In 2006, the minimum efficiency became 13 SEER. Today, air conditioners can be as high as 24.5 SEER.

A 13-SEER system is 30 percent more efficient than a 10-SEER system, and a 24.5 SEER system is 45 percent more efficient than a 10-SEER system.

Know the type of system you have. If you have an outdoor section and an indoor section, you have a "split system." This is the most common type of system. The indoor section is the coil box that sits on top of your gas or oil furnace. (Many homeowners think this is part of the furnace when it is actually the indoor section to the air conditioner.) The furnace blower is used to distribute cool air throughout the home. In very hot southern regions, the indoor section is typically an electric furnace or Airhandler. This product has the blower and coil inside a single cabinet.

If you do not have an indoor section, you may have a "packaged' air conditioner. Packaged units are found in select regions and can sit next to the house or on the roof. The packaged air conditioner contains the blower and coil components all within the outdoor section and may even provide gas heat or electric strip heat.

Choose non-ozone-depleting R-410A refrigerant. Most air conditioners ready for replacement use a refrigerant called R-22. In 2010, the new refrigerant standard became R-410A. R-410A is more environmentally friendly than older refrigerants because it does not deplete the ozone. If you currently have an R-22 system, choosing an R-410A replacement means you may also have to replace your line set and indoor coil, but you will be getting the maximum efficiency out of your new system.

Replace more than just the air conditioner. An air conditioner typically has two components - the outdoor section and the indoor section as described above. It may be tempting to replace only the outdoor section in order to save money. But for your system to achieve the efficiency level you're paying for, you need to have a matched system that includes a new indoor coil. Otherwise, your new system is only as efficient as your old coil. Also, old indoor components can negatively impact the performance of your air conditioner, and your new system warranty could be canceled if it was not installed with the proper indoor coil or air handler.


 Choosing A Furnace or Boiler

A gas furnace will heat your home for around 20 years, so it's important to choose one that provides the home comfort and efficiency you need. Here are some tips for selecting a gas or oil furnace:

Consider comfort. Many of today's furnaces contain extra features that will make your home more enjoyable. Some extremely efficient furnaces, reach 98% AFUE. Modulating Furnace - means they can vary the output level to provide the quietest and most comfortable indoor temperatures. Also, look for two-stage and variable-speed models that run at different output (capacity) levels to reduce noise and provide a better mix of air throughout the home (reducing hot or cold spots).

Look for the highest AFUE. Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency - or AFUE - is a measurement of the efficiency of your furnace. An 80% AFUE furnace converts 80% of the fuel into heat; the other 20% is lost up the chimney. Most furnaces installed in the past 15 years are around 65% to 70% AFUE.

Today's minimum AFUE standards vary depending on where you live. In Canada, for instance, 90% AFUE is the minimum. Most rebate and tax credit incentives are tied to heating efficiencies above 95% AFUE.

It's important to ask your dealer about the standards in your region, and what state, federal and local utility incentives are available for purchasing higher-efficiency furnaces.

Don't skimp on the install. With a new home heating system, the installation is key to performance. Make sure you hire a licensed contractor who is going to address your ductwork and other home needs in addition to replacing the furnace. A quality installation will cost more upfront, but it will save problems down the road.

Fan on. The thermostat for your new furnace may have a "fan on' setting. If so, consider running this fan throughout the summer and winter. It will continue to move air throughout the home even with the furnace isn't heating. It's a great way to even out temperatures on multi-level homes and reduce stagnant air. For even better air control, ask your dealer about zoning.

IF you are buying a new boiler for your home heating needs, make sure you select one that is efficient and affordable. Boiler manufacturers are required to disclose how well the boiler produces heat by displaying its AFUE or annual fuel utilization efficiency rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient the boiler in terms of how much fuel gets converted into heat. The minimum rating allowed for boilers varies depending on the type of boiler.
There are several types of boiler on the market, and they differ by the fuel and medium. Hot water boilers heat the home with hot water, while steam boilers heat the home with steam. The fuel source is usually either oil or gas.The minimum AFUE ratings for these boilers are:

Oil fired hot water boiler – 84 percent

Oil fired steam boiler – 82 percent

Gas fired hot water boiler – 82 percent

Gas fired steam boiler – 80 percent

Make sure you understand these are minimum standards, and you can obtain greater efficiency by buying a higher AFUE boiler. More efficient condensing boilers (90 percent plus AFUE) utilize heat from the condensation of water vapor in a second heat exchanger. These boilers have a much higher up-front cost, but they will reduce energy costs over the boiler’s lifetime.