Just like many other appliances, your indoor comfort system is not only an initial investment, but also includes ongoing costs for operation and maintenance. The heating and cooling system typically makes up more than 40% of a home’s annual energy costs. This means that the heating and cooling equipment and controls that you select today will continue to affect your finances for as long as you live in your home. That’s why it makes sense to invest in a high-efficiency comfort system.
A major contributor to operational cost is the type of fuel the system uses. This graph compares the cost of common fuel sources and system types.
The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratio, which is the percent of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed, is how furnaces are rated. The higher the AFUE rating, the lower your fuel costs.
The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is how cooling systems are rated. For every $100 you spend to cool your home using a 10 SEER system, keep in mind that you would spend much less using a system of 12 SEER or higher. For example, if your annual cooling costs were $1,000 with a 10 SEER system, they could be reduced to $710 with a 14 SEER system.
Heat pumps are rated in terms of HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). In general, the higher the HSPF rating, the less electricity the unit will use to function properly.
In 1992, the federal government established the minimum heating efficiency standard for new heat pumps at 6.8 HSPF. (Most heat pumps manufactured before 1992 had HSPF ratings below 5.) The minimum HSPF standard changed again in 2006 to an HSPF of 7.7. Today, an HSPF of 8.2 or higher is considered “high-efficiency”; the maximum available is 9.35.
During warm humid months you will feel more comfortable at a higher temperature if the humidity level in your home is kept between 40 to 60%. This will reduce the strain on your equipment and can save you 10 to 15% in cooling costs.
Programmable thermostats and zoning allow you to control system usage according to your family’s lifestyle and daily occupancy schedule. This will prevent you from wasting energy from heating or cooling unoccupied or unused areas of your home.
It’s crucial to regularly schedule maintenance to maintain your system’s maximum efficiency. The use of indoor air quality products will also help maintain your system’s optimum performance.