When building a new home, there are so many things to consider – room sizes, décor/finishings, budget, etc. And there is usually a team of people to help make sure you get what you want – contractors, builders, decorators, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, etc. An HVAC technician and builder will work together to make sure the home has efficient heating and cooling, and in this blog, we’ll arm you with the knowledge of what to look for to maximize your efficiency!
A High SEER Rating
If you want to see how efficient an AC unit is, look to the SEER rating, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER rating is how the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) rates the energy efficiency of a system. Basically, products with higher SEER ratings are more efficient, and therefore save you more money and use less energy.
According to Keith Hill, manager, technical support for Minnesota Air, federal law requires that all newly installed air conditioning units meet 13 SEER or greater.
“Considering that only a few years ago, the minimum was 10 SEER, 13 SEER is 30 percent more efficient and really should be considered high efficiency,” says Keith. “But there are even more efficient units, all the way up to 21 SEER. In many cases when you are working with your builder, you can upgrade your system to a more efficient unit.”
Although they may cost more upfront, Keith points out that higher efficiency units are typically quieter and easier to maintain, too.
The Right Size
We’ve said it before: when it comes to air conditioners, bigger is not always better. Finding the right size AC for your home is what’s most important when trying to maximize efficiency. If it’s too big, it will cool the rooms quickly to your thermostat set point, which seems like it would be efficient, but it’s not. By cooling the house down too quickly, it won’t have enough running time to dehumidify the home before it turns off, and that means you’ll be feeling cool and clammy. That’s a bad combination for comfort, allergie,s and respiratory conditions.
Finally, if you really want to make sure your home is built with efficient heating and cooling, get involved with your contractor to make sure your home is being sealed and insulated properly. That means buying energy efficient windows that won’t leak air, insulating your walls and attic properly so heat doesn’t flow out through the roof, and sealing up any doors, windows, and garage doors. It also means making sure you have ductwork installed properly and sealed to maximize the efficiency of your heating and cooling. According to the Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR website, sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your HVAC by as much as 20 percent, and sometimes much more than that.
ENERGY STAR gives the following checklist of items that the contractor should be doing to maximize efficiency when working on ductwork:
- Inspect the whole duct system, including the attic, basement, and crawlspace.
- Evaluate the system’s supply and return air balance. Many systems have air return ducts that are too small.
- Repair or replace damaged, disconnected, or undersized ducts and straighten out flexible ducts that are tangled or crushed.
- Seal leaks and connections with mastic, metal tape, or an aerosol-based sealant.
- Seal gaps behind registers and grills where the duct meets the floor, wall, or ceiling.
- Insulate ducts in unconditioned areas with insulation that carries an R-value of 6 or higher.
- Include a new filter as part of any duct system improvement.
- Use diagnostic tools to evaluate airflow after repairs are completed.
- Ensure there is no back drafting of gas or oil-burning appliances, and conduct a combustion safety test after ducts are sealed.
Follow those steps to maximizing efficiency and your new home will be your dream home – with money saved, energy conserved, and a lot more comfort for everyone who enters.