Before You Buy

  • What is Heating and Cooling Variable Speed Technology?

    Variable Speed HVAC

    Did you know that if you have had the same Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system since 2006 your operational costs may have increase nearly 21%.  Why? Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the average retail price of electricity has increased from 10.40¢ per Kilowatt in 2006 to 12.55¢ per Kilowatt hour in 2016.1

    So, how can you stay comfortable in your home and spend less on your cooling and heating costs? The answer may lie with a variable speed technology central heating and cooling system!

     

    What is Variable Speed Technology?

     

    Variable speed technology enables HVAC equipment to precisely adjust its output or capacity according to your home’s temperature demand. Unlike a single-speed or single-stage HVAC system that turns ON at 100% then OFF, equipment with variable speed technology may use less energy because it is designed with the option to operate at lower capacity levels.2

    When an HVAC system has a variable speed compressor and/or fan motor, you may be able to spend less on utility costs without sacrificing your indoor comfort level.

     

    Variable Speed Compressor Technology

     

    Variable speed is often used to describe the type of compressor in your air conditioner or heat pump. The compressor is the heart of your air conditioning or heat pump system, creating the cooling capacity for your system.

    This feature allows for various levels of output depending on your cooling demands — full capacity for very hot days (or cold days if running the heating mode of a heat pump) or reduced capacity for milder days. Variable speed compressors may allow a unit to run at virtually any speed between 30% and 100% to provide the most energy efficient method to meet the temperature on your thermostat or control system. It is a great energy-efficient option when compared to a single-speed unit.

     

    Variable Speed Fan Motor Technology

     

    Variable speed technology can also apply to the type of blower motor located in the air handler or gas furnace. A variable speed blower motor can operate at various speeds to precisely control the amount of airflow throughout your home. In the winter, a variable speed blower motor may alleviate the “cold air blow” you feel when a single speed furnaces or air handler begins turns on at 100%.

    According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, a variable-speed motor running continuously at a half speed may use up to 75% less power that a single-stage motor uses to move the same amount of air.3

     

    Variable Speed Eases Cycling

     

    The electricity usage of a heating or cooling system typically peaks when a unit turns ON at 100%. A single-speed HVAC system turns ON at 100% capacity, then stays there until it reaches your preset indoor thermostat or control system temperature and then turns OFF. 

    Variable speed technology allows for a more consistent path to indoor comfort. It often reduces the number of start/stop cycles associated with single speed equipment which may reduce the potential peak draw on your home's electrical service needs. Once your HVAC system reaches the desired indoor temperature, the variable option precisely adjusts to the less demanding environment, minimizing the capacity required to maintain that temperature compared to a single-speed system. It’s like riding your bike uphill, then leveling off on a flat road to the finish line — it requires less demand than the hill-laden route.

     

    Added Benefits of Variable Speed Technology

     

    A variable speed system may run longer than your traditional HVAC system, but at a level that requires less energy. This slow and steady operation offers some additional comfort benefits when compared to a single speed unit.

    • Consistency of Indoor Comfort – Variable speed technology may minimize the temperature swings often found with single-stage equipment. Rather than shutting down, the variable capacity prolongs the set temperature of your spaces. This allows for steady and consistent comfort in your home.
    • Dehumidification – The longer a cooling system runs, the more moisture might be removed from the indoor air. This may improve the balance between temperature and humidity, providing you with more comfortable interior air.
    • Filtering of Indoor Air – The extended run time at lower speeds allows more time for the indoor air to circulate and interact with filters or additional air quality system components. However, as with traditional systems, it is important to change out your filters according to your HVAC dealer or manufacturer’s recommendation. 

    If you are concerned about your rising utility bill but don’t want to sacrifice your indoor comfort, you may want to consider a heating and cooling with variable speed technology. Talk to your licensed professional HVAC dealer to see if a variable speed system is right for your home. 

    Amana brand Heating and Cooling

    1 U.S. EIA. (2017, May). Monthly Energy Review, Average Retail Prices of Electricity. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec9_11.pdf
    2,3 Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Variable-speed, low-cost motor for residential HVAC systems. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from US Department of Energy: https://energy.gov/eere/amo/variable-speed-low-cost-motor-residential-hvac-systems

     
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  • Why Did HVAC Refrigerant Changed from R-22 to R-410A?

    Air Conditioner Refrigerant

    For centuries, scientists, inventors, and outside-the-box thinkers have been trying to manipulate substances to alter the temperature of the indoors!

    The Refrigerant Movement

     

    Modern air conditioning appears to be an evolutionary invention that was built upon a series of successful, and not so successful, concepts.

    In 1928, Thomas Midgley, Albert Henne and Robert McNary created chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants. The compounds produced were “the world's first non-flammable refrigerating fluids, greatly improving the safety of air conditioners.”1

    R-22 refrigerant was developed in the 1930s. This substance was a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) compound that became the standard refrigerant for decades to come. Decades later, scientists would discover that chlorine, a component of CFC and HCFC refrigerants, is damaging to the ozone layer.  As a result, R22, the standard residential air conditioner refrigerant, was included in the 1987 Montreal Protocol list of substances that were to be phased out of production over time for new air conditioners and heat pumps.

    What is the Montreal Protocol?

     

    According to the U.S. State Department, “The Montreal Protocol, finalized in 1987, is a global agreement to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS).”  With 197 countries in agreement, it was the first United Nations treaty to achieve universal ratification.2 

    Under the Protocol, which was amended four times since 1988, HCFC production and consumption in the United States should be phased out by 2030.

    The R-22 to R-410A Transition

     

    It was apparent that R-22 couldn’t be eliminated overnight without severe economic impacts to the private and public sectors. As a result, the Montreal Protocol and amendments permitted for a step-by-step phase-out of R-22. This phased program allows homeowners the option of switching to chlorine-free refrigerants when they see the need to replace their current air conditioner or heat pump.

    Although the agreement was ultimately signed in 1988, the HVAC industry had to prepare for the mandated changes. Companies had to develop alternate refrigerant technologies, engineer new designs to accommodate substance characteristics, realign manufacturing to accommodate changes, and re-train dealers and technicians on the updates.  This would take some time, but R-410A refrigerant, a hydrofluorocarbon compound (HFC), was soon considered to be the most common alternative to R-22.3 

    Out with R-22, In with R-410A

     

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for implementing the R-22 refrigerant phase out for the United States. By January 1, 2010, there was a plan to ban the production and import of R-22 by January 1, 2020.3  As a result, manufacturers of heat pump and air conditioning equipment redesigned their systems to accommodate R-410A, a chlorine-free refrigerant compared to R-22.

    After 2020, any air conditioning or heat pump system using R-22 that requires servicing will have to depend on potentially expensive R-22 stockpiles or reclaimed refrigerant. The new ban on R-22 won’t affect homeowners that want to continue to utilize their functioning R-22 air conditioning systems.  However, if that equipment needs to be charged with refrigerant, there may be difficulties.4  

    Next Generation Refrigerants

     

    If history has taught us anything, it’s that progress will continue. Scientific discoveries, technological advancements, and even environmental policies and politics will continue to affect the HVAC industry.

    Because of the global warming potential of many HFC refrigerants, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has proposed to phase-down the use of refrigerants such as R-410A.  If it goes forward, the phase down is expected to begin sometime in the 2020’s.  The leading replacement for R-410A is a pure, single component refrigerant called R-32, which has one-third the global warming potential of R-410A.  Some products with this next generation refrigerant have already been introduced in the United States. Due to some properties of these lower global warming refrigerants, codes and standards are being updated before their mainstream use, which is expected in the early 2020’s.

    In the meantime, homeowners replacing their aging air conditioning and heat pump systems with new R-410A equipment will know that they are purchasing a chlorine-free option, as well as potentially increasing the energy-efficiency level of the air conditioner or heat pump for their homes.  

     

    Amana brand Air Conditioners

    1 Department of Energy. History of Air Conditioning. 20 July 2015. https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-air-conditioning. 3 April 2017.
    2 U.S. Department of State. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Washington D.C., n.d. https://www.state.gov/e/oes/eqt/chemicalpollution/83007.htm.
    3 Environmental Protection Agency. Federal Register. 28 October 2014. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/10/28/2014-25374/protection-of-stratospheric-ozone-adjustments-to-the-allowance-system-for-controlling-hcfc. 3 April 2017.
    4 R22 and Halon Critical Use Phase-out. n.d. http://www.epa.ie/air/airenforcement/ozone/r22andhaloncriticalusephase-out/. 3 April 2017.

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  • Precise Home Heating with Dual Fuel Technology

     Dual Fuel Home Heating

    Dual fuel technology combines the heating performance that you get from a heat pump with the consistent heating capacity of a gas furnace. When properly installed and configured, a dual fuel technology indoor comfort system offers the incredible combination of year-round comfort and energy-efficient performance!

    What makes this system so precise and energy efficient for heating is that it seamlessly alternates between the two energy sources for heating comfort, depending on the demand for heat.

    How Dual Fuel Heating Works

    A home with dual fuel heating has an outdoor heat pump and an indoor gas furnace. If the heating demand exceeds the preset heating capacity of your electric heat pump, the heat pump pauses, and your gas furnace takes over until the indoor temperature reaches the desired temperature on your thermostat or control system.1

    The system's switch point from the heat pump to the gas furnace can be set on the thermostat or HVAC control system by you or a licensed professional HVAC dealer. So whether you need to heat your home on a cool fall evening or an icy winter day, a dual fuel system is designed to provide energy-efficient, reliable, and consistent heat.

    Energy Cost and Efficiency

    Different energy sources operate most efficiently during specific weather conditions. A heat pump using electricity and a gas furnace using natural gas may maximize efficiency and possibly lower your heating bills. Yet, heat source efficiency is only part of the equation. The cost of electricity and natural gas in your location can have a significant impact on your heating bill. 

    “Prices of basic energy (natural gas, electricity, heating oil) are generally more volatile than prices of other commodities,” says the Energy Information Association.2 Energy prices typically vary by location because of the proximity to power plants, local distribution costs, and pricing regulations. 

    When a dual fuel system's switch point is set, the specific energy source pricing should be considered into the cost and efficiency equation.  If the switch point from the heat pump to the gas furnace reduces the time required to get to your set temperature, your energy cost of operation may decrease.3 

    The flexibility of using a heat pump and a gas furnace may provide the homeowner with energy cost savings. However, it is important to learn the utility pricing options from your local utility provider(s) and then discuss the potential savings a dual fuel system might offer with your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

    Dual Fuel Installation Options

    If you are looking to replace your air conditioner with a heat pump, your professional licensed HVAC dealer may be able to upgrade your system configuration so that your new heat pump works in conjunction with your existing furnace system. If you are not currently utilizing natural gas as a heating source but it is an option is your area, homeowners interested in dual fuel systems may be able to add a high-efficiency gas furnace. The gas furnace would be the secondary heat source instead of using the heat pump's electric heat strip when the temperatures drop.  

    To find out whether a dual fuel system is an option for your home and how you may benefit, talk to your professional licensed HVAC dealer.

    1 U.S. Department of Energy. Air-Source Heat Pumps. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/air-source-heat-pumps. 26 April 2017. 
    2 U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Why Do Natural Gas Prices Fluctuate So Much?" n.d. U.S. Energy Information Administration. https://www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/analysis_publications/why_do_prices_fluctuate/html/ngbro.html. 28 April 2017.
    3 U.S. Energy Information Association. Factors Affecting Electricity Prices. n.d. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_factors_affecting_prices. 26 April 2017. 

     Dual fuel Central home heating
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  • Heat Pump Efficiency: The Heating Season Performance Factor

    Heat_Pump_Heating_Efficiency

    Heat pumps aren’t just for heating and cooling homes in mild climates anymore! Advances in heat pump technology have created a legitimate heating alternative for colder regions where temperatures may drop below freezing.1 Today’s heat pumps are now being installed from Alaska to Florida.2

    A heat pump is considered an energy-efficient heating option because it moves heat rather than converting it from fuel. When a thermostat calls for heat, the refrigerant in your heat pump’s coil extracts heat energy from the cold outdoor air. Even if it’s 32°F outside, there is enough heat energy from the outdoor air to heat your home.

    A heat pump’s reversed refrigeration cycle may allow properly installed heat pumps to deliver up to three times as much heat as the electrical energy used to operate it.3 This may make a heat pump a great energy-efficient option for your home.

    How Heat Pump Heating Efficiency is Measured?

    A heat pump’s heating efficiency rating is indicated by the Heating Season Performance Factor or HSPF number. That number represents the calculation of the heat pump’s total seasonal heat output, including the supplementary electric heat, as compared to the total electricity used during the same period.4 The HSPF is a heat pump’s heating version of SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.

    HSPF measures heat pump efficiency in heating mode
    SEER measures heat pump efficiency in cooling mode

    HSPF and Efficiency

     

    Typically, the higher the HSPF number, the more efficient the heating performance of your heat pump.5 The U.S. Department of Energy raised the minimum energy efficiency standard for heat pumps in 2015 to 8.2 HSPF nationwide. That’s great news for homeowners in the market for a new heat pump — especially if your current heat pump’s HSPF rating is lower than the current standard.

    Energy-efficient features, such as variable speed fans and variable speed compressors have ushered in a new era of heat pumps and heating systems. These features offer increased energy efficiency benefits when compared to some older or base models, as well as help keep your budget in check and greatly improve your overall comfort level in your home.

    Today’s high-efficiency heat pumps can boast HSPF ratings of 9 or higher, which may provide significant savings on monthly heating bills when compared to a lower HSPF model operating under the same conditions. However, there is more to heating efficiency than just a heat pump’s HSPF number. Other factors that may significantly impact the performance of a heat pump. These often include:6 

    • Air duct air leaks
    • Part-load efficiency
    • Proper equipment sizing
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Climatic conditions

    If you are looking to save even more on monthly heating bills, the opportunity for additional savings may be hidden in other areas of your home. You may improve the energy-efficiency by improving insulation, sealing air leaks, and repairing ductwork.

    Which HSPF is Right for Me?

     

    In some locations across the country, a heat pump runs nearly year-round – cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. If you live in one of these areas, you may want to consider installing a high-efficiency ENERGY STAR® certified heat pump.* An ENERGY STAR certified heat pump may possibly save you more in energy costs if your current model isn’t listed as ENERGY STAR equipment.

    Specific heat pump features often determine the efficiency rating of a heat pump. A high HSPF with these additional energy-efficient features may cost you more than a base or standard efficiency model, but it may save you money over the life of the system.

    When determining if a high-efficiency heat pump fits your budget, you should evaluate how long you will use your new heat pump. By identifying how long you will live in your current home, you may be to determine how long it would take to recoup the initial costs of a high HSPF model heat pump.

    • Do you currently live in your “forever home”?
    • How long will your current home fit your lifestyle?
    • Would a job change require you to relocate?

    If you determine that high-efficiency is right for your home but tough on your budget, HVAC financing can often help spread out the cost of a new heat pump or entire heating systems over a specific time frame. Why dip into savings you may have set aside for something else, add to an existing credit card balance or even consider a home equity line of credit? HVAC financing can be an effective means to fit high-efficiency equipment into your budget without breaking the bank.

    Your licensed HVAC dealer can assist you in determining which heat pump and HSPF rating are right for your home and budget. 

    *Proper installation and calculated equipment sizing are critical components to achieving optimal operational performance. Split system heat pumps must be matched with appropriate coil components to meet ENERGY STAR criteria.  Ask your contractor for details or visit www.energystar.gov.

    Amana Heat Pumps

    1 Heat Pump Systems. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-systems.
    2 Vanessa Stevens, Colin Craven, Robbin Garber-Slaght. Air Source Heat Pumps in Southeast Alaska. Fairbanks, Alaska: Cold Climate Housing Research Center, 2013. http://www.cchrc.org/sites/default/files/docs/ASHP_final_0.pdf.
    3,4 U.S. Department of Energy. Air-Source Heat Pumps. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/air-source-heat-pumps. 26 April 2017.
    5 NC State. Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)- Defined. n.d. https://energy.ces.ncsu.edu/heating-seasonal-performance-factor-hspf-defined/. 2 August 2017.
    6 Paul W. Francisco, Larry Palmitter, David Baylon. Understanding Heating Seasonal Performance Factors for Heat Pumps. ACEEE, 2004. http://aceee.org/files/proceedings/2004/data/papers/SS04_Panel1_Paper08.pdf.

     

     

     
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  • Feel Good In Your Home: HVAC Updates, Remodeling, and Home Improvement

    Home_Renovations_With_Heating_and_Cooling_Equipment

     

    Are you inspired by the latest home improvement television shows? You may not want to live with your outdated kitchen or bathroom, but imagine being too hot or too cold in all the rooms in your home because of an older or rundown central heating and cooling system.

    If you are remodeling or considering a home improvement project to improves your quality of indoor life, don’t overlook an inefficient heating and cooling system.

    Renovating Your Indoor Comfort

     

    Do home improvements and renovations really make you ‘feel’ good?

    Your new, open-concept kitchen may not feel as good when sweat is dripping down your face because your air conditioner can't keep up with the summer heat. And the serenity of that beautiful, spa-like bathroom goes cold if your heating system can't keep that room warm.

    Many home renovations may visually improve the look of your rooms, but they may not have any effect on your comfort level throughout your home. Jennifer Bertrand, interior designer for Lifetime Channel’s Military Makeover with Montel, says “The biggest trend in design is wellness. If your house is in order, your mind is in order.” A home improvement that includes updating a failing heating and cooling system should offer you this ability and help you ‘feel’ comfortable in your home.

    HVAC industry manufacturers continue to design and incorporate technologies that may collectively improve your overall indoor comfort. These enhancements may make your home “feel” more comfortable than your current HVAC system. Today’s heating and cooling systems that include variable-speed options and advanced HVAC controls provide additional benefits for homeowners who prioritize indoor comfort.

    For example, heating and cooling system with a variable speed fan automatically adjust the amount of conditioned air being delivered through the vents into your rooms. It gently ramps up or down according to your thermostat's demand. This feature can minimize the uncomfortable temperature peaks and valleys often found with the ON/OFF cycle of a single-speed HVAC unit. Once your rooms’ temperature is reached on the thermostat's setting, the lower speed can often maintain that set temperature longer than if the system was only able to operate or cycle at 100% on and 100% off. This allows for steady, consistent temperatures in your home.

    Renovating Your Energy Bills

     

    Home improvement shows often reveal the “updated home value” once renovations are complete. Upgrading your heating and cooling system could be a home renovation investment that saves you money on energy costs - month after month, year after year. 

    Upgrading to high-efficiency HVAC equipment may be a wise home improvement choice since heating and cooling costs can typically make up about 48% of your utility bill.1 If your house was built in the late 1990s or early 2000s, you might be using your home’s original heating and cooling system to keep your family comfortable. You may find that this aging system is less efficient than you would like, and/or in need of constant repairs.

    If this sounds like your HVAC system, you may want to consider adding a new high-efficiency heating and cooling system to your renovation or home improvement list. 
    A licensed professional HVAC dealer should be able to tell you the energy-efficiency ratings of your current gas furnace, air conditioner and/or heat pump. These ratings may help you determine if you should update your HVAC equipment to stop throwing potential energy savings out the window. 

    The energy savings that you may get from a more efficient HVAC system could save you money on your monthly utility bill. When it comes to energy efficiency, the higher the rating number, the more energy efficient the equipment was designed to help lower your utility bill. 

    Since 2006, minimum energy-efficiency standards, HVAC technology, and performance features of heating and cooling equipment have collectively improved. As a homeowner looking to make home improvements, this can be a good thing for your comfort level and your wallet. 

    Smarthouse.org states that upgrading a gas furnace with a high-efficiency model may be a good investment.2 And if your air conditioner is over ten years old, you may save up to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a higher efficiency model.3
    Renovations that include a high-efficiency heating and cooling system may help you cut monthly energy cost for years and years to come. That sounds like a good home improvement option!

    Peace of Mind

     

    Living with a heating and cooling system that is nearing the end of its lifespan may become stressful, inconvenient, and unfortunately uncomfortable. In typical fashion, HVAC systems find a way of failing at the worst possible time… on weekends, holidays, or when you simply want to relax. And, if you are like most people, your family’s indoor comfort is a priority: especially when outdoor temperatures are extreme. 

    If you have depended on your current HVAC system for over a decade, you may want to establish a repair cost cutoff point. This means that you might want to add a heating and cooling system to your home improvement list if repair costs reach your set limit. If that’s the case in your home, start researching the available features and benefits of a new system.

    Abrupt breakdowns and continuous heating and cooling repairs may start to add up - both financially and emotionally! If you are in considering a home improvement or renovation project, you may want to consider your year-round comfort level. Because, no matter how beautiful the floors and cabinets are, no one wants to be too hot or too cold in their home.

    Feel Good In Your Home - Amana HVAC

    1 Department of Energy. (2019). Resident Program Solution Center. Retrieved from Energy Data Facts: https://rpsc.energy.gov/energy-data-facts
    2 American Council for Energy-Efficienct Economy. (2015). Buying Tips. Retrieved from Smarter House: http://smarterhouse.org/cooling-systems/buying-tips
    3 Department of Energy. (2018, Dec 28). Heating and Cooling. Retrieved from Energy.gov: https://www.energy.gov/heating-cooling

     
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  • How to Find the Right Heating and Cooling Contractor for Me?

    A7_homeowner_tips

    Selecting a qualified HVAC contractor is an important, yet often daunting task. Whether your home’s heating and cooling system is in need of routine maintenance, emergency repairs or a total replacement, ensure you hire a qualified professional that best fits the job. Below are some of the important steps that may help you feel confident with your selection. 

    1. Do Research


    The internet may be a great tool to help weed out subpar HVAC service companies.  The following websites may offer insight into some of the heating and cooling contractors in your area:

    • Heating and cooling manufacturers’ websites often provide an independent dealer locator with contact information and key details for contractors near your location.
    • Websites like Nextdoor and Yelp may make it easier to locate local contractors, identify recommended companies, and read customer reviews.
    • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), an organization that represents HVAC contractors, offers a searchable database of its contractor members.
    • Better Business Bureau provides accreditation and gives businesses a letter grade, from A+ to F, based on information it is able to obtain, including complaints received from the public.


    2. Get Referrals


    Referrals can give a homeowner perspective as to the type of experience they can expect from a particular contractor. Ask neighbors, friends, and family for referrals.

    Contractors may also be able to provide customer references for you to contact to gather more information. Homeowners should “ask [the references] about the contractor's installation or service performance, and if the job was completed on time and within budget.”1

    3. Read Local Contractor Reviews


    Read reviews carefully. A quick glance at the number of review stars can often be misleading. Be sure to read the written comments and look for contractors with a good reputation for value, quality and customer service. Look for reviews that address::

    • Did the contractor address the problem? 
    • Did the contractor provide clear details of the problem to the homeowner?
    • Did the contractor resolve disputes in a timely, thoughtful, and respectful manner? 

    Reviews may reveal a contractor’s commitment to customers’ satisfaction. Providing prompt solutions and addressing any errors is the mark of a good service company.


    4. Qualities of a Good HVAC Technician


    Every state has specific HVAC licensing, training and certification requirements. Your state may require that HVAC contractors be licensed, bonded and insured, while others may just require training and certification. This information can often be found online, but you should confirm the requirements for your location and the qualifications of the HVAC contractor prior to scheduling an appointment. Once you have scheduled a service appointment, there are a few things that you should pay attention to: 

    Responsive:  Does the technician or dispatcher stay in touch with you by phone, text, or email leading up to the service appointment? Do they communicate any schedule changes in a timely manner?

    Prompt:  Does the technician arrive within the specified time window or alert you if a problem forces them to miss the initial arrival time.

    Appearance:  Does the technician appear “work ready” or are they wearing a dealer uniform? Many technicians certified through organizations such as NATE (North American Technician Excellence) wear patches on their uniforms. Does your technician have any certification patches displayed on their uniform?

    Patience: Does the technician listen to your concerns, take the time to explain their findings and answer any questions you may have?

    Meticulous: Depending on the nature of the appointment (emergency vs. annual inspection), a technician may perform a complete system evaluation and/or an inspection. This process can take time and should not just be a quick once-over. Upon completion, the technician should go over any concerning results.

    Documentation: The technician should provide written or digital documentation of all the work done and/or provides price estimates for future services.

    A good technician will be pleasant, professional, knowledgeable, courteous, patient and willing to answer your questions. Remember, your HVAC contractor provides a service — their job is to serve you to the best of their ability. If you are not happy with something, do not be afraid to ask them to fix it.

    5. Think Long-Term Indoor Comfort

    If you are looking to purchase and install a new heating or cooling system (or both), be sure you are working with a professional licensed HVAC contractor who is willing to provide a limited warranty for their labor and the installed products. Doing the job properly the first time may help eliminate the need for repeat visits, as well as ensure your system is running at peak performance for years and years. 

    Many HVAC service companies offer maintenance agreements, which provide for scheduled maintenance of the HVAC system. This can be a worthwhile investment! Maintaining HVAC equipment efficiency can help ensure peak performance and may extend the life of the system.

    6. Manufacturer Dealer Locator


    Most HVAC manufacturers provide tools to assist homeowners in finding an independent dealer. Amana® brand’s dealer locator lists independent HVAC contractors who offer professional and licensed HVAC services by location, services provided and certification. These contractors typically offer a value-focused, flexible and informative approach to heating or cooling maintenance, service or purchases.


    Find an Amana brand Dealer

    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly newsmagazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com/publications



    1 ENERGY STAR. (2017, July). 10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor. Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_contractors_10tips

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  • The Gas Furnace: 5 Tips to Buying a New Heating System

    Five Gas Furnace Factors

    Replacing your current gas furnace may not be on the top of your ‘To Do’ list, but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.  In the case of having to purchase a new gas furnace, the silver lining may be in the form of energy efficiency and a decreased utility bill. And, doesn’t that warm your heart…

    Here are 5 factors you should consider when purchasing a new gas furnace:

    1. The Energy-Efficiency Number

     

    The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) is used to rate gas furnace efficiencies. This measurement describes how well fuel is consumed by the gas furnace to produce heat that you feel in your home. As the AFUE rating increases so does the designed efficiency of your gas furnace.

    Here is a simple explanation of AFUE:

    • 80% AFUE - 80% of the energy in the fossil fuel is being converted to heat, and 20% is lost through exhaust.1
    •  90+% AFUE – 90+% of the energy in the fossil fuel is being converted to heat, and up to 10% is lost through exhaust.2

    According to the American Gas Association, the demand for natural gas has increased, but the amount used per household has decreased. The development of increasingly energy efficient products, including natural gas heating equipment, appears to be making an impact on consumption.3

    2.  Operational Costs

     

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners will likely save money on fuel bills over the life of a higher AFUE gas furnace when compared to a less efficient model that operates under the same circumstances.4 

    Here is an example of how the AFUE may impact operating costs.

    • If you spent $1 on fuel, approximately .80¢ of every energy dollar warms your home with an 80% AFUE gas furnace.
    • With a 90+% AFUE gas furnace, that same dollar will yield .90¢ worth of cozy, indoor comfort.

    Of course, these are estimated examples because each home’s heating cost variables are unique to its design. However, the more your gas furnace can capture the heat from the condensed exhaust gases, the more heat you will get for your money — meaning that your operational costs may be lower with a 90+% AFUE gas furnace than an 80% AFUE gas furnace.

    However, before installing a high-efficient furnace to decrease your heating costs, you should make every effort to improve your home’s overall energy-efficiency. If your home has gaping holes in your ductwork or insufficient insulation, simply installing a new high-efficiency furnace may not curb excessive heating costs.  It is important to have a licensed professional HVAC dealer to inspect the entire heating system to identify any issues or lingering energy vampires in your heating system. 

    If long-term operational costs are an important factor in your gas furnace purchase decision, ask your licensed professional HVAC dealer for an operational cost comparison between a standard-efficiency and high-efficiency gas furnace model.

    3. Is Replacing Your Gas Furnace Worth the Cost?

     

    Despite efforts to prolong its life, there comes a time when it is better to replace your gas furnace rather than repair it. Although both an 80% and a 90+% gas furnace will efficiently heat your home when compared to a less efficiency model, there are initial and long-term operational cost differences that you should consider when purchasing a new heating system. Your licensed professional HVAC dealer can inform you of:

    • The regional AFUE standard applies to your home
    • The overall replacement cost for each model of gas furnace
    • Cost of any necessary heating system modifications required
    • The availability of particular models in your area.

    According to the Natural Gas Efficiency Energy Solutions Center, “For any house that is at least modestly insulated, replacing a 20-year-old furnace is likely to be the largest single energy management measure that can be taken to reduce heating costs.”5  However, the cost to replace a 20-year old furnace with either 80% and 90+% gas furnaces can vary between the two efficiencies. Here’s why:

    • High-efficiency models (90+% AFUE or higher) utilize a second heat exchanger to heat the air from condensed exhaust gases. This allows the gas furnace to reach higher efficiency levels. To capture these exhaust gases, the venting for your new 90+% AFUE gas furnace might require a reconfiguration. The upfront cost of a high-efficiency furnace may be more expensive than a less efficient model, but when properly installed, operation costs are often lower.
    • An 80% AFUE gas furnace vents exhaust gases out of the home, typically through the roof.  Your home’s current heating system may already be designed to accommodate this type of installation which may attribute a lower installation when compared to a high-efficiency model.

    Your dealer can discuss the overall replacement cost for each type of gas furnace and any modifications required. It is important to remember that a higher-efficiency model may cost more initially, but the increase in operational energy-efficiency may save you money month-over-month, year-over-year.

    4. Which AFUE is Best for Me?

     

    So how do you choose? You should start by evaluating your budget, financing options, and current living situation.

    If your current budget cannot cover the initial cost of a high-efficiency furnace, HVAC financing may help spread the cost of your new gas furnace or entire heating systems over a predetermined amount of time. HVAC consumer financing may give you the opportunity to pay for your system in small payments while benefiting from monthly energy savings. It could be a win-win situation! The difference in monthly utility bill savings from a high-efficiency gas furnace may be enough to pay for the initial installation cost variation. 

    Homeowners should also evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership to determine how long it would take to recuperate the initial costs of a higher AFUE gas furnace model. The following questions may help you determine your gas furnace replacement budget:

    • Are you currently in my “forever home”?
    • How long will your current home to fit your lifestyle?
    • Do you plan to sell your home in the next few years?
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?

    5. Even More Smart Savings

     

    Depending on where you live, your state and/or utility company may offer tax credits and other incentives to homeowners who install a high-efficiency gas furnace*. This could mean that a high-efficiency gas furnace could provide you with even more savings! 

    Be sure to discuss all of these variables with your licensed, professional gas furnace dealer.  Their experience and expertise are valuable when identifying regional standards and determining whether a high-efficiency gas furnace is right for you and your family.

    You may be able to identify applicable tax savings on specific Amana brand products at the Amana brand rebates webpage

    * IMPORTANT: Before filing for any tax credit concerning these products, consumers should consult with a tax professional to determine the application of such credits to their particular situation.

    Gas Furnace Buying Guide

    1,2,3 Furnace and Boilers. n.d. http://energy.gov/energysaver/furnaces-and-boilers.
    4 American Gas Association. Furnace Standard Analysis: Discussion Document. Washington, DC: AGA, 2014. https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/08/f18/AGA%20Impact%20Analysis-c_0.pdf.
    5 Natural Gas Efficiency Energy Solutions Center. Natural Gas Furnaces. December 2008. http://naturalgasefficiency.org/for-residential-customers/heat-gas_furnace/. 22 September 2017.

     
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  • Home Heating and Cooling Equipment: Proper HVAC Installation Matters

    Why HVAC installation matters

    What do fence posts and batteries have in common?  They must be installed correctly, or they won’t work as intended. Proper installation matters and there are 1000’s of possible examples! This is especially true of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. HVAC installation is much more complicated than installing batteries or digging a hole. So, it’s important to make sure your local HVAC technician is experienced, qualified, and backs their work.


    Energy-Efficient HVAC

     

    A proper installation of your heating or cooling equipment will help deliver the efficiency rating you expect. A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study says that if your high-efficiency equipment is installed improperly, it may not be running as efficient as you think!1 “Without proper installation, air conditioning and heating equipment will perform significantly below rated energy-efficiency levels,” says Piotr Domanski, who leads NIST research on the performance of HVAC and refrigeration equipment.  

    “Our measurements indicate that improper installation could increase household energy use for space heating and cooling on the order of 30% over what it should be.2   Homeowners must be sure they hire trained, qualified, and installation-experienced HVAC technicians.  But this isn’t always as easy as it sounds!


    Choosing an Experienced HVAC Dealer

     

    HVAC installation is not a home “DIY” project. Creating a comfortable indoor temperature is a delicate balancing act between equipment, air flow, and mechanics. Finding a qualified, licensed and professional HVAC installer is crucial to a quality installation. But with so many companies, technicians, and contractors to choose from, finding the right person for the job may be difficult. How can you check the expertise of an HVAC technician?

    A homeowner should spend some time researching and selecting the right local HVAC dealer. A quality HVAC installation can pay off for years to come. Homeowners should consider researching their dealer’s:

    • Qualifications 
    • Technical certifications and training 
    • Industry associations 
    • Labor limited warranty options 
    • Financing options 
    • Availability - What days/times are they available? 

    Although residential HVAC licensing requirements vary by state, licensing can provide proof of professional training. However, licensing may not reflect expertise. If you have driven with a teenage driver, you may understand the value of experience!

    You may want to consider getting HVAC technician recommendations from family, friends, and neighbors.  Be sure these recommendations are for the same type of HVAC work that you need to be completed.  Homeowner Tips for Selecting a Heating & Cooling Contractor” highlights some suggested evaluation tactics.

    There is a better chance that a dealer understands the high-efficiency installation process, manufacturer’s products, proven best-practices and possible site-specific challenges if they have both training and real-world experience.


    Ongoing HVAC Training and Certifications

     

    Home comfort equipment, like your heating and cooling system, is continually advancing. HVAC technicians should have training and experience with the latest technology and high-efficiency products. Technicians can earn independent and manufacturer-based certifications as a way to increase their HVAC installation knowledge and confirm their understanding of these advancing systems. Homeowners may have a greater peace of mind during installation if their technician has received advanced industry training or earned a specific certification.

    Some HVAC industry certifications include:

    NATE: The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for HVAC technicians. The organization develops and tests real-world industry knowledge. Candidates can earn installation and service certifications in multiple specialty areas.3

    According to a 2016 NATE press release, NATE Certification Affirms Contracting Competency, “certification offers a seal of approval that the individual doing the work is qualified, educated, and knowledgeable.”

    HVAC Excellence Certification: The mission of the HVAC Excellence certification program is to improve skills by testing the technical education process. The Esco Group provides many types of certifications for technicians at all levels in their career, from Employment Ready Certifications to Professional Technician and Master Specialist Certifications.

    EPA Certification:  All technicians who maintain, service, repair or dispose of appliances that contain regulated refrigerants, including air condition coolants such as R-22 or R-410A, must be certified in proper refrigerant handling techniques. HVAC technicians cannot buy refrigerants without the appropriate EPA Certification.


    Find an Amana brand dealer

    1, 2 Domanski, P. A., Henderson, H. I., & Payne, W. V. (October 2014). Sensitivity Analysis of Installation Faults on Heat Pump Performance. Retrieved from http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1848.pdf
    3 NATE. (n.d.). Retrieved from North American Technician Excellence: http://www.natex.org/site/1/Home

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  • Will a Smart Thermostat Work with My Heating and Cooling System?

    Thermostat_and_Heating_and_Cooling

    Everything seems to be getting smarter! This technological revolution has also reached the way we control our home’s heating and cooling. Today’s smart thermostats can offer a wide range of features and connectivity with a smartphone, making it even easier to align your lifestyle with the comfort of your home.  However, will a new smart thermostat connect with your current heating and cooling system?  

    Depending on the HVAC system in your home, it is possible that only a specific style of thermostat or control system may control the system’s functions. It often comes down to what type of heating and cooling equipment was installed and the specific wiring that is required between your equipment and the thermostat.

    Your Heating and Cooling Equipment

    Traditional HVAC systems were not designed to communicate with the various types of smart technology on the market today. It’s even possible that your specific HVAC system will only operate as designed with one specific style of thermostat or HVAC control system installed on the wall. This is why you often have to purchase a new thermostat at the same time as a new HVAC system. 

    Traditionally, heat pumps, gas furnaces, air conditioners, and air handlers operations are controlled by the thermostats or HVAC control systems that can address their unique features.

    For example:

    • If your home has a heat pump, the thermostat must be able to identify the auxiliary heat function. If it a thermostat is specific to a gas furnace, you may not be able to control this additional function.
    • A dual fuel system, which is comprised of a gas furnace and a heat pump, should be connected to a thermostat that can accommodate the specific heating set points to transfer the heating duties.
    • A high-efficiency, two-stage or variable speed system would traditionally be connected to a thermostat that could adjust operation based on the demand. This type of system required the thermostat to have two-stage wiring. (NOTE: New revolutionary HVAC technology is changing this)

    If you’re not sure which type of system is installed in your home, it’s best to ask your the license professional HVAC technician.

    HVAC Efficiency and Thermostat Compatibility

    Thermostat compatibility often depends on the features associated with the HVAC system installed in your home. Some of the terminology used to describe these features may include:

    • Single-stage: Your heating or cooling system operates at 100% capacity until it reaches your preset indoor temperature and then turns off.
    • Two-stage: Your heating or cooling system is capable of operating at 100% capacity and a lower speed, depending on demand.
    • Variable-speed or multi-stage:  Your system offers various levels of output to match the demand.

    If you plan to upgrade your current HVAC equipment to a high-efficiency model with two-stage or variable speed features, your current thermostat may not be designed to accommodate the additional energy-efficient features. The communicating technology that allows the certain features of your system to operate as designed is, most likely, located in the thermostat on the wall of your home. 

    Don’t miss out on the energy-efficiency benefits of your new high-efficiency HVAC system simply because the thermostat or control system cannot speak the language of your HVAC equipment.

    To be sure you are getting the maximum benefit out of your high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, talk to your licensed professional HVAC technician about thermostat compatibility or the latest communicating high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment.

    Thermostat Wires and Power

    While you should always hire a licensed professional to work with any wiring in your home, it’s helpful to understand why some thermostats are designed to work with specific equipment. It often comes down to the wiring set-up between the specific HVAC equipment installed and the thermostat on the wall.

    The most common types of thermostat or control systems on the market today use low voltage wiring. The wires to low-voltage thermostats or HVAC control systems are typically very thin, similar to wiring for doorbells or telephone jacks.  A low voltage thermostat or control system is commonly used to connect with:

    • Forced-air gas furnaces
    • Single-stage or multi-stage heat pumps
    • Central air conditioning systems with ductwork

    Many smart thermostats and HVAC control systems have features, including home automation options, which require it to be powered at all times by a ‘common’ wire (C-wire). The common wire supplies constant power to your connected thermostat. If your home’s current set up doesn’t allow for constant power through a dedicated C-wire, a licensed professional HVAC technician may need to add the specific wiring for these home automation options to work properly.

    To determine your specific home set up, consult with your licensed professional HVAC technician.

    New HVAC System Technology

    Historically, premium heating and cooling systems have limited homeowners to one specific, and perhaps expensive, smart thermostat or HVAC control system. However, rather than relying on the communicating technology in the thermostat on the wall, innovative manufacturers are factory-installing smart technology directly into the indoor HVAC equipment. This built-in technology is designed to actively learn and make continuous automatic adjustments to the equipment’s operation, as needed, based on the homeowner’s set preferences.

    With this technology added directly to the HVAC equipment, a homeowner may have the opportunity to keep their current single-stage thermostat or choose from a wide assortment of thermostat or control systems on the market. 

    If you are considering upgrading your HVAC equipment or simply the thermostat or control system, it is best to seek the guidance of a licensed professional HVAC dealer.  They should be able to assess the technology of your current indoor comfort equipment and determine which thermostat or control system is compatible.

    Smart Thermostat and HVAC Compatibility
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  • Air Conditioning: Cool HVAC Facts to Impress Your Friends

    air conditioning facts

    At some point in the spring or early summer, uncomfortable temperatures force homeowners to make the switch from ‘heat’ to ‘cool’ on their thermostat. As the flowers bloom and warm sunshine raises the temperature, it’s the perfect time to share some basic facts about your air conditioning system, the science involved, and how it has impacted population growth.

    TONS of Cooling and a Match!

    As a kid, you may have learned that one ton is equal to 2,000 pounds. Based on that knowledge, if you have a 4-ton air conditioner, you would expect the equipment to weigh 8,000 pounds. That would be almost twice the weight of a mid-sized SUV!  The good news is that the tonnage or weight assigned to air conditioners has nothing to do with the weight of the equipment but with the historical fact that people used to cool spaces with blocks of ice.

    Before modern cooling systems, people rated the capacity to cool indoor spaces by melted ice. For ice to melt, heat is transferred from its surroundings to the ice - causing it to melt. It takes 143 British Thermal Units (BTUs) to melt one pound of ice. To melt one “ton” of ice, you need approximately 12,000BTUs/hr.  Do you see the ice/air conditioner connection yet?

    To make things even more interesting, one BTU equals the amount of heat you get from burning one kitchen match all the way down to the end. So the actual size of your air conditioner or heat pump is a combination of BTUs and tons!

    One ton = the ability to cool 12,000 BTUs in an hour

     

    Your professional licensed HVAC contractor uses specific calculations to determine the correct “ton” air conditioner required to cool your home efficiently. It’s essential that a properly sized, specifically matched unit be installed in your specific home. And thanks to technological advancements, the ‘tons’ of cooling have nothing to do with massive blocks of ice.

    Can Physics be Cool?

     

    Like many technological advancements, you can thank physics for helping you stay cool in your home.  Air conditioners use the basic laws of physics and the refrigeration cycle to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature when the outdoors heat up.  When liquid changes into a gas, it extracts or pulls heat from its surroundings. You can test out this basic concept for yourself with a water faucet and your hand! 

     
    • Put your hand in warm water and then hold it up in the air. 
    • The wet hand will feel cooler than the dry hand, especially if there is some air movement.
    • Why? Because the water is evaporating! 
    • As the water evaporates, it pulls heat away from your hand.

    Cooling with the Refrigeration Cycle

     

    The principles of physics are used in the refrigeration cycle.  This cycle removes heat from one area and distributes it to another. With induced pressure changes from the condenser coil, compressor, evaporator coil and the expansion valve, the state of the refrigerant is forced to fluctuate between a liquid and gas - and as you now know, when liquid changes into a gas, it extracts or pulls heat from its surroundings. This continuous cycle allows the heat to be transferred from inside your home to the exterior.

    Here’s how it works:1

    • The refrigerant comes into the compressor as a low-pressure gas. It is then compressed” to become a high-pressure gas.
    • The gas then flows through the condenser coil. Here the gas “condenses” to a liquid, and gives off its heat to the outside air.
    • The liquid then moves to the expansion valve under high pressure. This valve restricts the flow of the fluid and lowers its pressure as it leaves the expansion valve.
    • The low-pressure liquid then moves to the evaporator coil, where heat from the inside air is absorbed and changes it from a liquid to a gas.
    • As a hot low-pressure gas, the refrigerant moves to the compressor where the entire cycle is repeated.

    Heat and Humidity!

     

    Believe it or not, there is water all around us - even when it’s not raining! Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Air with higher humidity has an increased amount of water vapor.

    When the humidity level is high, especially when combined with high temperatures, you may be uncomfortable!  That’s because sweat may not evaporate as quickly as it would with a lower humidity level. This phenomenon may make us feel hotter than the actual temperature because evaporation is slowed.

    If you think about the wet hand experiment - if the humidity level is high, it may take longer for the air to absorb the extra moisture on your wet hand. That means that your hand wouldn’t feel as cold because evaporation is slowed. This explains why it feels hotter when the humidity levels are high. Likewise, very low humidity can make us feel colder than the actual temperature. This happens because the dry air helps moisture evaporate more quickly than usual.

    So how can an air conditioning help you feel more comfortable in your home? When warm air comes in contact with your air conditioner’s or heat pump’s cold evaporator coil, some moisture may be condensed out of the air, making your home feel less humid. The moisture collected by the evaporator coil goes to a drain and then it is sent outside, away from your home. But air conditioners and heat pumps are not meant to control indoor humidity; it just happens to be an incidental byproduct of the refrigeration cycle!

    Indoor Comfort and Population Growth

     

    If you have ever come inside a cool home on a hot day, you can understand why air conditioning is continuously named as one of the top inventions in modern history. Most warm-weather states can thank the air conditioner for their increasing populations. Can you imagine what life must have been like during those southern summer days before air conditioning? 

    As air conditioning became more affordable, its popularity grew. By the 1950s, more than one million room air conditioning units had been sold. However, it wasn’t until 1977 that newly constructed homes tipped the scales of residential air conditioning. In 1977, 54% of newly constructed single-family homes had air conditioning compared to the 46% that weren’t built with air conditioning.2 The upward trend has continued for decades. 

    By 2015, the U.S. Census revealed that nearly 93% of newly constructed homes in the United States were built with air conditioning. However, the numbers also acknowledged that between 1997 and 2015, over 99% of newly constructed homes in the “south” were built with air conditioning.2 It appears that cool, indoor comfort is a priority. Whether for personal or economic reasons, air conditioning will continue to advance and thrive! 

    Amana brand Air Conditioner

    1 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. Basic Refrigeration Cycle. n.d. https://www.swtc.edu/Ag_Power/air_conditioning/lecture/basic_cycle.htm. 7 April 2017.
    2 U.S. Census Bureau. "Presence of Air-Conditioning in New Single-Family Houses Completed." U.S. Census Bureau - Air Conditioning. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 2015. 1-20. https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/pdf/aircond.pdf.

     
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  • Smart Heating and Cooling Communicating Technology

    Smart_Heating_and_Cooling_Technology

    Smart technology is meant to make our lives easier.  While home heating and cooling systems have typically been designed with the latest technology available, there was never a need for smart communication - that was left to the thermostat (also referred to as the HVAC “control” system). But as consumer behavior changes and home automation becomes more ingrained in our lifestyles, the heating and cooling equipment is become smarter without having to rely on a particular thermostat!

    Smart Heating and Cooling Choices

    There are a lot of thermostats options. Some homeowners want to keep their basic thermostat or upgrade to a smart thermostat, and others find that when purchasing a new premium HVAC system, they are required to purchase a specific, and perhaps expensive, thermostat.

    But, what if you want to upgrade your basic programmable thermostat?  As more and more homeowners adopt smart home products, they are discovering that the newest home automation systems may not be compatible with their “traditional” central HVAC system.

    So what happens when the communicating technology that was typically located in the thermostat connected to an inside wall of your home is factory-installed into smart heating and cooling equipment? The result is that you may not be locked into a specific thermostat, and the heating and cooling equipment regulates its own performance.

    The HVAC Equipment Circuit Board

    Traditionally, your HVAC equipment that creates the comfortable temperature in your home has had one function – to heat and cool your indoor spaces. It turns ON and OFF, or adjusts speeds as directed by the thermostat. When this intelligent communicating technology is added directly to the indoor HVAC equipment circuit board, the system becomes smarter than traditional HVAC equipment without the communicating technology.

    Rather than relying on the circuit board in the thermostat, the communicating technology circuit board is securely installed in the indoor unit of the energy-efficient heating and cooling system. It uses a smart algorithm to gather HVAC system performance data to automatically make adjustments that may reduce the amount of energy used to heat or cool your home. It moves the required technology from the thermostat to the HVAC equipment. 

    This technology is designed to create an intelligent indoor comfort system capable of customizing its own energy-efficient performance. Upon installation, it receives a simple signal from the thermostat and intelligently distributes operational messages between the indoor and outdoor components of a central heating and cooling system.

    More Thermostat Choices

    With this intelligent HVAC technology added directly to the indoor equipment, you may find that you have many thermostat options to choose from. Since the technology works with any single-stage thermostat, you can even keep your current one. The choice is yours! And, once you set your desired indoor temperature, your home’s heating and cooling system will make the adjustments to ensure top performance. 

    If you are replacing your current HVAC equipment or merely the thermostat, it is best to seek the guidance of a licensed professional HVAC dealer. 

    Heating and Cooling Technology

     
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  • Benefits of Financing HVAC Systems

    Benefits of HVAC Financing

    Eventually, your central heating and cooling system will need to be replaced. However, when that time comes, your savings may not be ready! What if you could tailor your indoor comfort purchase to your monthly household budget and energy efficiency needs at the same time? That is where financing can help keep you and your wallet comfortable!

    Why Finance Heating or Cooling Equipment?

     

    HVAC financing helps spread the cost of new equipment over a predetermined amount of time. Why dip into savings you may have earmarked for another purpose, add to an existing credit card balance or even consider a home equity line of credit when you have another option? 

    HVAC financing allows you to overcome the cash anxiety that often comes with upgrading or replacing your indoor comfort equipment. By financing your new purchase, you can break up payments into monthly installments, leaving your cash available for something you cannot finance. 

    As with any purchase spread out over time, it’s essential to review financing details to make sure you understand your financial responsibility. You should consider the interest rate, repayment terms and the “small print” in any potential financing contract.

    Smart Money Management

     

    Your HVAC buying decision should be based on long-term comfort and energy-efficiency. Enhanced energy savings can result in real, tangible returns when you invest in a high-efficiency system, especially when compared to your old unit or base-efficiency units.

    While your frugal urges may tempt you to opt for a minimum efficiency system, the least expensive option may not be the most cost-effective solution considering the long-lasting life cycle of a new, energy efficient system. New, high-efficient systems may offer reoccurring monthly savings on your utility bill and possibly increase the value of your home. The increase in the monthly financed payment may be realized in your energy bill. 

    A high-efficient system can also provide uncompromising indoor comfort throughout your home, allowing you to feel the difference compared to your old unit. Impactful innovations such as variable-speed fans, variable-speed compressor and heat exchanger technology have ushered in a new era of HVAC operation that enhances indoor comfort and performance.

    Moreover, HVAC financing can often cover the cost of an extended service plan. Extended service plans may minimize additional out of pocket maintenance or repair expenses that you may face during the term of the service plan.

    What Do I Need for HVAC Financing Approval?

     

    Depending on the local contractor’s financing company, amount financed or terms of service, you may need to provide personal information and be subject to a credit check. Ask the dealer to provide complete information before you make a final decision about HVAC financing. 


    “Each lender differs in what is required for loan approval,” says Erin McCollum, Director of Contractor Services for EGIA. According to McCollum, typical customers who are approved for an HVAC loan may have:

    • “Fair to excellent” credit profiles
    • Debt to income ratio under 50%
    • No recent history of bankruptcies

     

    Common Financing Terminology*

     

    • APR (Annual Percentage Rate) - The interest charged on the loan
    • Debt to Income Ratio - The amount of a borrower's debt divided by their income
    • Equal Monthly Payments at 0% APR - A loan that is paid in equal monthly payments over a specific term with an APR of 0%
    • Fixed Interest Rate - A fixed percentage of interest that is paid over the loan term
    • Interest - Payment for the use of money over time or the amount a borrower pays to borrow money from the lender
    • No Interest, No Payment Loan - A loan in which no payments need to be made within a specific promotional time period.  If the balance is not paid at the end of the promotion period, the borrower usually pays off the interest from the loan start. 
    • Sub-Prime Loan - A loan given to a borrower who does not meet the credit requirements for a typical loan.  Sub-prime loans have higher interest rates because they finance borrowers who may have a poor credit history, low income, and high debt to income ratios
    • Term - The time length the loan will run 
    • Unsecured Loan - A loan that is given and based on a borrower's credit instead of collateral

     

    * Terminology was provided by the Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA), a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing energy-efficiency and renewable energy solutions through the home improvement and renewable energy industries.

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  • Air Conditioner Features that May Save You Money

    AC Feature to Save Money

    The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has predicted that residential electricity costs will continue to rise into 2018.1 This is not the best news for homeowners who have enjoyed lower electricity prices for the past few years - especially for those with older, substandard efficiency air conditioning systems! 

    Just ten years ago, the average U.S. residential electricity price was approximately 11.07¢ per kilowatt-hour*. The EIA forecasts the July 2018 price to be near 13.33¢ per kilowatt-hour* – that’s over a 20% increase in 10 years.1

    However, there is good news too! If you are in the market for a new air conditioner, there are energy-efficient systems with advanced features that can help reduce electricity bills and improve indoor comfort.

    Residential Electricity Prices EIA

    Increased Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

     

    To understand the energy-efficiency of an air conditioning system, you need to understand Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER. This number measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use. Currently, the minimum U.S. SEER rating required for central air conditioners is 14 in the South and Southwest regions and 13 in the North.

    If your air conditioning system was installed before 2006, it could have SEER ratings of 10 or less. A new, higher efficiency air conditioner may be able to save you on energy costs when compared to a lower SEER unit.

    The higher the SEER rating, the less energy an air conditioning unit will use to operate.

    When researching high-efficiency air conditioners with a high SEER number, you may find that these specific units include additional features that provide premium cooling performance and money-saving operation.

     

    Two-Stage and Variable Speed Cooling

     

    Certain high-efficiency air conditioners use two-stage or variable speed technology that offers part-load efficiency. The ability to match operational speeds to cooling needs allows a unit to adapt to the particular load requirements in an energy-efficient manner.  

    If you lower your thermostat or control system more than a few degrees, your air conditioner’s compressor and circulating fan will operate at 100% cooling capacity to reach the desired temperature. If your air conditioner only needs to maintain the set temperature, it may not need to run at 100%! This is where two-stage or variable speed technology comes in! A low-stage demand from the thermostat can result in up to 35% speed reductions at both the compressor and indoor unit circulating fan. Two-stage cooling may result in extended operation at a low speed, providing improved indoor comfort, and using less electricity than single-stage systems. 

    Variable-speed cooling is driven by a variable-speed compressor that can adjust output to match the load requirement. This type of compressor provides premium cooling performance which can result in lower energy bills when compared to a single-stage compressor. Because the unit does not have to start and stop as frequently, it uses less energy than a standard AC would use.

     

    Let’s Review

     

    Despite the increase in electricity costs, it may be possible to save energy while cooling your indoor spaces. Yet, a high-efficient air conditioner with advanced technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence cooling efficiency levels include, but are not limited to:

    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • AC installation and maintenance
    • Insulation and construction methods
    • Windows and doors

     

    If you want to trim costs associated with indoor cooling, talk to your local professional or licensed HVAC dealer.


    1 Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from US Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/electricity.cfm


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  • Should I Repair or Replace my Air Conditioner?

    Repair or Replace my AC

    When your front door welcome mat is unwelcoming, or your coffee maker isn’t brewing, homeowners often replace them.  But as the price tag of “comfort of home” items increases, you may be left to wonder — should I repair to prolong use for an undetermined amount of time or replace it with a newer model. 

    The time may come when you need to decide whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, and the decision may not be an easy one. Unless your air conditioner is damaged beyond repair, there are no hard rules for determining whether to replace or repair your system. However, below are a few concepts that may help guide your decision:

    The “Seasoned” Air Conditioner


    Even with the dedicated maintenance efforts of a highly-skilled HVAC contractor, an aging air conditioner may start to show its age. If your unit is nearing its life expectancy, you may consider a replacement as an alternative to costly repairs.

    According to the Department of Energy, many older residential air conditioning systems in the U.S. have SEER ratings of 10 or less.1 Currently, the required minimum SEER rating of a residential air conditioning system differs by region but ranges from 13 SEER to 14 SEER. Standards dictate that higher SEER air conditioning units are more energy-efficient than lower SEER units when operating in similar conditions.

    SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit in typical day-to-day use.


    “Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning up to 50%.”2 Based on this logic, if your aging unit is a low SEER model that requires significant repairs, it may be beneficial for a homeowner to replace it with a more energy-efficient one.

    However, age isn’t the only factor when considering repairing or replacing your air condition unit.

    Cost and Budget


    Air conditioner repairs come in all sizes, shapes, and price tags! Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the expectations of the homeowner, their budget and the actual AC unit. If there is a repair-replace question, your local HVAC technician can supply an estimate of repair cost and equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit. 

    If your air conditioner is repairable, homeowners should decide their budget and set a repair cost cutoff amount. What is the price of a repair before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system? If your HVAC contractor provides repair estimates that come close to your predetermined budget threshold, it may be best to start researching new air conditioner models.

    Your HVAC technician can give you guidance based on your particular budget and the details of your air conditioner’s status. The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency air condition system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  On the contrary, if your air conditioner’s peak efficiency can be restored with an easy, inexpensive fix, a repair may be the best approach. 

    Indoor Comfort


    Are your indoor cooling needs are being addressed by your current unit? You may ask yourself: 

    • Is the AC cooling my house as I expect it should?
    • Is my air conditioner unit loud?
    • Do I notice inconsistent temperatures and fluctuations in my home?
    • Why are my energy bills higher than my neighbor’s house with the similar square footage?

    If you have indoor cooling concerns, discuss them with your HVAC technician before you decide to replace your current system. Based on your concerns, your HVAC technician may check for large air leaks, insufficient ducting and/or breaks in the duct seals. There are times when the actual source of a cooling problem is not the HVAC unit, but ineffective components of the system.3

    Cooling Technology


    Innovative technology is changing the way we live, and air conditioner manufacturers are taking note by applying advanced mechanics to their products to increase comfort. Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication may provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, sound reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current model.

    However, if you want your air conditioner to work the way it’s intended to, air conditioner repairs and annual maintenance may help you get the most miles out of your current unit. 

    Save Green


    Despite SEER rating, if your air condition system is not running at peak performance, you may be spending more money on utility bills than necessary. According to the University of Kentucky Biosystems Engineering’s Builders Guide, a poorly functioning high-efficiency system may cost more to operate than a well-designed, moderate efficiency unit.4  Keeping your system at peak performance and running as intended can be financially beneficial! 

    However, if your HVAC technician reveals that the SEER of your air condition unit may be the primary culprit of your high utility bills, you should research the cost/benefits of a installing a higher SEER replacement unit. Under the same cooling conditions, a 10 SEER unit will be more expensive to do the same workload as a 14 SEER unit.

    Length of Home Ownership


    How long do you plan to live in your current house? Typically, the longer you reside at your current location, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency air conditioning unit. When evaluating your AC repair or replace decision, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership by asking themselves the following questions:

    • Are you living in your “forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle? (Getting married, having children, etc.)
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?
    • In how many years do you plan to sell your home?
    • Will a new energy-efficient air condition help sell your home if necessary?

    While there are a lot of variables to examine when determining whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, the best source of information can come from your licensed professional HVAC dealer.  These local professionals understand the details associated with your particular system and are the most qualified to provide repair or replace guidance.  

    Home comfort with Amana brand


    1 Central Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: https://energy.gov/energysaver/central-air-conditioning 
    2 Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://www.energy.gov/energysaver/air-conditioning
    3 Heat & Cool Efficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac
    4 University of Kentucky. "Builders' Guide." Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (n.d.): 115.

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  • What is SEER and Cooling Efficiency

    A3_energy-efficient

    In 2006, the average retail price for electricity was 10.40¢ per Kilowatt hour.1  By May 2018, that price increased to 13.15¢ per Kilowatt hour.2 That's a 26.44% increase in your electricity costs!

    With rates rising, how can you stay cool and comfortable in your home and spend less on utility costs? Your answer may rest with new, energy-efficient HVAC equipment and its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER.

    Air conditioners and heat pumps are assigned a SEER rating related to the unit’s energy efficiency and performance for cooling.  But what exactly is SEER, and why should it matter to you?

    What is SEER?


    SEER measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use. The higher the SEER rating, the less energy your air conditioner or heat pump will use.

    The good news for homeowners in the market for a new air conditioner or heat pump is that current high-efficiency residential equipment can boast SEER ratings of 20 or higher. Higher SEER units typically cost less to run, which can save homeowners money on utility costs.

    Before the SEER rating was adopted, cooling equipment was rated based on how much energy was used while running at full capacity in a controlled environment.  The method was similar to calculating the average fuel efficiency of driving a vehicle 100 mph on rollers in a climate-controlled lab. The test results would not be an accurate measurement of the vehicle’s typical efficiency.

    As a result, the SEER rating was developed in order to provide consumers with a more accurate representation of the typical energy use of an air conditioning unit or heat pump in cooling mode. The SEER rating takes into account a number of important factors:

    • Climate zones
    • Part-load efficiency
    • Energy consumption in standby mode
    • Varying load requirements


    Cooling Efficiency Standards


    Residential cooling systems installed prior to 2005, when electricity averaged 9.45¢ per Kilowatt hour1, may have significantly lower SEER ratings than the current standard. As heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technologies improve, cooling systems are becoming more energy-efficient.

    As efficiency improves, it uses less energy to operate which may reduce your energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sets energy efficiency requirements for air conditioners, heat pumps, and other HVAC equipment.

    In a nationwide effort to promote energy savings that benefit the consumer, in 2006 the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement from 10 SEER to 13 SEER. If your air conditioner or heat pump was installed in 2005, there is a good chance that it’s a 10 SEER unit.

    In 2015, the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement again for central air conditioners and heat pumps installed in certain regions of the U.S. 3   The minimum SEER rating for central air conditioners is currently 14 in the South and Southwest regions of the U.S., and 13 in the North. Heat pumps have a national standard, with a minimum of 14 SEER.

    What’s Right for You?


    Your home’s cooling costs are impacted by your local electricity rate, SEER and typical usage. While some cooling systems are only used in warmer months, others may run nearly year-round. 

    If you live in a high-use location, you may want to consider an air conditioning or heat pump with a higher SEER rating to save even more on energy costs. However, if you live in a more temperate area where you go much of the year without the need for indoor cooling, a minimum SEER rating may make the most financial sense. 

    To learn how to reduce your energy costs and which Amana® brand’s high SEER products is right for you, speak with an independent Amana dealer in your area.


    Cost Saving Legacy of Amana brand


    1 U.S. EIA. (2017, May). Monthly Energy Review, Average Retail Prices of Electricity. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec9_11.pdf
    2 US Energy Information Administration. (2018). Monthly Electric Power Industry Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
    3 Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. (n.d.). Retrieved from Appliance Standards Awareness Project: http://www.appliance-standards.org/product/central-air-conditioners-and-heat-pumps

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  • Answers to Your Most Common HVAC Questions

    Common HVAC questions and answers

    If you have a central heating and cooling system in your home, the following three questions have likely crossed your mind.

    1. How much is this going to cost me?
    2. Should I repair or replace my HVAC equipment?
    3. How can I save money on my utility bills?

    An air conditioner, heat pump or a gas furnace should be considered a quality of life investment for your home and family. Just imagine how different your life would be without the benefits of modern conveniences. So naturally, you will have some questions when the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) expert arrives at your home.

     

    How much is this going to cost me?

     

    The thought of unknown and unplanned HVAC costs can be a stressful. Service call rates, labor fees, replacement parts and entire systems have a wide range of costs, making it difficult to budget for your HVAC technician’s arrival. To add to that, every home set up and homeowner expectations are different. While costs are specific to your local HVAC dealer and customized to your system needs, charges can be broken down into the following three categories:

    • System Maintenance: Many HVAC technicians offer a flat rate for heating and cooling system maintenance. However, your maintenance costs may depend on the HVAC company you choose, the number of cooling and heating units in your home, and your location.  

      If you have a maintenance service contract, your maintenance visit may be set at a pre-determined, discounted rate. You can find maintenance plans for as little as $100, but you should compare companies, coverages and included services to determine which plan is right for you.1

      While you may want to forgo routine HVAC maintenance to save a few dollars, preventive maintenance on your heating and cooling system may prevent minor issues from turning into expensive, major problems over time and could maximize the lifecycle of your heating or cooling unit.2 According to the experts, the cost of HVAC maintenance is worth the money.3 

    • Repair: The cost to repair your heating or cooling system has lots of potential variables. The final cost may include the service call fee, the labor required to make the repair, and the specific replacement parts required for your system. If you request a service call outside regular working hours, labor fees may be more expensive than during normal business hours. The cost for HVAC repairs can vary just as much as car repairs — ranging from less than $100 to a few thousand dollars depending on the work required.

      If you are looking at a costly repair, you should consider getting multiple quotes. You want to get the job done right without being overcharged so be sure to hire the right HVAC dealer! Hiring the wrong company may lead to many long-term consequences including multiple follow up repairs, lackluster energy efficiency, increased utility bills, and compromised indoor comfort.

    • Replacement: There are multiple considerations that go into the cost of installing a new energy efficient heating or cooling system in your home. The following are just a few of the factors that may impact the price of your new heating or cooling system.
    • Your home: You home’s square footage and construction impact the size and required capacity of your heating and cooling system. Typically, larger capacity or tonnage units are more expensive than smaller capacity or tonnage units.
    • Complexity of installation: The more complex the installation, the more it may cost for labor and additional parts.
    • Location, location, location: Every location has cost-of-living variables, supply/demand characteristics, and site-specific regulations. Your home’s location may impact the cost of housing-related products, including new heating and cooling equipment.
    • System features: Some high-efficiency features may cost more upfront, but they are designed and engineered to impact the overall efficiency of the system for years and years.
    • Additional parts: For a new unit to be installed in your home according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, the set-up or configuration modifications may require additional parts.

     

    Should I repair or replace my HVAC equipment?

     

    Despite efforts to prolong the life of your heating or cooling equipment, there may come a time when it is better to replace it rather than repair it. Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician may provide you with a repair estimate, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit. Below are a few factors that may help you to determine if it’s time to replace your old heating or cooling system.

    • Lifespan of equipment: Discuss the typical lifespan of your heating or cooling equipment with your HVAC technician.  Lifespans vary and may depend on usage, maintenance, installation and system set-up.
    • Continuous or costly repairs: How expensive does a repair need to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system? As the homeowner, you need to make that determination.
    • Lackluster energy efficiency and operational cost: If your HVAC equipment has a low-efficiency rating, it may be cost-effective to replace it with a more energy-efficient model. The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.
    • Indoor comfort level:  Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication may provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current model.
    • Length of home ownership:  You should evaluate how long you plan to live in your current home. Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency heating or cooling system unit.

     

    How can I save money on my utility bills?

     

    The more electricity or fuel your household uses, the higher your utility bill will be. One way to reduce the amount of energy that your home uses is to increase the energy-efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Today’s HVAC systems are designed to offer a range of energy-efficient features that may help you save on your utility bill. 

    • Gas Furnace:  A gas furnace can offer an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used for heating your home. The minimum efficiency standard for furnaces using natural gas is currently 80%  AFUE.
    • Heat pump in heating mode: Some heat pumps offer Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) of 9 or higher, which may provide significant energy efficiency and savings on monthly heating bills when compared to a lower HSPF model operating under the same conditions. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is currently 8.2 HSPF. 
    • Air conditioner or heat pump in cooling mode: It’s increasingly common to see residential HVAC cooling equipment being installed with up to 18 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The minimum efficiency standard for split system air conditioners is currently 13 SEER in northern states and 14 SEER in southern states. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is 14 SEER.

    High-efficient HVAC equipment with innovative technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence heating and cooling efficiency performance includes, but are not limited to:

    • Routine air filter replacements
    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • Installation and maintenance schedule
    • Insulation and construction methods
    • Windows and doors
    • Programmable thermostats

     

    If you are curious how your indoor heating and cooling equipment may be affecting your monthly utility bill or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your local professional licensed HVAC dealer.

    Find an Amana brand Dealer

    1 Consumer Checkbook. Are HVAC Services Contracts Worth It? November 2016. https://www.checkbook.org/national/air-conditioning-and-heating-contractors/articles/Are-HVAC-Service-Contracts-Worth-It-2909. 22 August 2017.
    2 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d. <http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner>.
    3 Energy Star. Maintenance Checklist. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_maintenance. 22 August 2017.

     
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  • Should I Repair or Replace my Gas Furnace?

    A4_repair_replace_gas

    Is your current furnace keeping up the indoor temperature when the outdoor temperatures are falling? Do you find yourself snuggled under blankets to keep warm in your home?  If you are not getting the results you expect from your gas furnace, you may want to have a discussion with your independent HVAC contractor on whether to repair or replace your gas furnace.

    Whether your furnace is in need of repairs or you are just looking to increase the energy-efficiency of heating your home, the repair or replace decision may not be an easy one! Unless your furnace is a hazard or damaged beyond repair, there are hardly any specific rules for determining whether it’s time to repair or replace your gas furnace. However, below are a few concepts that may help.

    Is Your Gas Furnace Acting its Age?

    According to Energystar, your older heating system may be less efficient and have an AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating less than 70%.1 New energy-efficient furnaces are now required to have a minimum of 80% AFUE, meaning more energy is converted into usable heat – potentially helping to lower the cost of your monthly energy bills.

    As a furnace ages, it may require more than average repairs or maintenance service. The estimated cost to keep the furnace running, as provided by your local HVAC dealer, will give you more concrete reasons to replace or repair.  However, age isn’t everything.

    Repair vs. Replacement Cost

     

    Homeowners should decide a limit for the cost of repairs. How expensive does a furnace repair need to be before you decide to replace it?    At some point the cost of repairing a gas furnace could be more expensive than replacing it. A good reference point could be when the cost to repair a gas furnace is roughly 50% of the cost of a new gas furnace.  This is offered as an illustrative example. You should confirm it with your local HVAC dealer.

    For example, if your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that is not covered by a limited warranty, the equipment replacement in addition to labor costs may exceed up to the 50% threshold.  At that point, it may be time to replace. Additionally, the long-term energy bill savings of purchasing a high-efficient furnace may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  On the contrary, if the problem is an inexpensive fix that restores peak efficiency, a repair may be the best approach.

    To get a more specific, cost vs. benefit assessment, a homeowner should discuss repair vs. replace cost benefit with their licensed gas furnace dealer.

    What’s your AFUE?

    Today’s systems can have an AFUE as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used for heating your home. An 80% AFUE gas furnace means that 80 cents of every energy dollar warms your home.1

    Energy efficiency standards vary by region. To determine the minimum energy efficiency standard where you live, check with your local gas furnace dealer. 

    Technology and Temperature Consistency

    For some homeowners, their older gas furnace operates in either 100% ON or OFF. Historically, when the indoor temperature falls, the furnace kicks on at full capacity until the desired temperature is reached. This ON/OFF cycle means that the indoor temperatures may fluctuate as the system turns cycles. 

    Advanced technology enables your gas furnace to reduce temperature swings while quietly running more efficiently. For example, a furnace with a variable speed indoor blower motor can operate at different capacities to more accurately control the heated air flow to your home. This energy-saving feature can save you money on utility bills compared to single stage furnaces because the system doesn’t have to run at full capacity to reach the set temperature. 

    Duration of Home Ownership

    Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new gas furnace. When determining to repair or replace your current unit, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership by asking themselves the following questions:

    • Are you living in your forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle? (getting married, having children, etc.)
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?
    • In how many years to you plan to sell your home?

    While there are many of variables to examine when determining whether to repair or replace your furnace, the best source of information can come from your licensed professional HVAC contractor.  Because these local professionals can evaluate the details associated with your particular heating system, they are the most qualified to provide repair or replace guidance.  


    cta_1

    1 Furnaces. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/furnaces
    2 Should you repair or replace that product? (2014, January). Retrieved from Consumer Reports: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/02/repair-or-replace/index.htm?loginMethod=auto

     
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  • The Forced-Air, High-Efficiency Gas Furnace

    A5_forced_air

    When the outdoor temperatures drop, you want a home that is cozy and comfortable inside! Yet, if you are like most people, you also want an energy-efficient heating option that can provide long-term energy bill savings! Forced-air gas furnaces are available in high-efficiency options that may provide the efficiency and savings that you are looking for from your central heating system.

    What is a Forced-Air Gas Heating System?

    A forced-air gas heating system uses natural gas or propane as its energy source to heat your home’s indoor air:

    • If your home is heated by a forced-air gas furnace system, your equipment may be located in the basement, attic, crawl space or utility closet. 
    • Natural gas or propane is used to create heat within the furnace’s heat exchanger. 
      Air from the home's ductwork is blown over the heat exchanger, warming the air as it moves across.
    • The furnace's blower then forces the heated air into the supply ductwork, distributing it throughout the home.


    Factors of Efficiency


    Each gas furnace model has an energy efficiency rating in the form of a percent. This number is its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), or the ratio of annual heat output of the furnace compared to the amount of annual fuel energy it consumes. 

    For example, if a furnace has an AFUE of 80%, it means 80% of the energy in the fossil fuel is being converted to heat while 20% escapes and is wasted.1 Today’s high-efficiency systems can have an AFUE as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used for heating your home. 

    A furnace with a variable speed indoor blower motor can operate at different capacities to more accurately control the heated air flow to your home. This energy-saving feature may save you money on utility bills compared to single-stage furnaces because the system doesn’t have to run at full capacity to reach the set temperature.

    How Can AFUE Save on Energy Costs?


    Many older furnaces may have efficiencies of less than 70% AFUE, which can cost the homeowner more to heat their home compared to a higher AFUE model.1 Switching to a newer, more energy-efficient gas furnace that can reach upwards of 98% AFUE means nearly all of the energy from the fuel is effectively used to heat the home.1 As a result, the homeowner’s monthly heating bills can be reduced. 

    Current energy efficiency standards vary by region. To determine your minimum standard, check with your local, licensed professional HVAC dealer.

    Types of Gas Furnaces


    The gas furnaces available in North America can be put into two categories based on specific venting parameters: condensing and non-condensing. 

    • Non-Condensing Gas Furnace: A mid-efficiency furnace (80% and 90% AFUE) vents exhaust gases out of the home, typically through the roof. 
    • Condensing Gas Furnace:  A high-efficiency furnace (90% AFUE or higher) utilizes a second heat exchanger to heat the air from condensed exhaust gases in order to reach higher efficiencies. A high-efficiency condensing furnace requires specialized venting.

    Homeowners can also install a system with a modulating feature. A modulating gas furnace continuously regulates the amount of fuel burned to maintain the set temperature of your thermostat. This modulating component may minimize indoor temperature fluctuations.

    Choosing a Furnace


    The initial cost of a high-efficiency condensing furnace may be more expensive than a less efficient model. According to The Department of Energy, homeowners will likely save more money on fuel bills over the life of a higher AFUE product when compared to a lower AFUE or less efficient gas furnace.1 However, when determining if a higher-efficiency furnace is cost-effective for your budget, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership to determine how long it would take to recuperate initial costs of a higher AFUE gas furnace. Some questions to consider are:

    • Are you currently in your “forever home”?
    • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle?
    • Do you plan to sell your home in the near future?
    • Would a job change force you to relocate?

    A licensed professional gas furnace dealer can assist you in determining whether a higher efficiency gas furnace or a mid-efficiency model is right for your needs.

     

    By Jen (Anesi) Roby, the former Legislative Editor at ACHR NEWS magazine and current Chief Editor for Plumbing & Mechanical. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR) NEWS is the HVACR contractor’s weekly news magazine and is the industry’s most trusted and utilized direct communications link to the HVACR buyer. www.achrnews.com

    Amana brand Gas Furnace

    1 Furnace and Boilers. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://energy.gov/energysaver/furnaces-and-boilers

     
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