The Four HVAC Terms You Need to Know Now

HVAC tech going over mold document with happy customers

We usually don’t spend too much time thinking about our AC systems.  We just want them – and expect them – to work.  And when the AC fails, we don’t think much about the replacement other than the fact that it needs to be replaced ASAP, and the fact that the cost involved wasn’t likely an expected expense. Five Good Reasons Why You Should Replace Your Old HVAC System in the Fall

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately three million HVAC units require repair or replacement each year, meaning homeowners will be faced with big ticket decisions that affect their indoor comfort and energy costs for the next 15 or so years.  But not all cold air is the same. Understanding the following four terms can help save money and increase your comfort level.

  1. SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is a measure of system efficiency, which translates to how much it costs to operate.  The higher the number, the more efficient the system.  A SEER rating of 16 or higher with stepped capacity modulation is considered high efficiency and could save you over $400 per year versus an older lower efficiency system.
  2. Variable Speed – modulated systems with variable speed compressors can continuously vary the amount of energy used as the demand for cooling goes up or down.  This helps keep temperatures stable throughout a cooling cycle.  These systems are much more energy efficient and also provide superior humidity control throughout the home, possibly saving you more than $800 per year over what you might be paying now to cool your home with an older model.
  3. Humidity – We hear the term all the time, but indoor humidity can cause many problems.  Too much humidity in the air causes you to feel warmer, meaning it costs you more to run your AC unit longer. By selecting a thermostat with a humidity control feature, this could save you up to $300 per year and will also increase comfort in the home if you live in a humid area of the country.
  4. Heat Pump – Heat pumpsystems have long been popular in warmer climates, butimprovements in technology and performance are making them increasingly viable options inmore northern climates.  A heat pump is an air conditioner that can also be used to warm a home in the winter.  A high-efficiency heat pump system – which moves heat into the home instead of generating heat — can be an incredibly efficient and cost-saving solution to replace conventional gas- or oil-burning furnaces, resulting in estimate annual savings of $700 versus what you might be paying today to heat with an older conventional furnace.
    How a Heat Pump Air Conditioner Works

Knowing these four terms can help save you hundreds on the cost of running your AC system. So, don’t wait! Start educating yourself now so that the next time you see your contractor, you know the right questions to ask. Don’t forget to check out some other helpful tips as you prepare your AC system for heating or cooling season:

Related podcast:
Common HVAC Terms


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5 thoughts on “The Four HVAC Terms You Need to Know Now

  1. My natural gas forced-air furnace is sharing a vent with my Kenwood Natural Gas electric starter water heater at a y joint up through the roof. Everyone says it’s illegal. Sears says it’s illegal and won’t touch it until I correct the venting. The man from Sears says I can cap off where the furnace joined the y joint and run the furnace venting horizontally in the garage ( where the furnace and heaters at of course ) through the wall so it vents outside if the house. The vent will exit outside about 8 ft up from the ground. So it will be above head if somes outside. Is this ok? Please help. Sincerely Michael, Stockton, CA.

    • Michael, up until the 1990’s it was common to vent both water heaters and furnaces through the same flue. However, the technology was different back then. Both furnaces and water heaters were much less efficient. Consequently, there was a lot of heat left over from the gas combustion. And it was simply vented outside by going up through the flue. They were also very hot – flues were typically double-walled sheet metal. It wasn’t a problem to have a furnace and water heater vented out the same flue because the hot gases quickly rose with little chance of back drafting into the home.

      Today, however, many furnaces are very efficient with some having an efficiency of 98%! Most of the heat from the gas combustion is transferred to your home leaving very little heat to go out the flue. These furnaces use common Schedule 40 PVC piping for the flue and are horizontally vented outside of the home. And, an important note, these furnaces also get their combustion air from outside the home also. These types of furnaces typically have two sets of pipes going outside – one for intake and one for the flue. It is not a not a good idea – and it’s against building codes – to vent a high efficiency furnace into the same flue as a water heater. There simply isn’t enough heat left over to prevent back drafting.

      The first question to ask is does your furnace have a pipe going outside to get the intake air for combustion? If it does, then you can safely vent it outside using PVC piping. Please keep in mind that there are building codes associated with proper venting that must be observed (e.g. spacing of intake & flue vents, intake hoods, etc). A properly licensed local HVAC contractor will be aware of the specific building codes for high efficiency furnace venting in Stockton, CA.

      Now if your furnace does not have piping for intake air, then it is likely a lower efficiency furnace. While it may be possible to vent it together with a water heater, it may be against your local building codes. Again, a properly licensed local HVAC contractor will be aware of the specific building codes for this.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Thank you! I’m glad that our site was able to offer helpful information for you and answered some of your questions about HVAC. We try hard to address common questions that will help readers understand all of the HVAC options available to them and we also encourage them to be actively engaged with their HVAC contractors throughout the process. Thanks for visiting our site!

  3. I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

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