Shopping for a New Home HVAC System – What’s Right for you?

HVAC professional talking to homeowner about HVAC system.

It’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed when looking for a new HVAC system for your home, especially with all the unfamiliar choices. To navigate this confusing time and help you select the right system for your lifestyle, we’ve outlined some tips, key terms and information to consider when upgrading your system.

Find a Quality Contractor.

Finding a licensed contractor that you trust can be difficult. They’re not all the same, and they definitely don’t all charge the same amount. But it’s good to remember that good work usually isn’t cheap, and cheap work usually isn’t good. If you compare multiple quotes and learn the specifics of what each contractor is proposing, you’ll be able to make the best decision to meet your goals.

Consider Home Size.

First and foremost, the size of the area that you need to heat or cool makes a big difference in what system you’ll need. This is an important decision to consult a professional on. If done incorrectly, you could face many years of inefficient heating and cooling and expensive utility bills. Ask your contractor to perform a Manual-J Heat Load Calculation. This is a complex equation that factors in multiple variables about your home to determine the correct amount of heating and cooling it needs.

Check Your Insulation.

Before diving into the decision-making process, take a close look at your windows, doors and insulation. Any place where air may be escaping or entering your home causes your system to work harder, thus raising your energy bills. Before investing in a new system, be sure to inspect and repair the windows, doors and insulation throughout your home.

Know Your HVAC System Options.

A central heating and air conditioning system is usually the preferred option, but is a central HVAC system viable for your current home and financial situation? If your home is very old, it may not have the ductwork required to run a new central HVAC system, and getting these ducts installed can be expensive. The good news is that if you decide to move forward with installing necessary ductwork, your home’s value will likely increase by greater than or equal to the amount you invest. Nevertheless, this isn’t always the right choice for every homeowner, and there are plenty of alternatives to consider, including mini-split systems, window units, and evaporative or “swamp” coolers.

Create a Comfortable Home.

Single-stage equipment operates on a standard on or off setting, while two-stage equipment operates on either medium or full capacity. With two-stage equipment, you receive the added benefits of reduced cycling and temperature swings, increasing comfort at a moderate price. There is also variable speed equipment, which closely matches the load requirement. While variable speed equipment may have a higher initial cost, operational efficiency and system protection are improved through advanced diagnostics. A properly installed unit will also properly dehumidify the air, creating a more comfortable home.

Lower Costs by Choosing Efficiency.

Since many systems are not replaced for more than 15 years, a new heating and air conditioning system will typically have lower operating costs than your current system. The efficiency of your system is an important factor in determining how costly your monthly bills will be, so be careful not to go with the absolute cheapest option in this department. In addition, if you decide on a high-efficiency system, you may be eligible for utility rebates.

There are many different efficiency ratings that affect your system, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them.

  • Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) measures gas furnace efficiency with 80 percent being the federal minimum.
  • Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) is for heat pump efficiency, and an 8.2 HSPF rating is the federal minimum for a traditional residential split unit system.
  • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is associated with air conditioner efficiency with 14 SEER being the federal minimum in most areas. While some areas only require 13 SEER. A higher SEER rating indicates a high operating efficiency, which is always a good thing. Higher SEER = lower operating costs.