Replacing Your HVAC System?

By Abigail Daken

Several of my coworkers have asked me for tips when they are thinking of replacing their HVAC (heating, cooling and air conditioning) system. Each situation is different, and it can be challenge to think about the best and least costly ways of saving energy. Still, there are some tips that I find apply in almost every instance:

  1. Find a good contractor. Keep in mind that the lowest bidder or a poor installation job could cost you money over time. Look for recommendations from sources of consumer advice in your area.  EPA’s ENERGY STAR has some good tips for hiring a contractor.
  2. Use EPA’s handy checklist to compare bids from several contractors.
  3. Once you pick a contractor, ask them how you can lower your energy bills. Your contractor should evaluate your home to determine your needs and diagnose any current efficiency or comfort problems. Make sure they check to see if you can get a smaller system than your old one since many existing systems are too large for the homes they are in.
  4. Whatever type of system you get, consider ENERGY STAR equipment—in most climates these systems will save you money in the long run even if it might cost more up front. The type of system that is right for your home will depend on a lot of factors. If you have a tall, skinny space like a townhouse, or rooms that are rarely used, consider zoning. If you have electric resistance heat, a heat pump will almost certainly save you money.
  5. Set up a service contract after your new equipment is installed. A new HVAC system is an expensive investment, like a car, and about a third of your annual energy bills depend on how well it’s working.  Like a car, it needs maintenance to stay efficient.
  6. While you are at it…..A major system replacement is a good time to check that your walls and ceiling are well sealed and insulated, and your ducts aren’t leaking into your attic or garage. Many utilities and state energy offices even have programs to help you do so. The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR website has lots of great tips, too.

About the author: Abigail Daken has worked at the EPA since 2008.  She manages setting requirements for ENERGY STAR heating and cooling products, as well as water heaters and dehumidifiers. In her off time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

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