Category Archives: Energy Savings

Installing a New System? Take Advantage of Those Tax Credits in 2014!

tax-5January isn’t just the start of a new year – it’s also the start of tax season. While tax season fills some of us with excitement (who doesn’t love refunds?) and others with dread of all the paperwork, it helps to keep on top of new measures and tax credit programs that may help you save money when you file. Here at Home Comfort, we love to help our customers save money, and we’re here to keep you informed whenever we hear about new measures and changes to tax credit programs that apply to energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

First, the bad news: the federal Department of Energy (DOE) has some incentive programs that have changed with the start of the new year. Homeowners should take note that the Residential Energy Efficiency tax credit expired on January 1st, 2014. Homeowners had previously been able to claim a tax credit of up to $500 for installing qualifying energy efficient equipment, which included energy efficient furnaces, ductless heat pumps, water heaters, insulation materials, and windows.

If the expiration of this credit put a damper on your plans to upgrade your heating and cooling equipment this year, don’t give up yet! There are still lots of incentives available for Oregon homeowners who wish to purchase a more efficient HVAC system in 2014. The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) recently released their new tax credit rates on energy efficient heating and cooling equipment for the new year, and many of the systems that no longer qualify for the federal credit are still available at the state level. Check out this chart outlining the new rates here – with the installation of the right equipment, you can see some serious savings down the road!

And don’t forget that there are still some tax credits available at the federal level, even if you can’t claim it for all forms of HVAC equipment. The DOE’s Residential Renewable Energy tax credit program is still in effect this year, and you can take advantage of this credit if you install equipment powered by renewable energy sources, such as geothermal heat pump systems and solar water heaters. This incentive allows you to claim a credit worth up to 30% of the cost of the project, and remains in effect through December 31st, 2016. Geothermal systems tend to cost more than traditional HVAC systems, but the long term energy savings are significant, and with another three years to claim the credit, you still have plenty of time to decide if a renewable energy system is right for you!

Home Comfort is always keeping track of tax credit incentives for heating and cooling equipment. If you’re thinking of installing a new system, contact us and ask us what incentives are available. We’re here to help you get rewarded for going green!

Sources:

www.oregon.gov/energy

http://energy.gov/savings/residential-energy-efficiency-tax-credit

http://energy.gov/savings/residential-renewable-energy-tax-credit

Get Help Going Green! EWEB Offers Eugene Homeowners New Incentives

On October 17th, the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) had an exciting announcement for homeowners: for the rest of the 2013 heating season, they are offering rebate and loan programs for a variety of energy conservation projects! Among the programs that they offer, Home Comfort is particularly excited about the following programs that are available to Eugene homeowners once again:

Ducted Heat Pumps: If you’ve been looking to install a new ducted heat pump, EWEB can offer homeowners the choice of receiving a $500 rebate off the price of your new system, or the flexibility of a zero interest loan.  Manufactured homes can qualify for loans up to $7,000, while site-built homes may receive a loan up to $9,000!

Ductless Heat Pumps: The savings are just as good for ductless heat pump installations! The available rebate for a new ductless system is now $750.00; some homeowners may also qualify for the option of a zero-interest loan up to $4,000, with the possibility of additional funding (depending on how many indoor units your new ductless system requires).

Insulation: Along with heat pumps, EWEB’s Weatherization program has also returned! By upgrading your insulation, you can cut down on energy bills and take advantage of the option of a rebate or a loan. EWEB offers a rebate of $0.40 per square foot of upgraded insulation, which may cover up to 50% of the price of your project. And of course, they also offer generous zero-interest loans of up to $4,000 for single-family residences.

With the rollout of these new energy conservation programs, there are many opportunities for savings. Besides the financial assistance offered by these programs, many of these heating and cooling systems qualify for state and federal tax credits. And in addition to saving money on your energy bills, upgrading to a more efficient heating and cooling system and updating your insulation can add to the value of your home!

Remember, the project must be performed by a qualified participating contractor like Home Comfort to be eligible for funding from the program. For complete information on EWEB’s current energy conservation programs, please visit www.eweb.org/saveenergy/home.

Understanding HVAC Design: Manual J Load Calculations

blueprint

Installing a new HVAC system is a hefty investment; depending on the type of equipment you choose to have installed, as well as the size of your home, some new systems can cost as much as a brand new car or truck! With the price tag in mind, and the comfort of your home hanging in the balance, the overall design of your system can be just as important as the installation process itself. One particularly important component HVAC designers take into consideration is called a Manual J Load Calculation.

A home’s Manual J Load Calculation measures how much conditioned air each room of your home will need to maintain a consistent level of comfort during hotter and cooler periods of the year. It does this by taking into account a number of factors, including the size of the individual rooms, different types of surfaces, the location of your home’s duct system, and even the number of appliances in your home! Manual J Load Calculations help an HVAC designer determine how powerful your HVAC system needs to be to properly heat and cool your home.

Determining which system will have just the right amount of power to maintain the temperature in your home is important, mostly because of our human tendency to overestimate our energy needs. There are plenty of newer homes on the market that have an HVAC system that is simply too powerful for the size and layout of the building. In some cases an over-powered system can be just as bothersome as an under-powered system – over-powered systems may encounter a problem called “short-cycling,” which means that the system is so big that it can heat or cool your home too quickly, causing the system to turn on and off at a frequent rate. Short-cycling can waste energy, and in some cases can shorten the overall lifespan of your system, costing you even more on top of your initial investment. Determining your home’s heating and cooling needs with the Manual J Load Calculation is a smart way to help you choose an efficient and long-lasting system for your home.

Choosing an efficient HVAC system doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. Call Home Comfort today and our team of HVAC estimators and designers will help you make the most of your heating and cooling investment.

Works Cited:

http://www.energyvanguard.com/hvac-load-calculations/

Decoding HVAC Jargon: HSPF Ratings Explained

hspf

Welcome back to our series on common terms in the HVAC industry! Last week, we discussed the meaning and importance of SEER ratings. We mentioned that an air conditioner’s SEER rating is especially important for naturally hot climates like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. But if you live in a mild climate like states in the Northwest, you should know the meaning of an equally-important HVAC term: the “Heating Season Performance Factor,” otherwise known as a unit’s HSPF rating.

When it comes to weather, places like Western Oregon and Western Washington tend to sit right in the middle of things. This area’s periods of hot summer weather are less intense and usually won’t last as long as the Southwest’s, where air conditioning may even be needed year-round. And unlike the Midwest, whose winters last longer and are very cold, Northwest winters are relatively mild. This makes the Northwest an ideal location to install and utilize heat pumps, which perform heating and cooling operations within a single unit depending upon the demands of the weather.

That being said, cooler weather is definitely more prevalent in this area, which makes the HSPF rating potentially more important to consider than the unit’s SEER rating when shopping for a heat pump system. After all, if you expect your heat pump to be warming your home far more often than you expect it to be cooling your home, its HSPF rating could make a greater difference on your utility bills than the unit’s SEER rating.

HSPF is also more important than SEER in the Northwest if you plan on claiming tax credits for purchasing and installing a heat pump system in your home. Oregon’s residential energy tax credit applications for both ductless and traditional air-source heat pumps both currently require the system in question to have a minimum HSPF rating of at least 9.0. In contrast, neither of the applications have a minimum SEER requirement. In an area where summer seems to speed by in the blink of an eye, it’s easy to see why focusing on maximizing your system’s heating efficiency would lead to bigger energy savings.

For those who can’t or aren’t interested in claiming tax credits after purchasing a heat pump system, it’s still a good idea to take a look at the system’s HSPF ratings to anticipate how much energy it will use during heating season. Keep in mind that the lowest HSPF rating available on the market is 7.7, but that trusted HVAC sources like energyvanguard.com recommend buying a heat pump with an HSPF rating of 8.0 or higher if you anticipate your system operating in heating mode the majority of the time.

And of course, just like a professionally, properly installed air conditioner will typically perform truer to its advertized SEER rating, your heat pump is more likely to live up to its advertized HSPF rating if it’s installed by a trained and licensed mechanical contractor like Home Comfort. We’ll help you choose and install the perfect heat pump system for your home.

Energyvanguard.com, “Know Your Terms – Heat Pump Efficiency Ratings SEER & HSPF”Works Cited

www.oregon.gov, “Heat Pump Systems”

www.oregon.gov, “2013 Residential Energy Tax Credit Rates”

 

Decoding HVAC Jargon: SEER Ratings Demystified

Jackson-7.30.2013

Industry-specific jargon can be rampant in just about any field, and the heating and cooling industry is no exception. Here at Home Comfort, we sometimes even need to catch ourselves and make sure to explain when we tell friends we work within the HVAC industry; after all, not everyone will know off the top of their heads that “HVAC” is shorthand for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. For the next few weeks we’ll be decoding some much-used but infrequently-explained terms that you may hear in a discussion about heating and cooling technology.

When it comes to central air conditioning, one of the most common industry-specific terms you might see in an advertisement will be the unit’s “SEER” rating. It comes up in radio, television, and newspaper advertisements all the time – next to a splashy photo and company logo, you may see something like: “We have 20-SEER air conditioners in stock!” In addition, a savvy friend or neighbor may have told you that it’s not worth your while to buy an air conditioner with a SEER rating of anything less than 13. But what, exactly, does SEER stand for, and what do those numbers really mean? Gaining a greater understanding of SEER ratings and their applications can help you make a more informed decision the next time you go out to shop for a central air conditioning unit.

Let’s start with what the term “SEER” stands for. SEER is an acronym which stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio.” This term was defined and developed by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, an organization that sets the standards for the heating and cooling industry in the United States. SEER is a mathematical calculation that divides the unit’s entire cooling capacity during normal periods of operation by its entire electric energy input during the same period of time. Simply put, the higher a unit’s SEER rating is, the less electricity the system is using to keep you cool. And if the system is using less electricity to keep you cool, it usually means that the unit is more energy-efficient. A system’s SEER rating is especially important to families living in warmer climates, such as Arizona or Texas, where air conditioning season typically lasts much longer than other parts of the country.

If you’re going to use your knowledge of SEER ratings to your advantage, you should also know some industry and government standards. First, keep in mind that in 2006, the United States government issued a requirement that all air conditioning models manufactured from that point forward have a minimum SEER rating of 13. If you have a unit manufactured before 2006, there is a chance that its SEER rating may not be that high. And while a SEER rating of 13 meets government standards, an air conditioner cannot be labeled an ENERGY STAR® model unless it has a SEER rating of 14 or higher.

Finally, in order to make sure your central air conditioning unit is living up to its full SEER-rating potential, it is important to have a licensed and trained mechanical contractor help you select and install your new HVAC system. A mechanical contractor like Home Comfort will make sure that your air conditioner is matched with the right HVAC components and installed properly, so that you can be sure your air conditioner is operating as efficiently as the advertisements claim it to be.

Small Changes Can Lead to Big Savings: Cutting Down on Summer Water Use

sprinkler

Does your heart do a little somersault when you open your water bill after a long heat wave? Perhaps you’ve been feeling reluctant to fill up the plastic wading pool for your kids on a hot summer day; or maybe pranksters have been writing “wash me” in the dust on your car’s back window because you just can’t justify turning on the hose one more time this week.

In most parts of the U.S., there’s just no way around it. Between thirsty gardens, dusty cars, and a simultaneous desire to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors and avoid heat stroke, we use more water during the summer months than any other time of year. A lot more, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA estimates that during this peak water use season, a household’s daily water use can nearly quadruple in comparison to an average, off-season day. The good news is that there are plenty of measures you can take to reduce the amount of water you use in your home without sacrificing the beauty of your garden or the fun of an old-fashioned water balloon fight.

Start by assessing your outdoor water use. How frequently do you water your lawn and garden, and what time of day do you usually turn on the hose? Many people will water their lawns on a hot summer day as a preventative measure, even when the grass is at no risk of drying out – which can lead to hundreds of gallons of wasted water. To avoid watering your lawn unnecessarily, the EPA recommends trying the “Step on It” test. The test is easy – before you start to water your lawn, simply walk across the grass. If you see footprints in the grass when you’re finished, your lawn is thirsty and needs to be watered. But if the grass springs back into place, put down the hose – your lawn probably doesn’t need the extra water right now.

To conserve even more water when it comes to your garden, be deliberate about your watering schedule. Instead of watering your garden in the middle of the day, do your watering first thing in the morning or just before sunset. A lot of the water you generously pour on your grass and flowers can be lost to evaporation if it’s done during the hottest part of the day.

To reduce water waste inside your home, take a look around and make a list of plumbing components that need to be repaired or updated. Consider this – your toilet alone can waste around 200 gallons a day if it is operating with a leak! Call a trusted, licensed plumbing contractor like Home Comfort to fix any leaking pipes or fixtures.

If you think it’s time for your plumbing components to be updated, talk to a plumber about installing a WaterSense-labeled toilet or a low-flow showerhead. These components are easy to install, and can use less than half the amount of water older fixtures were designed to use. The initial investment to stop the leaks in your home and update your fixtures can lead to big savings down the road. With small changes in behavior, and an investment in your home’s plumbing, you can take charge of your summer water bill.

Works Cited:

http://www.epa.gov/watersense/our_water/summer2011.html

http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/indoor.html

 

Mitsubishi Electric’s Ads May be Playful, but Their Ductless Heat Pumps are Serious About Energy Savings

Recently Home Comfort has been featuring the following Mitsubishi Electric advertisement on our ductless mini-split webpage:

The advertisement, which has seen a lot of air time lately on national television networks, is playful in tone but makes a good point about the frustration that a lot of us face when periods of very hot and very cold weather force us to take a closer look at our thermostats. For many families, especially those with an older or inefficient system, a thermostat adjustment of just a couple degrees can translate to a noticeably higher utility bill at the end of the month.

Mini-split systems, or “ductless” heat pumps, have become the solution that a growing number of families are turning to when they make the decision to retrofit their existing heating and cooling system. When installed and used properly, ductless heat pumps can use between 25 to 50 percent less energy to operate than traditional systems, translating to lower energy bills and a higher level of comfort in summer and winter.¹ When your system operates more efficiently, suddenly a temperature adjustment of “only two degrees” doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

But ductless heat pumps aren’t just efficient; they’re convenient, too! Since no extra construction is needed to create or modify a network of air ducts, which can be quite expensive, this type of system is a good upgrade for homes that were originally built with a form of electric resistance heat, such as baseboard heaters, ceiling heat, or wall heaters.²

Home Comfort is listed as a Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Contractor, which means that our technicians and installation crews have undergone extensive training for the proper installation, repair, and maintenance of Mitsubishi’s ductless systems. More importantly, it also means we stand behind these units as our number one choice for ductless installations due to their efficiency and reliability.

And we’re not the only company or organization that is excited about the rise of ductless technology in the Northwest—for the last few years, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has been working with regional utilities on the Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Project, which has been campaigning for higher consumer awareness about this alternative heating and cooling system. The Ductless Heat Pump Project works to set interested homeowners up with the resources and incentive programs they need to install this efficient home comfort system.

If you think installing a ductless heat pump system is a good option for your family, check out their website to learn more. And look for Home Comfort on their list of contractors – we’re a participating Master Installer!

Sources:

¹ Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Project, “Frequently Asked Questions,” http://goingductless.com/consumer/about-ductless-heating-and-cooling/FAQ

² Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Project, “Where they are Used,”  http://goingductless.com/consumer/about-ductless-heating-and-cooling/where-used