Tag Archives: energy savings

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.

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

Replacing Your Water Heater? Let Us Help You!

Go ahead and fill up that tub! We'll help you find a water heater that's energy efficient and ready for a high-demand household!

Go ahead and fill up that tub! We’ll help you find a water heater that’s energy efficient and ready for a high-demand household!

Choosing the source of hot water in your home may seem simple, but there are many choices on the market thanks to advances in technology. Should you choose a conventional tank heater, or go with a tankless model? Is initial investment an important factor, or are you interested in a long-term savings strategy? Home Comfort sells and services water heaters regularly, so we are happy to share some of our strategies with you.

The most common water heating method on the market today is still the traditional storage tank-style water heater. In this type of water heater, the water stored in the tank is ready for use throughout the house, but will lose heat while sitting unused. Installation is cheap, but it typically uses more energy than other methods. In this case, installing a well-insulated tank can make a world of difference. When choosing a tank-style water heater, look for R12 through R15 insulation classifications.

If long-term energy savings is a priority, then a demand water heater, also known as a “tankless” water heater, is a better option. These models use the same energy sources as the storage tank heaters, but instead of storing hot water, they heat the water on demand and send it throughout the building. There is no energy being lost from a storage tank, but it also means that there can be a limit to the amount of water that can be used at once. Check out our website to learn more about our tankless water heater offerings, where you’ll find links to product specifications and available models.

Other types of efficient systems are available, such as solar or geothermal heating systems. Whatever method you choose, it is always important to choose an Energy Star-approved system and a licensed contractor like Home Comfort to install it.