Whether you are staying cool during summer or nice and toasty warm during the winter months, most people have a set it and forget it mentality when it comes to air conditioners with no regard to air conditioner efficiency. An HVAC energy efficiency report by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources states that typical building uses up to 35% of total energy just for the HVAC system. Some reports claim that energy use for a typical air conditioner system could be as high as 50% of total usage. The kicker here is that a percentage of that energy usage is due to inefficient systems.
So why all the wasted energy? And what can be done to stay cool (or warm) and increase HVAC efficiency? Staugnews.com has a story by Tamara Perreault and Keith Heyde which offers some enlightening details:
“A large proportion of this energy goes into the actual act of heating the furnace or spinning the fans. However, an unfortunately large amount of electricity also goes into overcoming the inefficiencies with our HVAC systems. Leaky ducts, bleeding pipes, and poorly insulated systems all create extraordinary inefficiencies that most people decide to overcome by simply ‘pushing harder.’”
So how do I know if my HVAC system is working a little harder than it has to?
The best thing to do is find a local HVAC engineer to do an energy audit. Start calling around and you should be able to locate an a/c company to come out and do an audit. Some audits are free. Be aware that most companies will be attempting to sell you upgrades to your existing system. You may want to have more than one opinion before purchasing new, expensive HVAC upgrades when a repair or adjustment might do the trick.
Here’s an interesting testimonial from the FAI Mechanical Contractors page on energy audits:
“In August of 2009 FOPAC, which operates the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden, replaced its 47 year old oil-fired boiler with two Buderus gas boilers. Heating costs decreased dramatically: in FY07 the heating costs totaled $8,916 and in FY09 the heating costs peaked at $13,464. For FY10, after the new boilers were installed, the annual heating cost dropped to $6442. This year’s heating bill through February is $5243.”
Now, you may not get savings like these, especially if you are upgrading a residential system, but it certainly makes that free energy audit a little more enticing.
How much will an upgrade cost?
If your air conditioner is newer you won’t need replacement, but it is still good to know if your system is operating at peak efficiency. If you’ve got an older a/c system, then your options will range from minor upgrades to the existing system to replacing the current system with a better or high efficiency air conditioning system.
Again Tamara Perreault and Keith Heyde weigh in:
“Of course, improvements will cost money up front. However, with assistance from rebates, incentives, and even occasional tax credits, most of the initial cost can be defrayed. Your improved system will save you much more than you spent on the improvements. A little work can recover up to 85% of your system’s energy waste. This saves anywhere from 4-12% of your total energy bill.”
If you haven’t had your HVAC system checked within the last few years, get a free audit. Even if you don’t make an upgrade now, at least you know if your air conditioner is working at optimal efficiency.