Whether your energy-efficient HVAC system is up to par is important, as heating and cooling account for more than half the energy consumed in your home, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.¹ One of the best ways to improve efficiency is to schedule regular HVAC maintenance. But how do you know your HVAC unit is as efficient as the label says? To gauge how your system is working, we’ll explore how energy efficiency is measured, signs your AC/heater may not be as efficient, and how to make improvements.
How Energy Efficiency Is Measured
If you’re looking to figure out your energy costs, you can do the following:
- To calculate the energy cost of your HVAC system, use this formula: [Rated Power in Watts] x [Electricity Cost per Kilowatt-Hour / 1000] = Cost per Hour.
- To determine your cooling costs for the entire cooling season, add the number of hours the unit will run and multiply that by the Kilowatt-Hour cost.
However, energy efficiency can be determined by checking the equipment’s rating. An air conditioner’s or heat pump’s efficiency is measured via its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher its SEER number, the more efficient your AC is. To determine your system’s rating, check the label on the cabinet or in the user manual. A unit must have at least a 14.5 SEER to meet Energy Star requirements.
The efficiency of a gas furnace is measured using its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The higher the number, the more efficiently a heater burns fuel. Generally, any heater with a 90% AFUE is considered efficient. This means 90% of the fuel used is turned into heat. High-efficiency furnaces can have an AFUE above 95%.
But an HVAC unit’s efficiency is not constant. It will decline with age and if it’s not properly maintained.
Signs Your HVAC Unit Isn’t Efficient
An air conditioner’s or heater’s efficiency rating is determined by a laboratory. How it’s performing in your home may be a different story. A higher electric or gas bill is one of the most obvious signs your HVAC unit isn’t efficient, even if it seems to be working. Month-to-month fluctuations can be sudden or occur gradually over time.
If your utility bill is becoming less affordable, having a professional check your HVAC system is one way to save.
Other signs are more performance-related. For example, if your home is more humid, your energy-efficient HVAC system may not be up to par. Dirty coils, a clogged filter, or low refrigerant can affect an AC’s ability to remove moisture from the air. And if your system keeps breaking down, it probably isn’t running at peak efficiency. Therefore, you’re probably paying more for energy on top of expensive parts and labor.
Can I Bring My Energy-Efficient HVAC System Up to Par?
If you’re AC or furnace isn’t at peak efficiency, you can:
- Clean or Change Air Filters: A clogged filter will force your HVAC unit to work harder and use more energy to achieve/maintain the same temperature.
- Reset the Thermostat: Make sure your thermostat is set to maintain a reasonable comfort level but not cause your AC or heater to run more often.
- Install a Programmable or Smart Thermostat: It can help manage indoor climate and balance optimal comfort and energy efficiency.
- Seal Gaps Around Doors, Windows, and Walls: Sealing drafts can improve your system’s efficiency by preventing heated or cooled air from escaping.
- Seal and Insulate Ducts: A substantial amount of air can escape from leaky ducts and cause your HVAC to run inefficiently. Comfort and indoor air quality problems can result, especially if a duct in an attic, garage, crawlspace, or unfinished basement is leaking.
When to Call a Professional
Call for help if you believe an equipment issue or leaky duct is affecting your energy-efficient HVAC system. Adjustments, repairs, or a tune-up may resolve the problem. But if your system is old, requires expensive repairs, or was improperly sized, to begin with, HVAC replacement may be recommended. Higher-efficiency systems are available. They include variable-speed heating and cooling equipment that can adjust to demand and reduce energy consumption.
Contact Sky Heating & Air Conditioning
Our HVAC maintenance technicians can help your heating and cooling system run as efficiently as it’s designed to. We recommend annual tune-ups to improve system performance, reduce repair costs, and save energy. Maintenance is part of our Sky Signature Protection Plan, which provides you with scheduling reminders and discounts on repairs. To schedule maintenance in the Portland area to ensure your energy-efficient HVAC system is up to par, call (503) 744-6138 today.