The HVAC system is one of the most important parts of a home. This makes it important that you get the right system when installing cooling or heating in your house or replacing your existing HVAC. Although deciding which HVAC system will work best can be difficult, this guide will take you through the steps for finding the right system for your home.

Decide Which Type of HVAC System You Want

The first step is to determine what type of system you want to install. For central HVAC systems, this means choosing between a standard AC for central air conditioning, a furnace for central heating, or a heat pump system that provides both air conditioning and heating. If your home doesn’t have a ducted central HVAC system, you’ll want to choose a ductless mini-split system. A mini-split system can provide just air conditioning, or you can opt for a mini-split heat pump system that can provide heating as well.

For central air conditioning, we would almost always recommend opting for a heat pump instead of a traditional AC system. This is true even if you already have a working furnace. While a heat pump will cost you slightly more, it is almost always more than worth the higher price. A heat pump will cool your home just as effectively as any central AC while also having the advantage of being by far the most energy-efficient heating option.

Heat pump systems are typically at least two to three times more efficient than any type of furnace or any other electric heating option. In places like California where much of the electricity comes from renewable sources, a heat pump system is also by far the most environmentally friendly heating option. This is not only because heat pumps are extremely efficient, but also because they produce zero carbon emissions on their own.

When considering the type of central HVAC system you want, you’ll also need to choose between a single-stage, two-stage, or variable-speed system. This is true no matter whether you opt for a heat pump, standard AC, or furnace. Single-stage systems are the most basic and least expensive option, but they are also the least efficient. This is because they only have one speed and always run at 100% power.

Two-stage systems have two speeds and can run either at full power or around 65% power. A two-stage system will typically run on lower power approximately 80% of the time so that it uses much less energy. The system will also be quieter when running on the lower setting and experience less strain. This reduced strain typically results in two-stage systems having a longer lifespan than single-stage systems.

A variable-speed system can be somewhat costly to install, but it will also provide many more benefits over the other options. This type of system can have several hundred settings that it automatically switches between to both improve efficiency and ensure the temperature in the home always remains constant. Except during milder periods where almost no cooling or heating is needed, a variable-speed system will often run continuously without ever shutting off. Despite running more, it will still use much less energy overall since it can switch to run as low as 25% of its full capacity. Running longer also enables it to keep every room and part of the home fully comfortable and overcome any issues with hot or cold spots.

Make Sure You Choose a Reputable Brand

Another important factor is choosing a system from a reputable, quality brand. This is because some manufacturers produce much more efficient, higher-quality units than others. Trane consistently ranks among the very best brands in terms of reliability and performance. They also offer better comprehensive warranties compared to almost all other manufacturers. These reasons are why Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation is proud to be a Trane Comfort Pro partner.

Focus on Energy Efficiency

Every manufacturer produces a range of different heat pumps, air conditioners and furnaces can vary quite a bit in terms of how energy efficient they are. As such, it’s important that you understand what the energy-efficiency ratings mean so that you can focus on finding the most efficient unit that fits your budget.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER ratings are used to express the cooling efficiency of ACs and heat pumps. SEER is just a ratio of how many BTUs of cooling a system produces to how many total kilowatts of electricity it uses throughout one average cooling season. The reason that this rating looks at total energy usage over an entire season is that the efficiency of any cooling unit fluctuates a lot depending on outdoor temperature and humidity. It’s not all that necessary for you to fully understand what SEER ratings mean. All you really need to know is that the higher the SEER rating is, the more efficient the system is and the less it will cost to operate.

The minimum required for all new heat pumps and air conditioners in California is SEER 15. Each SEER value above this equates to an approximately 7% increase in efficiency. This means that a SEER 18 system would use around 21% less energy than a SEER 15 system.

Heat pumps also have a separate HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) rating that expresses how efficiently they heat. As with SEER, HSPF is a ratio of heating produced to energy consumed. While you should also choose a heat pump with as high of an HSPF rating as possible, it’s more important to focus on SEER ratings in California since you’ll always use your cooling much more than your heating.

The efficiency of furnaces is measured in AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). AFUE ratings are much easier to understand because they are simply a percentage of the energy used that directly goes into heating the home. Gas furnaces can be as low as 80% AFUE or as high as 98.5% AFUE. If a furnace has a 95% AFUE rating, it means that it effectively uses 95% of the energy it consumes and only wastes 5%.

Ensure Your HVAC System Is Properly Sized

The last step is to make sure that you get a system that is properly sized for your home, which is something that you need to have an HVAC technician calculate. Sizing an HVAC system is fairly complicated and requires calculating a wide range of factors. This includes the square footage of your home and the local climate as well as how well-sealed and well-insulated the home is. Other factors, like the location and number of exterior doors and windows, how many people live in your home, and how much direct sunlight it receives, are also important.

The fact that sizing an HVAC system can be so complicated is one reason why you should make sure to choose a reputable, experienced contractor for your cooling or heating installation. If your system is undersized or oversized, it won’t be nearly as effective and will often struggle to keep your home comfortable. A system that is too large or too small will also use more energy, be more prone to breaking down, and have a shorter lifespan compared to a correctly sized system.

As one of the most trusted HVAC companies in the Sacramento area, you can count on Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation for all of your cooling and heating installation needs. We install central ACs, heat pumps, and furnaces as well as ductless mini-split systems, and our team can help ensure you get the right system for your home. We also offer expert HVAC repair and maintenance services, so give us a call for all of your home comfort needs.


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