If you need to replace your air conditioning or heating or are just looking to upgrade your HVAC system to save on energy costs, one of the main factors to focus on is energy efficiency. HVAC technology has improved a lot in recent years to the point where almost any option you choose will be more efficient than a system that is 10-15 years old. Still, it can sometimes be difficult to know which option is best simply because there are so many. That’s why we created this guide to help you understand some of the best options that will help you save money without negatively impacting your comfort.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are quickly becoming one of the most popular HVAC options, especially in places with milder winters. The State of California has also been trying to encourage residents to switch to heat pumps since they are extremely efficient. They are also fully electric, which means they don’t directly produce harmful carbon emissions like gas furnaces do.

This is obviously also true for electric furnaces and any other type of electric heating. However, heat pumps are far more efficient than other electric heating options and typically use at least two to three times less energy. The reason is that all other types of electric heating will only directly convert electrical energy to heat energy at a one-to-one ratio. Heat pumps work differently, as they use electricity to capture heat energy and transfer it into your home. They do this by using extremely cold refrigerant to naturally absorb heat from outside. The heated refrigerant then gets pumped inside where it releases the stored heat to raise the indoor temperature.

Most heat pumps are around 300% efficient. That means that they produce three units of heat energy for every unit of electricity they consume. All other types of electric heating are only 100% efficient, and the absolute best gas furnaces have an efficiency rating of around 98%.

Another major advantage of heat pumps is that they can provide air conditioning in addition to heating. This makes them the most cost-effective HVAC option since you only need to install and maintain one unit instead of two like you would if you had separate heating and cooling units.

While a heat pump will be the most efficient option for heating your home, it usually doesn’t make much sense to install one if you have a fairly new central AC unit that is fairly efficient and still works well. In this situation, you’re often better off waiting until you need to replace your AC before upgrading to a heat pump.

Condensing Furnaces

If your home has a furnace that has reached the end of its life, opting for a high-efficiency condensing unit is a good option. While a condensing gas furnace will cost more to operate compared to a heat pump, it will keep your heating costs much lower compared to any other type of electric heating. Even though electric heating is slightly more efficient, electric furnaces and heaters tend to use much more energy since they produce less heat.

Two-Stage and Variable-Speed HVAC Systems

Whether you’re looking to install a heat pump, standard AC or furnace, you should definitely consider going with either a two-stage or variable-speed unit. Standard HVAC units are single stage and always operate at 100% power. Two-stage units can still run at full power, but they can also switch to a lower setting where they only use around 65% as much energy as they do on full power. Two-stage units are also paired with a two-speed or sometimes variable-speed blower, which can also automatically slow down so that it circulates air more slowly and uses less energy. In most homes, a two-stage HVAC system will only need to run at full power around 20% of the time. In California, a two-stage heating system will typically run at full power just a small fraction of the time since our warmer winters mean you’ll rarely need the system to produce much heat.

Although variable-speed HVAC systems are the most expensive option, they are also by far the most efficient. Most variable-speed systems can slow down to where they only operate at around 25% power. A variable-speed AC or heat pump will usually run close to 24 hours a day during the hottest parts of the year while still using just a fraction of the total energy that a single-stage system will use. While running, the system will automatically adjust how quickly or slowly it cools. This allows a variable-speed system to keep the temperature almost exactly where you want it without it typically ever fluctuating by more than a degree or two.

Zoned HVAC Systems

If you’re planning to upgrade your existing HVAC system, another great option is to switch to a zoned system. Zoned systems can also be extremely energy efficient, as you can choose to control the climate in some parts of the home as needed instead of always having to cool and heat your entire house. This type of system has dampers in the ductwork that split it into smaller zones. Each zone has a thermostat that will signal the damper for that zone to open and close whenever necessary to ensure that the zone stays at the desired temperature.

If you have parts of your home that tend to be warmer or cooler, a zoned system will allow you to keep them more comfortable. For instance, if your house has an upper story that tends to be warmer in winter, a zoned system wouldn’t supply it heat nearly as often. This will prevent that level from ever getting too hot while also reducing how much energy your heating uses.

Whole-House Fans

A whole-house fan can also be an extremely effective and energy-efficient option for cooling your home at certain times. You probably won’t be able to rely on it that much during the hottest parts of the year, but it can come in handy in spring, fall and on cooler evenings. The reason that you don’t want to use a whole-house fan when it is too hot outside is that you need to have at least a few windows cracked when the fan is running.

Whole-house fans work by drawing warm air from the home into the attic and venting it outside. At the same time, the fan draws cooler air in from outside and creates a breeze that can cool your home much more quickly than an air conditioning system. Depending on the outdoor temperature, a whole-house fan can potentially lower the temperature in your home by up to 30 degrees in just one hour. The fan will also use far less energy than even the most efficient AC or heat pump. Another advantage is that it will quickly improve the air quality in your home by constantly exchanging the air in your home and pulling polluted air outside.

If you need assistance from a trustworthy HVAC installation service in Sacramento, Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation has you covered. We install all types of HVAC systems and units including heat pumps, air conditioners, furnaces and whole-house fans. Our team also has experience repairing and maintaining all makes and models of HVAC equipment, so give us a call for all your home comfort needs.

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