Purchasing Guidelines for Comfort & Efficiency
Cost and comfort are important considerations when choosing a heating/cooling system. Quality installations, which insure comfort, may be more expensive initially, but the extra investment can have far greater returns. Long term comfort, efficiency and reduced operating cost depend on wise decisions at the time of purchase.
- Accept bids from several licensed heating and cooling contractors. Ask each contractor for several references from recent installations. Ask the contractor to provide verification of formal, certified training in design, installation and service of the equipment they are installing. The contractor should recommend a system based on your families' needs and install the equipment to manufacturer and code specifications.
- Insist on a properly designed and sized system. Comfort, efficiency and dehumidification depend on proper design and installation. The contractor should complete a heating/cooling load calculation that will determine proper airflow for each specific room in your home. Oversized systems are an unnecessary expense and perform poorly. We also recommend new ductwork designed specifically for the system.
- Look closely at the bid specifications to insure you are comparing "apples to apples." Unit size and efficiency ratings are key factors that impact purchase price, comfort and operating cost.
- To improve comfort and reduce operating cost, your home should have adequate insulation. Existing homes in Northwestern North Carolina should have at least the following levels of insulation or its equivalent:
- Ceiling: R-30, Floor: R-19, Walls: R-11
- Insulated windows and doors
- All insulation products should be installed to manufacturer and code specifications.
- Quality ductwork is important. The installations should be airtight, using permanent sealing products such as mastic or date-coded foil type tape. Each supply air duct should have a damper to assist in achieving proper airflow. All ductwork should be fully insulated. Once the system is installed airflow should be checked and properly balanced for each room in the house.
- Multiple air returns are needed in most new homes. More returns mean better airflow and greater efficiencies.
- "Zoning" is an option for homes with areas that have unique comfort requirements. Zoning can also eliminate the need for multiple units.
- Digital or programmable thermostats are a good option to achieve and maintain desired comfort levels and reduce operating costs.
- Variable speed equipment where the unit's output varies based on the home's heating and cooling requirements should be considered to maximize comfort and efficiency. These units are typically rated at higher efficiencies.
- A geothermal heat pump or dual fuel gas/electric system might be a desirable option.
- Geothermal systems utilize the earth or water as the heat source.
- Dual fuel systems provide efficiency and economy.
- Hybrid systems combine radiant heat and air conditioning for year-round comfort.