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Things You Should Know

Air conditioning cutawayFurnaces

What is the AFUE?

Furnaces are rated by the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratio. AFUE is the percentage of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed. AFUE works a lot like the miles-per-gallon rating on your car - the higher the rating, the lower your fuel costs.

What is the difference between a one-stage, two-stage and variable furnace?

A single-stage unit has only one heat stage – the burner switches on and off to meet heating needs. This is the least efficient furnace and uses more gas than required. The comfort level is less as the home becomes hot and then cold as the furnace switches on and off.

A two-stage unit has a low setting and a high setting. When the furnace first switches on, the low setting is used. If the heating demand and the comfort level is met at this low setting, less gas is used.

When the temperatures outside require more heat inside, the furnace switches to the high setting to meet that demand. This unit saves on gas and provides a more comfortable indoor environment.

A variable unit has multiple stages of gas flow, depending on the heating need. This means that the indoor environment is kept at a constant temperature with minimum gas usage – you only use what is required and the temperature does not fluctuate inside the home. A variable furnace has the highest AFUE, approximately 98% in some models.

What is dual fuel heating?

Many gas furnaces can be combined with an electric heat pump in a highly efficient dual fuel system. On mild days the heat pump provides efficient warming. On extremely cold days, the furnace automatically takes over to meet the heating demand.

Water Heaters

What do BTU and BTUH mean?

A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the quantity of heat needed to raise one pound of water by 1⁰ F. On any gas burning appliance, you may see BTUH, which means the number of British Thermal Units Per Hour. More BTUHs means more heating power.

What is the difference between a traditional water tank and a tankless water heater?

Tankless water heaters have gained popularity in recent years thanks to their efficiency, innovation and water conservation.

Standard "tank-type" water heaters keep 40, 50 or 60 US gallons of water heated for your use at any time, while tankless water heaters heat the water on demand without the storage of a volume of hot water.

While it is debatable whether or not tankless water heaters consume fuel efficiently, they have benefits:

  • They take up very little floor space compared to the conventional tanks.
  • They supply non-stop hot water.
  • And by design they promote water conservation.

The drawbacks of a tankless water heater are the initial high investment, the high cost to operate and the limited flow rate of hot water in the house.

If you would like to learn more about them, please feel free to contact us.

Air Conditioners

What does SEER mean and how does it equate to energy savings?

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is the measurement used to rate the efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. It compares cooling output to electrical consumption over a range of temperatures. The higher the SEER, the less the unit will cost to operate.

What is the SEER payback on an air conditioning unit?

One SEER equals approximately $20 in energy savings per year. This is important when considering a unit's payback in relation to its useage. For example, a 17 SEER unit may cost $800 more than a 14 SEER, so it will take approximately an additional four years to pay back the difference in initial cost.

What's the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump?

What separates the heat pump from the air conditioner is that a heat pump can heat your home as well as cool it. Heat pumps are ideal for warmer climates when you want mostly cool air and heated air only occasionally. There are a variety of heat pumps available and some of them are solar ready.

Mini Split Systems

What is a mini-split system?

Innovation in heating and cooling has brought us evolutionary year-round comfort in the form of ductless mini-split air conditioners, heat pumps, inverters and flex multi-split systems. This technology provides a smart, energy efficient way to cool or heat a specific room in your home.

During warmer months, the mini-split heat pump works like a normal air conditioner. It extracts heat from inside and transfers it outdoors.

In colder weather, the process reverses, providing a much safer and more efficient solution than a traditional window unit/space heater combination.

Unlike window units, a mini-split system does not leave you vulnerable to insects, weather elements and theft. They are designed for easy installation, using a compact indoor and outdoor unit that easily connect to each other through a small hole. This keeps your home secure and allows the system to function efficiently.

Matched Systems

Why Choose a Matched System?

Matching is usually a term that relates to colours, but it's also important when talking about home heating and cooling systems. By combining products made to work together, you can create an ideal system for your home. A perfect match results in peak performance.

Also, keep in mind that bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to heating and cooling systems. A system that is too large for your home will frequently cycle on and off, which wastes energy. Plus, it won't run long enough to remove humidity from the air, which can impact the comfort and health of your home.

A system that is too small can't do its job to make you comfortable. In this case, it will run continuously to keep up with the thermostat setting, costing you more on your utility bills and potentially shortening the system's life.

The only reliable way to determine the size that best matches your home's needs is to have your local contractor perform a heat load/loss calculation, which takes into account the square footage of your house, the insulation value of your windows, the amount of insulation in your walls and roof and many other factors.

Thermostats

What kind of thermostat is the best?

Consider buying a thermostat that can be programmed to various settings and scenarios. It's also helpful to consider investing in a thermostat that lets you program the temperature not only for when you are away from home for short periods of time, but also for when you are away on vacation.

With the newest advances, you can now program your system from your mobile phones and tablets. If you are connected to your system via wifi, your contractor may also be able to keep an eye on your system and alert you if there are any issues with it – before it becomes costly to repair.

Maintenance

What system maintenance is required?

To ensure your systems function correctly for a long time, proper maintenance and service are key. It is recommended that heating and cooling units be inspected at least annually to ensure that everything is running as it should and to prevent problems in the future.

Regular filter changes are also required. Some manufacturers require a complete system inspection once every year in order to satisfy the terms of the warranty.

With proper care and maintenance, air conditioners can last anywhere from 12 to 15 years and furnaces from 15 to 20 years.

HVAC Equipment Choices

What is the best brand of HVAC equipment?

There are many reputable HVAC brands to choose from. When comparing them, make sure you look at a unit's efficiency and its energy use - which is not the same as efficiency. Also consider the quality of the parts within the system, compatibility with your current system, noise levels, warranties and after sale support.

Above all, compare the serviceability of the product you are thinking of buying. Who can repair the equipment? How easy is it to get parts for it and who can do the warranty work?

Often customers not only buy the product but they buy the company selling the product if they are the only ones that can provide parts or service.

Finally it is a matter of trust based on how comfortable you feel with the person offering the equipment:

  • How well did they treat you?
  • Did they take the time to explain the differences in equipment?
  • Did they help you understand how the systems work?
  • Did they show you enough options to make a good decision?

Chances are, if they took the time to help you make a good decision, they are going to take the time to do a quality installation with good after-sale service