Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Sandy Spring’

The Energy Star Label: A Guide from Garrett Park

Friday, October 21st, 2011

The Energy Star program is a joint program of the US environmental protection agency and the US department of Energy. The program’s goal is to help consumers, from Garrett Park to Sandy Spring,  save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.

The best-known aspect of the Energy Star program is the Energy Star label, which is awarded to appliances and other items that are significantly more efficient than average. Energy Star efficiency guidelines vary depending on product category, but in general, Energy Star products use 20%-30% less energy than minimum federal standards.

The Energy Star guidelines were designed both with energy efficiency and performance in mind. While low energy use is one of the most important criteria for selecting Energy Star appliances, product performance, features, warranty, safety, and durability are also taken into account. Price is also a factor: if a product costs significantly more than other products in its category, it will only receive the Energy Star label if the up-front cost will be recovered through savings in operating costs within a reasonable amount of time.

The first Energy Star labels were given to computers and monitors in 1992. Now labels can be found on many other products, including:

Energy Star products can be found wherever appliances and electronics are sold. Look for the blue and white Energy Star label. You can also look for the yellow EnergyGuide label that is affixed to most heating and cooling systems and household appliances. This label is created by the Department of Energy and shows a product’s annual cost of operation compared to similar models. It will often indicate whether a product is Energy Star.

It’s important to note that while an Energy Star label indicates that a heater, air conditioner, or household appliance is more efficient than the minimum guidelines, it does not always mean that you are getting the most energy efficient option on the market. If you are making a major appliance purchase, use the Energy Star label to be sure every model on your “short list” is energy efficient. Then, look carefully at the EnergyGuide label to compare the efficiency of the models you are considering.

The EPA has also extended the Energy Star label to cover new homes and commercial and industrial buildings. To qualify for the Energy Star rating, a new home must use at least 15% less energy than standard homes (built to the 2004 International Residential Code). Energy Star homes usually include insulation, high-performance windows, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, appliances, lighting, and water heaters.

The Energy Star standards and label have been recognized in many other countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union.

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What Is AFUE and Why Should I Care? A Tip From Colesville

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

If you’ve been shopping for a furnace this fall in Colesville, chances are you’ve noticed that each furnace has its own annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. These generally range from 80% to the high 90% s and the higher the number, the more fuel efficient that particular furnace is.

But what does this number really mean and just how much should you care? Well, the AFUE rating should actually have a significant impact on your furnace purchasing decision, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll always choose the furnace with the highest efficiency rating either.

For one thing, you’ll have to recognize that not every type of furnace is capable of running at the highest efficiency levels. Oil furnaces, for instance, can’t compete with the super high efficiency gas furnaces on the market today. That’s not to say that an oil furnace might not be the best choice for you under certain circumstances, but it does mean that you should take a close look at your furnace usage before you make a decision.

If you do choose a gas furnace, you will of course have the option of getting one that can reach up to 97% or so efficiency. But don’t forget that a furnace with an 80% AFUE rating is still quite energy efficient. And once you get up that high, you have to use your furnace a lot for the difference between 80% and 90% to really become apparent. So if you don’t use your furnace heavily during the winter, it will take you many, many years to make up for the higher purchase price of the 90+% AFUE models.

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A Question From Laytonsville: How Efficient Is a Heat Pump?

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Heat pumps are actually remarkably efficient when compared to some of the home heating alternatives out there in Laytonsville. Especially if you’re already using electricity to heat your home, you can get generate huge savings on your monthly energy bills by switching to a heat pump system.

As their name suggests, heat pumps remove heat from the air and transfer that heat from one area to another. That means that in the winter, your heat pump will remove the heat from the air outside your home and pump that heat in to heat your home. During the summer months, that process is actually reversed, and heat pumps are able to cool your home by collecting the heat from your indoor air and pumping it outside.

Since heat pumps are actually just moving heat from one place to another rather than generating it all on their own, they don’t require much energy at all to operate. While you can buy furnaces that are as much as 97% energy efficient, they’re still using more energy than a heat pump would. The fact that the furnace is turning the vast majority of the energy that it uses into heat doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t require more energy to operate.

Just because heat pumps are more efficient than many other types of heating systems, you can’t just assume that all heat pumps are equally energy efficient. Just as different types and models of furnaces have different energy efficiency ratings, so too do the many types, sizes and models of heat pumps. Make sure you thoroughly compare your options before you settle on the right system for your home.

The energy efficiency rating of a furnace is easy to recognize, as each of them comes with a standard AFUE rating. If you’re looking to switch to heat pumps, however, it’s easy to get confused when you’re trying to compare the energy efficiency of various models.

Heat pumps actually have two separate measurements for energy efficiency. These are the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). Energy efficiency measurements for heat pumps reflect both the cooling and heating efficiency of the system, and so what’s best for you may vary depending on what you’re more likely to use your heat pump for.

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Save with Maintenance on HVAC: A Tip From Spencerville

Monday, September 19th, 2011

You can never save too much money by making improvements and taking steps around your Spencerville house. Of course, it is hard sometimes to see exactly where the money saving opportunities are. That’s because you expect to spend a certain amount on various types of services when you own a home. You know you are always going to have heating and cooling bills, for instance. But are they higher than they need to be?

For many people, the answer to that question is “yes.” And it is not because they use their home heating and cooling systems inappropriately or because they have the wrong equipment. It is simply because they neglect to get their HVAC systems the regular care and maintenance that would keep them running at peak effectiveness and energy efficiency.

When your HVAC system is new, it runs well and can be remarkably energy efficient. However, over time that energy efficiency will gradually deteriorate. This drop off in efficiency is often not obvious at first, but if you compare your energy bills from the year you got your system to bills for the same time of year and same usage five years later, you will probably notice that the bill has gone up quite a bit, and not just because energy prices have gone up.

You can do a lot to prevent this loss of energy efficiency, though, if you simply have a professional HVAC technician come out once a year and give your system a tune up. During this type of maintenance service, the technician will check over your entire system looking for worn out parts and buildup that could be interfering with your system’s performance.

They can clean out any areas of your HVAC equipment that require it and they will be able to make any necessary repairs at that time. Often, a technician performing this type of maintenance will be able to catch minor issues before they are able to develop into bigger problems. And while you still have to pay for the maintenance visit, the cost is much less than what you would pay for an emergency repair.

It also represents a substantial savings over what you would be paying on your energy bills every month without it. Regular HVAC maintenance can preserve the vast majority of your system’s energy efficiency loss over time, and it is never too late to start. Even if it has been several years since you had your system installed, you will still be able to get back the vast majority of your original energy efficiency by starting with regular maintenance now.

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How to Maximize Savings in Your Home in Kensington

Friday, September 16th, 2011

When you are thinking about different ways you might be able to save money around your Kensington house, the tendency is to think big. Maybe you need to upgrade to a more energy efficient furnace, or it could be time to install a new central air conditioning system. Maybe it is even a good idea to switch to geothermal heating.

But before you do any of that, you may want to try some quick and easy ways to save money around the house with the equipment you already have. Here are 10 great ways to cut your power usage and keep those energy bills down without investing a lot in new equipment.

  1. Seal Up Your House – No matter how energy efficient the heating and cooling systems are in your house, you will be using more energy than necessary if your house is not tightly sealed. Make sure there are not cracks or places where drafts can get in and you will start saving money right away.
  2. The Right Thermostat Setting – Are you really going to notice the difference between 72°F and 69°F? Probably not, but you will save about 3% off of your monthly heating bill for every degree you turn the thermostat down. The same goes in the summer too, just backwards.
  3. Programmable Thermostats – And while we are on the subject of thermostats, it is a good idea to invest in a new one with programmable settings. That way you will be able to set your house to be warm when you will be there and you do not have to pay to keep it warm all day long if it is empty.
  4. Ceiling Fans – Ceiling fans can help keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Plus, they cost very little to run so they are a great investment.
  5. Light Bulbs – Switching to energy efficient fluorescent bulbs all over your house will save you a ton even though they cost a bit more to begin with.
  6. Lights Out – But energy efficient bulbs will only get you so far. You should also be sure to turn off the lights in any room you are not using.
  7. Power Strips – Many home appliances draw a small amount of power even when they are not turned on. Use a power strip to easily cut the power to them completely and eliminate that drain.
  8. Sealing Windows – Plenty of air can come and go through your windows as well. Upgrading to more energy efficient windows is certainly an option, but you can also help to seal up your home inexpensively by covering your windows with plastic.

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How Do EER and SEER Work? A Question From Poolesville

Friday, September 9th, 2011

If you’ve looked for a new air conditioner in Poolesville recently, you probably noticed each unit comes with an EER or SEER rating. The former is for room air conditioners and the latter for central air conditioning units. In both cases, the number is a measure of how efficiently the system uses electricity. Effectively, if you buy a system with a high rating, you spend less on electricity. Of course, there are tradeoffs. The higher rated machines tend to cost much more, so as a homeowner, you’ll have to evaluate how much you can spend now and how long it will take to save money from that investment.

How EER and SEER Are Measured

These numbers are required by the government to tell you, the consumer, how many BTUs per hour the device can use for every watt of electricity drawn. The more BTUs a system can use, the better for your bill.

Let’s say you want to buy a 10,000 BTU system to cool your living room and dining room. A pretty standard number for a single room unit is 11, meaning the 10,000 BTU system would use about 900 watts per hour to run at full capacity. We figure this out by dividing the BTUs (10,000) by the watts (900).

There is a lot of math to do here, so many people simply look for a higher number within their price range. But, at what point is the upgrade really worth your extra money?

Choosing the Right Energy Efficiency Rating

The easiest way to describe this is to compare two similar devices with different EERs:

Air Conditioner 1 Air Conditioner 2
BTUs 12,000 12,000
EER 9 11
Watts 1333 1091
Price $300 $450

In this particular case, we can spend more for a device that is the same size but uses less electricity. The question then is whether that increased expenditure will pay off in the short term. Let’s assume each device would be operated for 10 hours per day for 30 days in a typical summer month. That’s 300 hours of operation. If the average cost per kWh in you are is $0.09, it will take 4 hours for the first air conditioner to consume 1 extra kilowatt of electricity equal to an additional $0.09. If your air conditioner runs for four months out of the year, we know that it will operate for a total of 1200 hours. That means:

[(1200 hrs x 242 watts) / (1000 watts/kw) ] x $0.09/kWh = $26

So, you save roughly $26 per year from that high efficiency unit. With a $150 price difference, you will break even after 6 years (though probably sooner if the price of electricity goes up).

If you have questions about which air conditioner is right for you, contact your local AC contractor.

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