High Efficiency HVAC and the various options that effect energy savings and indoor air quality in your home, can be hard to explain to homeowners in areas like Atlanta GA. While we advocate installing the most efficiency and energy saving equipment you can reasonably afford to do, there are times when it just doesn’t make sense to blow up your HVAC budget!
In this Atlanta HVAC guide, we want to explore the various factors of a High Efficiency HVAC System in your Atlanta home. By the end of this page, you will have a better idea of how to invest your energy saving dollars for the highest return on investment.
High Efficiency Equipment Terms and Types
As an Atlanta homeowner, its up to you to understand the terms you are going to hear when an Atlanta HVAC Company starts explaining the options to you.
- SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio: An energy efficiency rating for air conditioning equipment. The number is measured in a low to high factor, with the higher numbers being the highest efficiency, and resulting in more money you save. The minimum SEER rating for new equipment is 13 SEER. The highest rated units on the market can reach well above 20 SEER.
- HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor: Heating efficiency rating for air source heat pump condensing units and matched air handlers. The higher the HSPF rating, the more efficient the heat pump will operate, thus saving you more money during the heating season.
- AFUE – Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency: A measure of your gas or oil furnace heating efficiency. Higher AFUE % values means a more efficient furnace. The easiest way to relate this value to you is in the form of a $1. An 80% AFUE furnace returns .80 cents of heat to your home, for every $1 you spend on fuel. The minimum percentage established by the DOE for furnaces is 78%.
- EnergyStar – An EPA designation attached to HVAC equipment to identify models that meet EPA guidelines for high-efficiency performance that exceed standard government minimums.
- Certified Matched Systems – The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) puts heating and cooling equipment through rigorous certification processes to ensure systems deliver the efficiency performance at certain test conditions.
Several of our definitions were taken directly from terms and conditions provided on the AHRI website.
Reason for Choosing High Efficiency
One of the most important factors to choosing high efficiency HVAC is to decide why you are doing it. Are you looking for the highest return on your HVAC system investment, lower monthly utility costs, trying to take advantage of local or federal tax credits, or do you sincerely prefer to go green and help preserve the environment?
If saving money and reducing monthly utility costs are your main reason, then the choices you make are going to be different from those of a person who wants to be as green as possible.
Initial Cost of Equipment and Installation Differences
The bottom line is that higher efficiency heating and air conditioning equipment cost the contractor anywhere from 2 – 3 times more than its standard efficiency sister equipment. Where a standard 80% AFUE furnace, 13 SEER AC system might cost a local contractor $1800-$2500 wholesale, the high-efficiency flavor may run much higher and in the $3500-$4000 range just for the higher efficiency HVAC equipment alone!
Aside from the cost of the equipment being more, there may be venting differences that make the installation of a high efficiency gas furnace more costly. Higher efficiency furnaces are vented with a plastic PVC pipe versus the old b-vent flue pipe. In many cases, this can mean a small bit of roofing repair as well as a different venting option for the unit.
Always ask the contractor to provide a full written estimate of all work being performed, so you are fully aware of the project and can compare it to other price quotes you get on an equal footing. If you can get them to do it, ask them to separate the installation and equipment costs into separate columns.
Return on High Efficiency HVAC Investment
We all have a budget when it comes to a major expense like your home HVAC system replacement. Since you only have to replace the home HVAC system every 10-15 years, its important to think ahead when you start planning.
In the Atlanta market, we use our home central air, or cooling system much more than we do our heating system, so it makes more sense to focus the majority of our HVAC dollars into high efficiency air conditioning. Common sense tells us that if the furnace is only running for 3 months out of the year, it’s going to take a lot longer to reclaim the investment over time.
Best High Efficiency HVAC Systems in Atlanta
As we previously mentioned in this page, the best high-efficiency HVAC system for your Atlanta home is truly going to depend on your own goals and your budget. Use the following guidelines to ask deeper questions of your HVAC Contractor, based on your overall goals.
Look at these comparisons for a typical 2000 sf home in Atlanta, with an average difficulty of installation.
- Going Green, No Budget or Cost Ceiling! $12,000-$20,000
95% or Higher AFUE, Geothermal, Variable Speed Furnace, 18 SEER or Higher, 2-Stage Solar Assisted Air Conditioning or Heat Pump for Hybrid heating and cooling.
- Green & Sensible, Moderate Budget, Highest ROI $8,000-$12,000
90% AFUE furnace, Variable Speed. 16 SEER, 2-Stage Air Conditioning or Heat Pump.
- High Efficiency Cooling, on the Lowest Budget! $5000-$8500
80% AFUE Furnace with Variable Speed Blower, 2-Stage 16 SEER Air Conditioning or Heat Pump!