Residential Heating & Cooling 101
Making a smart decision when choosing a home comfort system isn’t always that easy. That’s why we help you factor in your home size, home age, number of rooms, insulation, windows, climate, degree days, local and regional utility costs, allergies or other medical conditions, plus your budget, into your choices. And, hopefully, that will make selecting an energy-efficient and highly effective heating and cooling system as easy as one, two, three.
Step One: Get Comfortable with the Language
You may hear us use the following terms:
- AFUE = Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency – The standard measurement of efficiency for gas and oil-fired furnaces. Given in percentages, this number tells you how much fuel is used to heat your home and how much is simply wasted. The higher the AFUE rating, the greater the efficiency.
- SEER = Cooling Efficiency – “SEER” is a measure of cooling efficiency for air conditioning products. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the SEER rating number, the more energy efficient the unit. On January 1, 2010 the government’s established minimum rating for air conditioning increased to 13 SEER.
- EER = Energy Efficiency – "EER” is generally used as a measure of efficiency for geo-thermal products. EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the EER rating number, the more energy efficient the unit.
- HSPF = Heat Pump Heating Efficiency – It stands for the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. The higher the HSPF rating, the more efficient a heat pump is at heating your home.
Other Terms You’ll Hear Include:
- Air Handler – The portion of a central air conditioning or heat pump system that moves heated or cooled air throughout a home’s ductwork. In some instances, a furnace handles this function.
- Indoor Coil – The portion of a heat pump or central air conditioning system that is located in the house and function as the heat transfer point for warming or cooling the indoor air.
- Outdoor Coil/Condensing Unit – The portion of a heat pump or central air conditioning system that is located outside the home and functions as the heat transfer point for collecting heat from or dispelling heat to the outside air.
- Split System – A heat pump or air conditioning system with components located both inside and outside the home.
- Packaged Unit – A heat pump or air conditioning system with all components located outside the home.
- Supplementary Heat – The auxiliary or emergency heat provided at temperatures below a heat pump’s balance point. It is usually electric resistance heat, but it could also be gas or hot water heat.
Step Two: Get Comfortable with How the Equipment Works.
You don’t need to be an expert, but understanding the basic operation of your home comfort system helps you make better decisions.
- Central Air Conditioning – A residential “split-system” central air conditioning system includes a compressor, a fan, condenser coil, evaporator coil, and refrigerant. It extracts heat from indoor air and transfers it outside leaving the cooled indoor air to be re-circulated. The efficiency of central air conditioning systems is rated using SEER ratios.
- Heat Pumps – A home’s “split-system” heat pump is a year-round comfort system. In the summer it acts as an air conditioner (described above), and in the winter it draws heat from outside air into your home to keep it warm. Most heat pump installations have an electrical resistance heater that automatically supplements heat brought in from outside. Outdoor air always has heat in it – even at very low outdoor temperatures. Like air conditioners, heat pumps are rated by using SEER ratios. Heating performance, however, is rated by HSPF.
- Geo-Thermal Heat Pumps – A geo-thermal heat pump is very similar to a standard heat pump in that it provides both heating and cooling for your home. The primary difference is that it uses the consistent temperature of the Earth as its heat transfer medium. Instead of having an outdoor coil and fan to transfer heat to and from the air, a geo-thermal unit uses a water pump and ground wells to either absorb or dissipate heat. The Earth's fairly consistent ground temperature provides ideal conditions for both heating and cooling regardless of the outdoor air temperature. A geo-thermal unit's efficiency is rated in EER. A geo-thermal unit can also be used to provide heating for your domestic hot water.
- Variable Speed Furnaces – Variable speed furnaces circulate more air throughout the home for longer periods of time, reducing air stratification room-to-room, and floor-to-floor. These longer run cycles can improve air quality by increasing air filtration. Variable speed furnaces offer significant operating cost savings and whisper-quiet operation. Variable speed furnaces feature a blower motor that uses less electricity than a 100 watt light bulb. Standard furnace motors use nearly 500 watts.
- Two Stage Furnaces – These furnaces feature two-stage operation with electric hot surface ignition and an induced combustion system for quiet, efficient operation. Two-stage furnaces operate at low capacity during most of the operating cycle to maintain your desired level of comfort. On bitter cold days, the second stage is there to maintain comfortable temperatures.
- Single Stage Furnaces – Single stage furnaces offer many new features not found on older furnaces. One feature is an inducer that draws the correct quantity of combustion air into the furnace for the most efficient operation possible. Another is an electronic ignition system that replaces the old wasteful pilot light. A third is a powerful, direct-drive blower that sends warmth to all the rooms in your home. These features will help make your home more comfortable, while reducing your heating fuel bills.
- Indoor-Air-Quality - Optional “air-quality” accessories can include heat-recovery ventilators, humidifiers, UV lights, zoning systems, and air filtering systems. These devices play a major role in keeping your home clean and comfortable.
Step Three: Get Comfortable with your Equipment Choices.
General Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. has always chosen to carry, and offer to its customers, quality equipment from quality manufacturers. We know that the only way to have long-term satisfaction from our customers is by offering them equipment that gives them long-term, reliable operation.