Here's How to Compare Options and Choose an HVAC System

When the home’s existing heating and cooling equipment is in need of replacement, homeowners need to know how to choose an HVAC system to buy. There are so many factors to consider, as there are multiple types of HVAC systems to choose from, such as heat pumps, air conditioners, ductless mini-split systems, furnaces, and boilers. Different brands offer certain options and advanced components, better SEER and AFUE ratings offer more efficient performance to help you save money – choosing the right heating or cooling system can seem impossible with so many choices!

As trusted Cincinnati heating and air conditioning contractors, Thomas & Galbraith is here to help you along the way. We know that the right central air conditioning unit, furnace, or heat pump system for your home installation is different in every house. Here you’ll find the important factors we evaluate as we assist you in selecting the right HVAC system that fits your needs.

Choosing the Right Type of HVAC System for a House

The new HVAC system that fits your neighbor’s home perfectly is not necessarily going to be the right choice for your house, too. Boilers, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, and ductless mini-split models can fit the needs of different houses and climate situations. A home may be compatible with one or many types of HVAC systems.

Before you can compare different air conditioner and heating unit models, you need to first select the type of HVAC system you wish to purchase for installation in your home.

  • Replacing the existing system with a new unit of the same type is often the easiest and most affordable, depending on additional installation needs of the project.
  • If a home’s existing ducts are in good condition and are suitable for supporting efficient installation of a new central air conditioning system, heat pump, or furnace, homeowners often choose to replace with like equipment. A furnace and air conditioning combination or a heat pump system can be installed.
  • The heating fuel types available in your local area can impact your decision when choosing new heating units. If your home is set up for natural gas or the utility service is available to you, you may wish to buy a gas furnace or boiler to replace oil or propane units so you can save money on energy costs.
  • Installation of heat pump heating and cooling systems in Cincinnati is often done with a backup heat source for periods where the temperature is too cool for efficient operation. You may opt to install a natural gas furnace or choose electric resistance heat strips.
  • For homes without ducts, that don’t have the space to add ductwork, or simply if the cost of new ductwork is prohibitive, ductless mini split units can be configured to deliver a whole house cooling system as well as heat.
  • If there is a new area of the house you wish to heat or cool, installing a ductless mini split may be preferable versus upgrading your central air and heating unit to one with a larger capacity to control the climate of the additional space.

Size Matters for Your New HVAC System

The size of the HVAC system you choose impacts cost in various ways. Higher capacity units cost more upfront to purchase. Energy costs are higher when a unit isn’t sized correctly for a house.

Size for a heating and cooling system air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace, isn’t talking about the dimensions of the unit or the square footage of your living space – here, size means heating or cooling capacity, which is the unit’s ability to add or remove heat for heated air or cool air.

The best way to find the right size for your new HVAC system is to call your trusted local HVAC company. A local HVAC contractor will visit your home, take the correct measurements, and perform the correct calculations to determine the home’s heat or cooling load in order to find the right size for a new air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace.

If you search for HVAC system sizing online, you’ll find plenty of free calculators. Beware that these free options will not give you an accurate size for your new HVAC system. Online calculators typically ask for the square footage of the house and rarely any other details. When contractors perform these calculations the right way, they incorporate many different aspects of your home in addition to floor space.

Working with a local contractor or HVAC company is the right way to size HVAC systems for any home. Call to schedule a time for your contractor to visit the home and size a new air conditioner or heating unit.

What to Consider When Selecting a New HVAC System for Your Home

You’re going to encounter a lot of options as you look for a new furnace, heat pump, air conditioner, or ductless mini split for your home. The options can seem endless and overwhelming, especially if you don’t understand which components have the greatest impact on energy-efficient operation, utility costs, indoor air quality, maintenance requirements, and indoor climate control. Below, find the top factors to evaluate on any HVAC system in the running for purchase and installation in your home.

Fuel Sources

Air conditioning units and heat pumps run using electricity, which means their SEER ratings aren’t going to be impacted by fuel sources. Heating systems however can use a few different types of fuel – natural gas, propane, heating oil, and electricity. Natural gas and propane offer more energy-efficient heating versus oil or electricity.

You’re limited by what types of energy you have access to in your home, whether they are already installed or you have the option to do so. Adding the equipment to convert between one heating fuel source and another can add costs to your installation project, but is worth it to many homeowners who make these upgrades in order to convert to more energy-efficient fuels.

System Efficiency

Energy-efficient operation in HVAC systems is displayed using a few key acronyms:

  • Seasonal energy efficiency ratio SEER is used to show the cooling efficiency of an air conditioner or heat pump.
  • Annual fuel utilization efficiency or AFUE is used to show the heating efficiency of a furnace or boiler.
  • Heating seasonal performance factor or HSPF is used to show a heat pump’s heating efficiency.

The seasonal energy efficiency ratio SEER, HSPF, or annual fuel utilization efficiency AFUE of an HVAC system will impact cost. Generally, a high-efficiency model costs more than a basic efficiency system. Though it costs more upfront to buy a high-efficiency model, they generally cost less to operate because they produce less waste. More of the consumed energy is used in creating cool or heated air for the home.

Equipment Brand

Brand selection is often a personal choice for a homeowner. There are multiple HVAC equipment brands producing reliable systems, and often a homeowner forms their own opinions on what is quality and what is reliable based on past experiences. As you search for HVAC systems that can be installed in your home, call your contractor to ask what brand or brands they install. Some contractors are limited to just one brand while others may be able to install and service any equipment brand you would like for your home.

Typically, each brand has comparable units, especially amongst the most basic heating and cooling unit choices. When you move into high-efficiency systems, each brand may use different components or technologies to deliver more energy-efficient performance and a better user experience. Warranty coverage also varies by the brand, so be sure to compare warranty terms.

Required Maintenance Services

Generally, all air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps, and ductless systems will require annual maintenance. These professional services are also typically required to uphold the terms of your system’s brand warranty. To maintain heating systems, it’s recommended that you schedule tune-up services in the fall; for your cooling system, schedule tune-up services in the spring.

Beyond the professional maintenance requirements of your new system, there will be tasks you need to complete throughout the year to maintain your unit. These tasks are fairly similar across the board for any new HVAC system.

  • Change air filters for forced air heating and cooling systems as needed.
  • Change oil filter on oil boilers or furnaces.
  • Keep the outdoor unit of your air conditioner or heat pump free of debris that block the performance of the condensing coil.
  • Keep vents open to prevent damaging the ducts through pressure buildup.
  • Clean the indoor evaporator coil so it is free of mold, allowing refrigerant to properly transfer heat using the surface of the coil.
  • Seal ductwork and air leaks throughout the home to maintain efficient performance of HVAC equipment.

Desirable Features

Any new central air or heating system you consider will include features and components that improve HVAC performance, save you money, and overall work to create the indoor climate experience you would like. As you search for the right HVAC system, some features you may want to look for include:

  • Secondary heat exchangers in condensing boilers and furnaces improve energy efficiency by using more heat from waste gases to produce heated air in the home.
  • HVAC systems with variable-speed blowers can operate at lower or higher speeds depending on the temperature needs of the living areas. This improves energy efficiency for higher SEER, HSPF, and AFUE ratings. The motor is also quieter than a standard speed blower to minimize disturbances.
  • Furnaces with two-stage burners can operate with a full or reduced flame to use less energy based on the indoor climate needs. A modulating furnace offers further variation to deliver reliable warm air that is energy efficient no matter what temperature needs exist in the home. These furnaces deliver better air filtration and indoor air quality for families.
  • Select HVAC units offer communication that updates users on maintenance needs and service concerns, helping you best care for the unit. Receive alerts via the thermostat or connected mobile app when you need to change a filter or call to schedule services from your local HVAC company.
  • A new heat pump or air conditioning unit uses R-410A refrigerant that isn’t a danger to the environment like older R-22 refrigerant. While you cannot buy a new unit that uses R-22, they can still be repaired – however, repairs do cost more than if your system used R-410A because the refrigerant supply is limited. Instead of wasting money repairing the older unit, invest in a new R-410A cooling unit with higher SEER performance.
  • Add a Wi-Fi or smart thermostat to gain better control over the operation of your HVAC system. Contractors can explain the many features available with quality unit choices to help you reduce energy consumption, save money, and keep your home perfectly warm or cool.
  • Installing a quality zoning system with your new HVAC unit replacement project can help you maintain the perfect warm or cool environment in all areas of your home. Contractors install these systems with ductwork dampers and thermostats that regulate heating and cooling to each area of the home, independent of conditions in other spaces.

Cincinnati HVAC Service Contractor

Thomas & Galbraith is your Cincinnati area HVAC service company for all your new HVAC system needs. Our experts will help you select the right equipment for your project and provide the quality installation service needed to ensure your new HVAC system runs at its best. Contact us today to start exploring your HVAC options.

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