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Just Right

Matching the capacity of the heating and cooling unit to the size of the home, also known as right sizing, is a major issue in achieving both thermal comfort and energy efficiency. Right sizing air conditioning and heating systems must take into consideration the climate zone, day and nighttime temperatures, and humidity levels, as well as the size and layout of the home.

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Replace the furnace

Prices of high-efficiency models tend to increase as AFUE ratings go up and a furnace with a 90%+ AFUE rating could cost up to $1,000 more than a less efficient model.

The length of time a homeowner expects to own the home is a major determinant in calculating payback time. Considering, however, that home heating accounts for up to 45% of home-energy use, a high-efficiency furnace can pay back the additional investment quickly, especially in Michigan’s climate with a long heating season.

A furnace is a major investment, it’s a good idea to obtain at least three written estimates from contractors. The estimate should clearly state the type, size, warranty, and efficiency rating. Plus, estimates should include removal and disposal of the old furnace, any required building permits, and any modifications in duct work, fuel supply delivery, and electrical wiring. HVAC contractors can take advantage of online tools and modeling programs to right size home systems.

Plan your next Furnace upgrade before winter. Give yourself time to plan, peruse installers, and pick the most efficient furnace for your budget instead of waiting until over half of overall furnace replacements occur. Allowing you to get a quality right-sized heating system during Late spring and Early fall to prepare for the coldest days in winter. 

Getting your insulation inspected or upgraded during the summer as well, may prevent your furnace from running at 60-70% efficiency during the winter.

Furnace Features to consider

When a furnace is reaching the 15- to 20-year mark, it’s time to think about replacing it. Replacing a furnace is an opportunity to invest in a high-efficiency model as well as a smart, programmable thermostat. In addition to potential savings on energy bills, newer models are also more durable, with an expected lifespan of 20–30 years. How much more efficient is a new model furnace? Older models, such as those with continuous pilot lights, have a 55% to 70% AFUE rating compared to new high-efficiency model with AFUE ratings of 90% to 98%.

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Passive Solar

Site orientation and proper design establish a successful Passive solar home heating system. Simply they collect heat as the sun shines through windows and retains it in building materials that store heat, often referred to as thermal mass storage. Windows or other devices that collect solar energy in the united states should face south and also avoid shade during the heating season.

Every passive solar heating system needs the thermal mass to absorb heat from sunlight during late fall to early spring months and absorbs heat from warm air during late spring-early fall. The most common materials used are concrete, brick, stone, and tile. Other options are used with heat distribution systems that include using water or phase change products (coolants) that transfer the heat around the home) or simply the air in the home.

To cool the home down, properly installed shades blocks out the sun's heat during the summer, or some landscaping solutions can be employed by planting deciduous trees that bloom during the warmer months and shed their shade during the winter. Leaving screen windows open during the summer allows for needed nighttime ventilation.

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Replacing an Air Conditioning Unit

About two out of three U.S. homes have air conditioning units, which use about 5% of all the electricity produced in the United States. Although in year-round warm climates, such as Arizona, cooling uses about a 25% of a home’s energy budget. Even in temperate climate zones, replacing an old air conditioning unit can have a big impact on energy costs. Also consider exploring super cooling to avoid PEAK energy loads. Check out costs in your area.

The average lifespan of an air conditioner is about 15–20 years. Residential central air conditioner standards that went into effect in the early 2000s require a minimum SEER of 13; ENERGY STAR®- rated central air conditioners must have a SEER of 14 or higher.

However, there are still plenty of older, less efficient air conditioners in use today. Today’s high-efficiency air conditioners use up to half the energy to produce the same amount of cooling as older models. Even if an air conditioner is only 10 years old, a newer, high-efficiency model can save a lot—up to 40%—on cooling energy costs.

Besides ENERGY STAR® ratings and Quiet operation, some features to look for when shopping for a new AC unit or system include a

1.Variable speed air handler if planning to upgrade to newer ventilation systems.

2. A Fan-only switch, to use take advantage of colder nightime temperatures and circulate with the inside air to avoid cooling. 

3. Filter check light reminders to ensure high interior air quality after a predetermined number of operating hours.

4. Automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off.

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Energy-efficient homes rely on a tight building envelope to reduce air leakage; however, homes still need ventilation to mitigate moisture and combustion build-up and supply a stream of fresh air.  Ventilation and indoor air quality (IAQ) are inseparable whether bringing in a stream of renewing fresh air or pulling stale air, odors, and fumes out of the home. The best option is natural ventilation. Breezes combined with the chimney effect created by moving air will keep the air inside freshened and cool. In moderate climates and breezy coastal areas, natural ventilation may provide adequate year-round comfort. Natural ventilation can be enhanced or deflected by site orientation and tree or hedge windbreaks.

Avoiding heat build-up is the main issue for natural ventilation. In a home, windows near the top of the house, such as clerestory windows or operable skylights, help prevent heat build-up as well as enhance the natural chimney effect. In hot, humid climates, attic louvers and vents can reduce heat build-up in that space by 30 degrees

  • Other Alternatives include

    • A whole house fan enhances natural ventilation and, in moderate climates, may provide an adequate substitute for energy-intensive air conditioning on many days. must, however, be operated with open windows in order to prevent a powerful, concentrated suction. Noise is an issue for some products, proper insulation can minimize noise levels.

    • Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) systems, which are ideal for moisture-prone homes, transfer warmth between intake and exhaust air.

    • Energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems transfer warmth and maintain an even humidity level by transferring the humidity to the drier interior air that is vented to the outside.

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Geothermal heating and cooling using ground-source heat pumps offer one of the greatest savings in energy efficiency. a few feet below the earth’s surface the ground maintains a constant temperature between 45 and 72 degrees. Geothermal heating and cooling take advantage of this by exchanging heat with the earth through a ground-source heat exchanger or pump. The most efficient fuel-burning heater can reach efficiencies of around 95%, but a geothermal heat pump can move up to four units of heat for every unit of electricity needed to power the system, resulting in a practical equivalence of more than 400% efficiency. Geothermal is a deep-green option for home heating and cooling. Once installed, it represents large savings over even the most efficient HVAC systems.

The largest systems component consists of a series of heat-conducting pipes, called loops, buried in the ground below the frost line (see the following figure). The loops circulate water or antifreeze that absorbs or relinquishes heat, depending on whether heating or cooling is needed. There are no dangers from carbon monoxide or other fumes because there are no combustibles. Because the system lies underground, it is very durable and low maintenance. It uses the existing ductwork while eliminating the noise and bulk of an outside central air conditioner unit.

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