HVAC systems is a broad term that encompasses all systems involved with Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning of a building. Since there is so much diversity in what that might entail, there is accordingly a broad range of efficiency levels that one might expect, taking into consideration varying price points and the age of a system or its components. Factors that might effect the efficiency of an HVAC system include the regularity with which it has been receiving maintenance, changes in use patterns of the building that may shift the parameters for desired ventilation and thermal conditioning, and normal wear and tear over time.
However, there is a class of system that is designed with efficiency as its primary parameter: High Efficiency HVAC Systems. These systems use one or more of the most efficient components in order to achieve a high energy efficiency rating with the local or industry rating bureau. In some cases, the given bureau may have imposed its own cutoff for what constitutes a truly high-efficiency system; for example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has mandated a minimum SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of 14 since 20151.
One example of a component that can easily be switched out for a higher efficiency alternative is an air conditioner. As stated in “What Are The Differences Between High Efficiency Vs Standard Air Conditioning?”: “heat pumps are designed to extract heat from a medium such as air, water or even the ground. The extracted heat can be used to heat water, buildings, or ejected outdoors. On the other hand, conventional air conditioners are designed to extract heat from indoor spaces and then eject it outdoors.”1 This difference in method can account for energy savings of as much as half, while performing double duty by dehumidifying the air. A key attribute of high-efficiency HVAC systems is illustrated here: that nothing is wasted. If a process is valuable enough to spend precious energy on, it should be useful in more than one way, such as the dehumidifier-air cooler-energy generator properties of a heat pump. This value comes at a cost, though: heat pumps are significantly more expensive than air conditioning systems.1 This illustrates another key point about high efficiency HVAC systems and components: efficiency is the top priority. This means cost is not mitigated as much as with other comparable choices on the market. The true savings come later, when the high-efficiency choice saves more energy and mitigates the recurring cost of the energy bill.
Another example of a high-efficiency swap is single stage to variable speed air conditioning1. While traditional air conditioners can have their fans in either the “off” or the “on” position, variable speed air conditioners have high or low settings for the fan. This helps mitigate the jerky temperature control that can occur when the fan can only be “on” or “off. This switch can increase both human comfortability and energy efficiency, providing a win-win for clients.
High Efficiency HVAC systems are a great choice for those who prioritize recurring savings, environmental concerns, or who want a good rating from their local regulating bureau. Would a high-efficiency system be right for you?