Get the most out of a new energy efficient heating or cooling unit

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It’s a common misconception that purchasing a new home heating or cooling unit will automatically lower your energy bills. However, this answer is not always so simple.
Purchasing a new energy efficient heating or cooling unit should lower your energy bills. However, you may want to ask yourself if your home is prepared to fully realize the potential cost savings of a new energy efficient unit.
Air conditioning and heating units are a part of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. An HVAC unit is a small system working within the larger system of your home. The full potential energy and cost savings of a new, energy efficient heating or cooling unit is only possible when the HVAC system is working with the home’s system.
To make sure these systems are working together, purchase the correct size central air or heating unit for your home’s square footage. Heating units that are too large for homes will not cycle properly and that will result in wasted energy. These units may also have a shorter life. Oversized air conditioners are susceptible to short cycling, inadequate dehumidification and large temperature variations within a home.
Heating units that are too small will not provide enough heat to be comfortable during very cold weather, and air conditioners that are too small may not be able to adequately cool and dehumidify your home during warmer months.
Central air and heating is delivered via a duct system. The duct system needs to be properly sized, installed, sealed and insulated. If it’s not, it will affect the amount of energy required to heat or cool your home. Properly sealed duct work ensures that conditioned air is not lost during delivery. Duct work located outside of the home’s thermal boundary, or insulated boundary, should be insulated. Insulating the duct work ensures that the conditioned air is not lost through conduction to unconditioned spaces.
Your home’s thermal boundary plays an important role in the effectiveness of your home’s HVAC equipment. Air leaks within the thermal boundary will cause the loss of conditioned air and will cost you the full energy savings potential of the new unit. Sealing these leaks will correct the problem.
Remember when sealing your home’s thermal boundary, that it can affect a home’s ventilation system. Make sure you have adequate ventilation to have proper indoor air quality.
Additional information about topics related to energy efficiency is available at the Trimble County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.
Source: Beverly Miller, senior extension associate for Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.