For the last several years, energy efficiency has been on everyone’s radar as the need to conserve energy and money has become more important for both businesses and residents. Since a home’s heating and air conditioning system is the biggest user of energy (more than half, according to the U.S. Department of Energy), the HVAC industry has been on the cutting-edge of developing new technology and equipment to meet the demands of both the government and the end user.
New 2015 Energy Efficiency Standards
In January 2015, new residential central air conditioning systems and heat pumps had to meet tougher standards, depending on where the home is located.
Homeowners in the North will adhere to the old minimum of 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). Homeowners in the warmer Southern states saw the minimum rating increased from 13 SEER to 14 SEER. Additionally, in five Southwest states (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico), central air conditioning will require an EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) of 11.7 or 12.2, depending on the size of the unit, along with a 14 SEER rating.
The most significant change regarding the new regulations involves all split-system heat pumps. All regions will move from 13 SEER and 7.7 HSPF, Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, to the new national heat pump efficiency minimum of 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF.
The majority of U.S. manufacturers already offer 14 SEER heat pump systems, and many manufacturers may update current 14 SEER designs to meet product demands for 2015 inventory stocking. The remaining inventory of 13 SEER equipment can be installed until the set deadline: July 1, 2016.
“Whole” Building Science Has Become the Norm
As more states adopt new energy efficient building codes, HVAC contractors will need to become more familiar with how to “right fit” an HVAC system for a building that has been built to high efficiency or Net Zero Energy standards. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America have recently developed “HVAC System Design for Energy Efficient Homes,” a manual for HVAC contractors to follow as a new industry standard.
This standard will provide procedures to design/select HVAC systems and equipment for low-load homes that will achieve satisfactory indoor conditions with lower equipment capacity; i.e., resolving ventilation and moisture requirements/issues with low air volume systems while addressing occupant comfort, health, and safety. These procedures will apply as lower capacity equipment appears in the marketplace.
Homes are getting smarter, with various devices talking to each other and the homeowners.
Household appliances, the HVAC system, lighting, window blinds and thermostats, among other devices, can be controlled through a smart phone and provide updates on status.
Smart thermostats are a big part of the Internet of Things home revolution. As more homeowners and building professionals come to understand the value of a smart thermostat, the market is expected to soar in the U.S. and Europe.
A smart thermostat is more than a programmable thermostat. With a traditional thermostat, one can turn the heating or cooling up or down, and with programmable versions, one can set the temperature to change depending on the time of day.
What makes smart thermostats so unique – smart– is that they learn and adjust the temperature based on the owners’ habits and the characteristics of the house. Not only will the devices come to know when the temperature should be raised or decreased, but they also learn how long the house takes to heat up or cool down. This means they can begin to adjust the temperature in just the right amount of time so homeowners can feel the change when they should – not 15 minutes later.
Ductless HVAC Systems
Once seen as a solution for home additions and bonus rooms, now ductless systems, also known as mini split, are available to provide whole-home solutions with outdoor systems that can handle up to 8 indoor units. An array of indoor air handler options, such as ceiling cassettes and wall-mounted units, give homeowners and contractors the flexibility to ensure that convenience and aesthetics are achieved. New technology addresses some of the shortcomings of heat pumps, such as a loss of heating capacity in sub-freezing weather. New units on the market offer high levels of heating capacity in temperatures as low as 5 below zero Fahrenheit. Mini splits will be a more popular option in northern climates with less need for expensive back up heating.
Ductless systems are being utilized as the primary source of heating and cooling in both residential and commercial applications. Some of the many benefits of mini split systems are:
- Individual zones; heat and cool specific spaces when desired.
- Cheaper to install and maintain.
- Higher SEER ratings (up to 30.5 SEER with Carrier’s Infinity Series)
- Flexible installation options, including wall, ceiling and floor mounted indoor unit styles.
- Minimal energy loss; air does not travel through ductwork.
- Can also be used for garages and extensions where there is no ductwork
- Perfect for older buildings that cannot accommodate ductwork
- Quiet operation.
- Heating capabilities down to a temperature of -15° F.
Variable Speed HVAC Systems
Variable speed compressor technology brings to the HVAC industry whole new levels of efficiency, comfort, reliability and versatility. This technology is highly efficient and will reduce HVAC energy costs, while improving system comfort and reliability for homeowners. In order to enable the early adoption of variable speed compressor technology into the U.S. HVAC market, U.S. OEMs began introducing new, ducted systems with variable speed compressors as early as 2006 and more have followed since. Within the next few years, it is expected that all of the major OEMs will be offering high efficiency ducted variable speed systems in the U.S.
Variable speed systems work by connecting a motor control drive to the compressor and then connecting the line input power from the utility to the drive. The drive uses frequency modulation to adjust power output of the compressor motor, enabling it to speed up or slow down according to the heating or cooling load in the home. This ability to modulate compressor capacity enables many of the advantages of variable speed technology, including improved efficiency and comfort.
The ability to adjust power output to the compressor, rather than the merely on-off functionality provided by traditional systems, allows homeowners to achieve significant cost savings over the course of a year. In some cases these savings amount to 40% of the overall annual energy costs.
As you look toward your business plans for 2016 and beyond, make sure that you are staying abreast of all the exciting technology that is making the HVAC industry a leader in the energy efficiency landscape. Carrier Enterprise will continue to make you aware of these trends through sharing information with you on our website, at tradeshows and conferences, and with in-store demonstrations and webinars on the latest energy efficiency products and trends. Look to Carrier Enterprise as your HVAC Energy Efficiency technology partner. We’ll make sure you have all the latest news and information to keep your business in the know!