With 33 Solutions LLC and a Trane branded high efficiency HVAC system, we can get you into a top of the line HVAC system for less than the competition, while also ensuring that your expectations are 100% aligned with reality! What is the truth, you ask? Well, while they will lower your electric bill, it won’t cut it by the massive amount you are wanting. You also need to get the rest of your home up to spec because it will be a waste otherwise. The HVAC system is just one piece of the efficiency puzzle. You also need to consider ductwork, attic ventilation, insulation, and proper HVAC system design.
All About High Efficiency HVAC
With just about every conversation that I have with homeowners on upgrading or replacing their home’s HVAC system, it comes up. “What is the most efficient HVAC system out there? What would a top of the line system be?”
I feel that I get this question, for two primary reasons.
1) Nothing more than satisfying curiosity.
2) Homeowners are genuinely willing to invest more money now, to earn a more significant savings down the road.
For the unscrupulous, predatory HVAC contractors, this is music to their ears. And, before we go further, I need to get something off of my chest. In my opinion and from my experience, most HVAC companies send people to your home that are more salesmen than they are technicians. Sad, I know. They will promise you the world to buy that fancy new $20,000.00 HVAC system, touting that it will take your $300 per month electric bill down to under $75 per month. Only to find out that when you complain next summer, the contractor is out of business or they show you the fine print on the contract, where they cannot guarantee energy savings. Even though saving tons of money each month was hinted at verbally in the high-pressure sales pitch.
As of right now, October 2017, a high efficiency HVAC system is seeing 20 to 24 SEER, while the bottom end of the market is 14 SEER. To go any further, we need to discuss SEER so that we have a basic understanding of what it is. I explain SEER, EER, and COP in further detail in another article so for this article; I will keep things simple.
SEER is a ratio. 14/1 16/1 20/1, etc. If you spend 1 unit of energy, you receive X units of cooling. To keep the math easy, let us compare 14 vs. 21 SEER, and our “pretend home” requires 714 units of cooling.
With a 14 SEER system, we need 51 units of energy.
With a 21 SEER system, we need 34 units of energy.
A difference of 17 energy units and a 33% savings.
If you have an electric bill of $300 per month during the summer months, and $200 of that is from your AC system, then a 33% savings is $66 a month over six months, equaling a little under $400 per year. By spending the extra money to get there, it takes 8 to 10 years at our prices, and 15 to never years with other contractors (I have seen some price quotes from competitors high efficiency HVAC systems in the $20,000 to $30,000 range). Now, I know what you are going to say next.
What a High Efficiency HVAC System does for you!
“Well, Anthony, why would I even want a high-efficiency AC system then?”
- Keeping up with the Jones’ and bragging rights.
- More accurate temperature and humidity control (comfort). The AC system will hold 74 degrees exactly, witch zero deviation.
- Less noise – it takes energy to make noise, so high-efficiency HVAC systems tend to be quiet.
- Better control via WiFi connected thermostats being a requirement on high SEER systems.
- It will save you some money. Just not as much as you think!
The bottom line is that your most significant gains are luxurious features and comfort, due to the core technology behind how 18 SEER plus AC equipment operates. This technology goes by a few names across the industry, such as brushless DC, inverter technology, variable speed, variable frequency drives (VFD’s), electronically commutated motors (ECM), and others.
Variable Speed or Inverter HVAC Systems
Before we cover variable speed technology, you first need to understand how standard Alternating Current electronics work. With traditional mechanical devices or motors that run on AC, they are either 100% on or 100% off. Well, with smaller appliances such as corded power drills or a kitchen mixer, you can vary the speed with variable transformers or MOSFETs to chop up that power. But, when you need to control motors that have a very high power demand, these speed control devices cannot hold up to high current, high power demands. So, for reliability purposes, things like an air compressor or your homes AC unit are stuck with just a switch. When you flip that switch on, the electric motor synchronizes with the 60 cycles per second electricity coming from the power plant.
What this means for you in your home, is that your homes AC system turns on to bring the temperature a few degrees below the temperature that you set, and then waits a little longer to turn on again. So, when you set 75 degrees on the thermostat in the summertime, your AC system will turn on at 76 to 77 degrees, and work at 100% capacity. It will stay on at 100% capacity until it brings the temperature down to 73 to 74 degrees (this deviation window is usually a programmable feature in thermostats).
A high efficiency AC system based on inverter technology works around this by being able to vary their capacity from 5% to even 120% in some cases, by using an “electronic transmission.” When the 60-hertz AC power enters the air conditioning system from the power grid, it converts it to DC or direct current electricity. Once we have a flat line of positive voltage (no more alternating), the DC power converts into 3 phase power of varying frequencies (more on 3 phase power in another article – the biggest advantages of 3ph are torque, efficiency, and reliability). By varying the frequency of the AC power, you can control the capacity of the compressor. The entire system is also computer controlled so it knows how hard it will need to work in order to cool down your home. When it first turns on, it operates at 100% to cool down your house. Some systems can even work in an overdrive mode of up to 120% if the conditions are right. Once the temperature setpoint is reached, the system dials back the cooling capacity of the compressor by varying the frequency of the AC electricity, to hold the exact temperature that you set. By doing this, you go from one or two speeds that that traditional AC units have, to 700 and more.
The end result is that you no longer have an HVAC system that cycles on and off, all day long. Those hard starts are hard on wear and tear, and they are hard on electrical consumption. Just think about it with your car. Is stop and go driving or are always on highway miles better for reliability and efficiency?
Another thing to note is that this technology is not only limited to the compressor. In addition to the compressor, you also have two other key motors on any modern residential HVAC system that incorporates this inverter technology. There is the blower motor outside cooling the outdoor coil and the blower motor inside circulating air through your home. For humid environments like we have here in The Woodlands, TX, a high efficiency HVAC system is amazing for humidity control. Here is why.
Once a high efficiency HVAC system reaches the temperature setpoint, it drastically slows down the fan pushing air through the ductwork, while also turning up the compressor outdoor to 100%, or higher if it can. What this leaves you with is a very cold indoor coil, that will then dehumidify your home. So, for 99.9% of residential applications, there is no need for a dehumidifier. Then once both the humidity value and the temperature value is at the setpoint, all three motors are varied to hold them right where they need to be.
The Weakest Link
There is also one other issue that most contractors conveniently forget to mention because their only concern is getting the high ticket sale. What they do not tell you is that from a purely Return On Investment perspective, they will take 10 to 15 years before you break even on the upgrade. Essentially, you will not save as much on electricity as you were led on to believe.
Additionally, in order to see the maximum gain from a high efficiency HVAC system, you need to ensure that everything else is at that same level of efficiency. Items such as ductwork, insulation, doors, windows, etc, are huge factors that you need to consider. In fact, at the end of the day, I would say that most of you are motivated my money. I mean, who isn’t? For most homes, spending $3,000 on ductwork and insulation, would have a much higher ROI than paying an extra $4,000 on a top of the line HVAC system.
It is as the saying goes, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link!”
When it comes to your home or businesses HVAC system, this is a critical aspect that needs attention, and this is an area that we excel in. In fact, it is what makes us different from the competition out there. We design HVAC systems, and we make recommendations based upon the highest ROI for our customers and not 33 Solutions LLC. We will not sell you something if it is against your best interest. And, if you are stubborn about it, we will tell you to go somewhere else. We will not sell you something that you will regret later on.
“Okay, Anthony, I’m curious, how expensive are we talking?”
With 33 Solutions LLC and our Trane line of HVAC equipment, we can get you into a top of the line HVAC system for $8,000 to $12,000. However, that is if all other aspects of your home and HVAC system are up to date and compatible. In fact, as I just stated, I would much rather see a low efficiently 14 SEER system with new ductwork in a 20-year-old home, as opposed to just going with a “top of the line” 20 plus SEER HVAC system with shoddy ductwork.
I genuinely hope that this article was helpful. If you have any questions about high efficiency HVAC systems or anything else HVAC related, please feel free to contact me – Anthony – at 33 Solutions LLC!