energy efficiency

Guide to Energy Efficient Window Labels

A house with old, single-paned windows can be a source of drafty air, especially in the wintertime. Even worse, they can be rough on a home’s energy efficiency, making your wallet take a hard hit when it comes to winter utility costs.

Replacing old, outdated windows is one of the most effective ways to invest in long-term energy savings. While the initial investment in replacement windows may feel overwhelming, modern energy efficient windows are well worth the price, and offer significant month-to-month savings.

Choosing the right replacement windows can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t understand all the information, numbers, and acronyms on the labels. Whether you plan to purchase your new windows online or in the store, window labels are a key source of information, making it easy to compare different models. Deciphering the label information will enable you to make an informed decision and make a wise window investment.

Understanding Window Labels

Use this information to help you analyze window label info with this handy guide.

Manufacturer’s Labels

One section of the window label contains specs from the manufacturer. It will usually include the model number of the specific window design. Other features the manufacturer’s label might include are:

The material used in frame construction. Common frame materials include aluminum, wood, vinyl, and fiberglass.

Number of panes. The manufacturer’s label should specify if the windows are single, double, or triple paned. The more panes a model has, the more protected your home is from the cold air outside.

Multi-pane windows contain gas in the spaces between the panes. The type of gas used should be listed on the label. Argon and krypton are common gases used in modern energy efficient windows.

Some models feature panes treated to protect your furniture, carpet, and drapes from harmful UV rays. Over time, UV exposure can cause fading. Low-E is a common glass treatment that helps filter harmful ultraviolet light.

The NFRC Label

Modern windows also contain a 4-5 digit NFRC rating. The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) calculates this rating. This independent organization evaluates windows and skylights. The HFRC number allows you to easily compare key characteristics of different window models. These characteristics include:

Visible Transmittance. This is a measurement of how much light a specific window allows to pass through. Higher visual transmittance means more light will enter your home. This could help save on electrical costs for artificial lighting and can also help your home feel more comfortable and inviting.

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient. This number indicates how effectively the window blocks outside heat. The lower the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, the more the new windows will save you on your summer cooling bills.

U Factor. The U Factor indicates how effectively the window traps heat inside your home. Lower U Factors are desirable, indicating greater energy efficiency during cold winter months.

Air Leakage.  This number measures how tightly the windows are sealed.  A lower number means the window will let in less air from outside.

Energy Star Label

Windows that meet certain performance criteria will feature the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star label. These windows meet specific levels of energy efficiency for specific regions of the United States.

Because homeowners in cold climates need different window properties than those in warmer climates, there is no one-size-fits-all window model. Energy Star criteria also differ for different climates, reflecting the specific energy needs of homeowners in the area. The EPA divides the country into four distinct regions, Northern, North-Central, South-Central and Southern, and windows are rated according to each region based on NFRC measurements for U Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient.

Consult the Professionals

If you want more information about how you can make your home more energy efficient and lower your utility bills, contact a local professional. A local HVAC technician can evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and suggest steps to help increase efficiency.

Read more

How to Interpret Energy Efficiency Ratings

AFUEKeeping your home at a comfortable temperature can be expensive. For the average homeowner, heating and cooling costs can total well more than half their monthly utility bills. Finding a system that keeps you and your family comfortable, yet operates efficiently is important for keeping expensive utility bills manageable.

If you are considering upgrading your current heating and cooling system, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the acronyms and numbers. These jumble of letters and numbers represent a system’s energy efficiency ratings.

A little understanding goes a long way in helping you make the most informed decision possible. Purchasing a new HVAC system, air conditioner, or furnace is a huge investment, and it will have a huge impact on your family’s day-to-day comfort.

Understanding the Different Energy Efficiency Ratings

Shopping for a new air conditioner or heat pump can be confusing. Every brand claims to be better than the competition. It is important to understand the different ratings so you can effectively compare your options and choose the best system to meet your needs.

SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration, is the measure of energy efficiency of cooling equipment. This figure is determined by dividing the cooling output of the system (measured in BTU or British Thermal Units) by the system’s electricity usage (measured in kilowatt-hours). Basically. SEER specifies how much electricity is needed to run the air conditioner compared to the cooling capacity.

A higher SEER rating means better energy efficiency. When comparing systems, even a small increase in SEER can greatly reduce your energy consumption, saving a significant amount on your annual utility bills.

The US Department of Energy sets SEER requirements. For northern states with cooler climates, air conditioners must have a  minimum SEER of 13. If you live in a state that has a typically hot summer, you will need a system with a SEER of at least 14.

EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio

Similar to SEER, EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) is measured over higher temperatures and over an extended period. Usually, both SEER and EER ratings will be displayed on a cooling system. These numbers will help you understand exactly what to expect when it comes to performance and energy consumption.

HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor

Like SEER measures cooling efficiency, HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) measures heating efficiency. This number is calculated in a similar manner to SEER, by dividing the total heating needed by the total electricity used by the system. A higher HSPF indicates better heating efficiency.

AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This number indicates the percentage of heat created for every energy dollar consumed. When fuel is converted to heat, a percentage of energy is always lost in the conversion. This number basically measures the efficiency fuel is transformed into heat.

For example, an AFUE of 80 means 80 percent of the fuel consumed is emitted as heat into the home. The remaining 20 percent to heat the home, while 20% is misplaced through venting or consumed in some other way. A higher AFUE signifies greater energy efficiency.

Energy Star

Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star is the government-supported symbol for energy efficiency. Products with the Energy Star label have met strict standards of energy efficiency. These products have been tested in a controlled laboratory environment by a neutral third party.

If you have questions about the energy efficiency ratings of your current heating and cooling system, contact your local HVAC professionals for help. If you are considering upgrading your current system, they can also help you determine which products are best suited for your home and your family’s specific needs.

Read more

Keep an Open Door Policy for Energy Efficiency

open doorKeeping your home comfortably cool during the hot summer months can be expensive, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Opening your late summer utility bills can feel about as scary as stepping into a horror movie. Because summer cooling bills can be so frightening, homeowners often share their own theories about how to minimize the financial damage.

Unfortunately, not all accepted theories for cutting costs actually work. One common strategy for saving money on air conditioning, is to shut the doors to the rooms you aren’t using. The idea is that you won’t have to pay to cool unused spaces.

This prevalent strategy, although well-intentioned, will actually end up costing you more money. And it could also contribute to other indoor air problems.

Why You Need to Keep the Doors Open

Modern air conditioning systems are designed to function as a carefully balanced whole. When you close interior doors, you are essentially shutting off part of the system. This doesn’t strengthen the other parts of the system. Instead, it causes the whole system to work harder to keep your home cool.

Shutting doors to unused rooms forces your air conditioner to compensate for the air imbalances. Because closed doors cause your system to run less efficiently, you could actually be causing unnecessary wear-and-tear on your unit.

The Effects of Closed Doors on Your AC

Shutting the doors to unused rooms could actually be one of the worst things you can do. Closing the door to a room does not stop your air conditioner from blowing air into that room. As the air blows from your open vents, it can build up inside the room and affect the air pressure.

Most air conditioning systems incorporate supply vents in every interior room. However, many homes are designed with a single central intake. Closing interior doors blocks the intended air flow, creating an imbalance, reducing the air volume returning to the air conditioner.

As your system continues to intake air to cool the entire house, the pressurized air behind your closed doors is naturally looking for a way out. Often, the easiest escape route is through cracks in walls and gaps around windows. The result is often a negative pressure in the part of the home left open, causing outdoor air to push in through any small space or crack it can find.

Maintaining Air Flow and Personal Privacy

Reducing utility bills isn’t the only motive behind closing doors. For some family members, shutting doors is a matter of privacy. This can be especially true for households with teenagers and extended family members.

If there are rooms that must be closed regularly for issues of privacy, there are measures that can be taken to ensure cooling efficiency. One option is to have airflow grates installed in each interior door. This allows air to flow freely even when the doors are closed.

 

Contact your local HVAC professionals if you have questions or concerns about maintaining proper air circulations while preserving privacy.

Read more

The Benefits of Proper Attic Ventilation

attic fanIf you’ve spent any time in an unfinished attic during the summer, you know just how hot that space can get. Because attics rarely have air conditioning vents, temperatures rise quickly, especially with the hot summer sun beating down directly on the roof right overhead. It isn’t uncommon for attic temperatures to reach 150 degrees or more in the middle of summer.

What are the Benefits of Good Attic Ventilation?

The benefits of proper attic ventilation extend beyond cooler attic temperatures. Here are just a few of the surprising advantages to having good ventilation.

Cooling Efficiency and Lower Utility Bills

Properly balanced attic ventilation will help your HVAC system run more efficiently all year long.

In the hot summer months, attic ventilation helps your home to breathe. Without proper air circulation, the air inside your attic rises like an oven, causing your air conditioner to work harder to remove the hot air that accumulates there.

Circulating air will lower attic temperatures by cooling your roof deck (the underside or base of your roof). This simple act will allow your air conditioner to cool the inside of your home more quickly and efficiently.

During the cold winter months, a balanced ventilation system in the attic will keep humidity levels in check. By minimizing condensation in the attic spaces, you also reduce the risk of developing potentially dangerous mold and mildew.

Condensation in the attic will also dampen your insulation and cause it to compress. This reduces the efficiency of the insulation and can cause your heating system to work harder to heat the inside of your home and raising your utility costs.

Preserving Structural Integrity

As proper attic air flow reduces the accumulation of condensation and maintains proper humidity levels, it helps prevent wood rot and moisture damage.

How to Achieve Proper Attic Ventilation

Unless you plan to turn your home’s attic into a usable living space, it isn’t cost effective to install HVAC vents. If your attic is only used for storage, installing an attic fan is the more practical solution.

Attic fans work continuously to circulate air, replacing stagnant air with fresh air from outside. This help keep your attic space from turning into an oven.

There are two types of attic fans you can have installed to ensure proper attic ventilation.

Rooftop Attic Fans

Rooftop fans are installed right on top of your home’s roof. Solar powered rooftop fans are a popular choice. The sun is already there, beating down on your roof. Harnessing that power to help ventilate your attic space just makes sense. And since these fans run on solar power, they won’t add to your energy bills.

Gable Fans

Gable fans are also designed to circulate air. Unlike rooftop fans, this ventilation system is composed of two separate fans. They are mounted on the gables of your home, each on opposite sides. One fan works to blow out stagnant attic air, while the other blows in fresh air from outside.

Make Sure to Seal It

In order for an attic fan to work properly, it is important have a tight seal between your attic space and living space. If this tight seal doesn’t exist, your attic fan could actually have a detrimental effect on energy efficiency. The circulation created by your newly installed attic fans could suck the cooler air from your living space through small cracks and gaps in your ceiling.

Have your home properly inspected before your attic fans are installed. If there are any significant cracks in the barrier between these spaces, have them properly sealed. This will prevent the air conditioned air in your home’s upper level from escaping through your attic.

 

If you have any questions about attic ventilation or how to make your home more energy efficient, contact your local HVAC professionals.

 

Read more

How Repainting Your Home Can Affect Energy Costs

One of the perks of being a homeowner is getting to picking out paint colors However, it may be more complicated than simply selecting colors that catch your eye, especially if your eye is drawn to dark, deep colors.

It may be thrilling to think about letting your inner angsty teenager to paint your bedroom walls solid black, but there is a reason your mom never turned the teenage you lose with a paint roller. The colors you choose for your home’s interior and exterior can have a serious impact on your heating and cooling bills.

How Colors Affect Heating and Cooling

Some colors absorb radiant energy, while others reflect it. When the sun hits a dark surface, like a black bedroom wall or a deep brown home exterior, some of the sun’s energy is absorbed. The absorbed energy is transferred into the home through conduction. The result is ambient heat gain.

Black and other dark colors absorb 70 to 90 percent of the radiant energy. In contrast, light colored surfaces, including whites, beige, and pastels, reflect most of the heat away from the surface. This reduces the amount of heat transferred into your home.

Keeping it Cool with Dark Paint

If your goal is to reduce summer cooling costs, the decision is an easy one. Pick light paint colors for both your home’s interior and exterior surfaces. However, if you just don’t like light colors, there are ways you still enjoy the darker side of the color spectrum without increasing your energy bill.

If dark colors speak to you, consider using them on the walls of an interior room with few windows. In this case, the color choice may make no difference since the room will have limited sun exposure.

Also, choose your window treatments wisely. Heavy curtains or drapes that cover the entire window will do the best job of blocking radiant heat. If you choose dark colored window treatments to match the room’s walls, make sure the window-facing side is a lighter color. This will help reflect light away from the room and minimize heat absorption.

If your heart’s desire is a dark color on your home’s exterior, consider using the power of sade trees to keep energy costs in check. Well-placed deciduous trees like oak, elm, and maple will provide a leafy shaded canopy in the bright summer months. This will help reduce the amount of sunlight that hits your home’s exterior surface.

In the fall, these trees shed their leaves allowing your home to be exposed to more warm sunlight. This is a way to passively heat your home and could potentially save you on heating costs.

Consider the Accents

If you are concerned about dark paint colors increasing heat transfer, there are other options. You can still enjoy dark colors as a contrasting accent.

Dark colors make a bold statement as accents in rooms with lighter colored walls. Building elements like door and window frames can be striking when painted a dark color to contrast the lighter color of their surroundings.

An accent wall painted a single bold color also makes a bold design element. Choose a wall that doesn’t face any windows to reduce the amount of heat the dark wall absorbs.

Check Your Paint’s LRV

Before deciding on a new color for your home, be sure to check the paint’s Light Reflectance Value, or LRV. LRV is measured on a scale that ranges from zero to 100 percent. Measuring the percentage of light a paint color reflects, the higher the LRV the more light it reflects.

Darker colors have a low LRV and lighter colors, like white, have the highest. To save on cooling costs, be sure to choose a paint with a high LRV.

Most household paints have the color’s LRV printed on the swatch cards or pint cans. This makes it easy to know how much radiant heat will be absorbed or reflected with any specific color.

Check with the Professionals

Your local HVAC professionals aren’t likely to help you with painting or other home remodeling tasks. However, if you have large remodeling plans in mind, it is always a good idea to check with the experts to determine the impact your renovations may have on your HVAC system’s efficiency and effectiveness.

 

Read more

What You Need to Know About SEER Ratings

PA energy rebatesWhen it comes to conserving energy, SEER numbers can be confusing. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and when you boil it down to basics, that’s all SEER is. However, understanding the type of savings you can expect from a new air conditioner isn’t always easy.

What Exactly is SEER?

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is simply a measure of a system’s efficiency. Think of it like you would gas mileage. Most car owners understand the more miles per gallon (MPG) a vehicle gets, the more fuel efficient it is.

SEER ratings are just like MPG ratings. The higher the SEER, the more energy efficient the system.

All newly manufactured units are required to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. However, many of today’s models have efficiency ratings as high as the mid-20s.

How SEER is calculated

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings are calculated by plugging specific numbers into a formula.

This important rating is determined by taking a system’s cooling output during a typical cooling season and dividing that number by the electric energy input during the same period.

Thinking of the rating as a ratio, SEER is the comparison of British thermal unit (BTU) of cooling to watt-hours of energy consumption.

If that sounds like Greek to you, you are not alone. Understanding SEER in terms of mathematics is often best left to the professionals. No one is expecting the typical homeowner to whip out a slide rule and calculate their units rating.

Finding Your Unit’s Rating

Most AC units have a large yellow “Energy Guide” sticker that displays the system’s efficiency rating. The SEER rating will be listed near the top of your unit’s manufacturer’s label.Look for the beginning digits of the model number. For example, an air conditioner with a rating of 13 will typically have a model number that begins with 13AC.

What You Need to Know About SEER

A higher rating equals better energy efficiency.

Better energy efficiency benefits you in two ways. First, you will save money on your monthly cooling bill. With less money spent on utilities, you’ll have more funds to enjoy some summer fun.

The second benefit is a reduction in your carbon footprint. While this benefit won’t help your bank account, it will help the environment. The less energy used to cool your home, the less fossil fuel you consume. And the less fuel you consume, the less carbon emissions make it into the air we breathe.

As of 2006, the minimum requirement for central air conditioners is a SEER rating of 13. The U.S. Department of Energy awards an Energy Star label to systems with higher ratings.

If you have an older cooling system, it may have a rating as low as six. These older systems are extremely inefficient when compared with today’s newer models.

If you want to save money and the planet, make sure any new AC installed in your home has the highest efficiency rating available. Combined with correct unit sizing and professional installation, you should see a great improvement in your energy consumption.

A Note About SEER Ratings

Very controlled laboratory conditions are used to determine Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings. Using high performance measuring equipment, unit efficiency is determined without an air duct system. It is important for the consumer to understand that laboratory conditions do not mirror the actual conditions your HVAC system will be operating under after it is installed in your home.

The SEER is the system’s energy efficiency at one specific operating condition. Actual system performance will vary based on installation procedures and the quality of your home’s duct work.

A new AC unit will undoubtedly save you money on utility bills, however SEER is only one factor in your home’s energy consumption. A professional should test any new system with approved testing methods after installation. This will help ensure you get the maximum savings your new energy efficient system has to offer.

 

If you are interested in learning more about SEER and high-efficiency air conditioning systems, contact your local HVAC professionals. Not only can they help you find the ideal system for your home, they can also help you keep it running efficiently.

Read more