Admin on March 5, 2015 6 Comments For many people, at least half of the utility bill goes to controlling the temperature of the air inside their home. Cooling in the heat of summer and pleasant indoor heat throughout winter’s chill come at a cost that can certainly add up. And these cooling costs are almost out of sight on the power bill along with other energy expenses, like keeping on the lights, running the refrigerator, using your computer, watching television, heating hot water, and all the utilities of a modern household. Some personal choices can make a difference in the percentage of the power bill that goes to climate control, however. Selecting a slightly higher (warmer) indoor temp in the summer and lower setting in the winter will have the obvious effect of making the machine work less to hit the target you set on the thermostat, with some noticeable change in the power bill, usually. Maintenance is another area that can reflect a slight improvement in the cost of utilities. An air conditioner or heater with clean filters, coils, and well-oiled machinery and tightened belts will produce more of the comfortable climate-controlled air that you pay it to make, using less energy in the process. One big difference you can make to save you lots of money, is to invest in a new heating or cooling unit with improved energy efficiency. For example, getting an Energy Star rated appliance that is designed with maximum performance at minimal energy usage is one good way to hold down the continuing cost of the energy bill. Terms You Should Know Getting to know the terms and acronyms tossed around in the world of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) professionals seem to require a guidebook, at first. Some basic math is useful, as well, to follow along with the calculations in determining the efficiency and cost of usage for that air conditioner in the window (or on the wall). SEER Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, the SEER is a function of the energy consumed (in British thermal units aka BTUs) by the energy consumed in watt-hours (Wh). The higher the SEER, the more efficient the device. EER Energy Efficiency Ratio, is the output cooling energy (in BTUs) divided by the energy input (in Wh) at a set operating condition of 95°F outside temperature and 80°F inside with 50% relative humidity. Unlike the SEER, the EER measures a specific performance point in time, like a snapshot, rather than an average over the entire cooling season. HSPF Heating Seasonal Performance Factor is a term that is commonly used to measure how efficient air source heat pumps are. The higher the HSPF number is on a heater, the more efficient that unit will be. To determine the HSPF rating, simply compare the about of heat a unit puts out in an entire season (in BTUs) to amount of watt-hours (Wh) of energy consumed. R-410A Used as an alternative to refrigerants that contain hydroflourocarbons (HCFC), R-410A does not contribute to ozone depletion as did earlier coolants, therefore it is now the preferred refrigerant in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. Look for the Energy Star Label The Energy Star program provides detailed information on efficiency and performance ratings, helping customers to select the most effective cooling and heating unit for their needs and budget. Energy Star rated appliances are those that exceed standards set by the federal agency for energy efficiency and decreased resource usage. Consumers who consult with a guide or website that lists Energy Star certified appliances are likely to find the equipment that will result in the least environmental impact and will help them to save money in energy usage over the life of the appliance, as well. Cooling System Types and Costs Many urban apartment dwellers are very familiar with window air conditioners. Set in the window frame and using a traditional heat pump to exchange warm outside air for cooled air that is then vented inside the building. Depending on the size of the unit, these air conditioners are generally effective in only one room or area of the home. Zone heating and cooling systems rely on ducts to carry cool or warm air from the heat pump at a central location throughout the building. As somewhat of an improvement over single point thermostat monitored systems that may generate excess heating or cooling throughout the entire home, a properly set zone system can be reasonably efficient for a large home or office. Ductless heating and cooling systems, also known as mini-split systems, consist of a simple wall-mounted unit that maximizes efficiency in delivery of air temperature balance through a number of simple technologies. By not having to transmit cooled air through ducts, the mini-split increases efficiency by some twenty percent, the average amount lost in ducts. Traditional cooling systems rely on an air compressor that goes back and forth all day from one extreme to another, from off to fully activated at maximum capacity. The energy consumed in switching on the compressor, then idling it after each cool air production cycle ceases, leads to a dramatic loss of efficiency overall. Portable air conditioning units are another efficient option that can save you money. The main benefit of this type of air conditioner is that it is portable and can virtually be moved anywhere you desire cool air. Because of this, portable air conditioning units are becoming increasingly popular for those that live in small homes or apartments. Efficiency Equals Money Saved The mini split, or ductless heating and cooling system, relies on the inverter technology for savings. The system, also called variable refrigerant flow (VRF), uses a device to control the speed of the motor, modulating it smoothly from low to high flow, avoiding the extremes of off and on as with traditional compressor systems. By eliminating the stop and start cycles that are costly in energy usage terms, the inverter technology produces a more efficient and effective cooling environment. Get the Most Out of Your Energy Dollars There is the potential for real savings to be found in controlling heating and cooling costs. From regular upkeep and maintenance that will keep the machinery that you have operating at peak efficiency, to sensible use of the thermostat by setting a reasonable temperature setting as needed, there are plenty of ways to save that will help keep the power bill in check. If old equipment that is heating or cooling the home is more than a decade or two old, it is likely that the savings available in improving efficiency will add up to an amount that is equal or better than the cost of the replacement. While the initial cost of a new unit can be costly, especially for a high-quality, Energy Star rated appliance, the ongoing savings in energy efficiency, especially from a new mini-split ductless heating and cooling system, is likely to pay for the cost over a few years with a rapid return on investment.