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Eric Gans
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Residential Comfort & Energy Efficiency

Thursday, August 12 2021
When is the Best Time to Replace My HVAC?

Energy auditor and window specials

Written by Eric Gans

I have over 1500 energy audits under my belt in Maryland.  I like to take my personal experiences with each of my audit customers and try to get the things that concern them out into the world so others can make good home improvement decisions - in the right order - according to their needs.

 


 

There is no doubt that the very best time to replace your HVAC is after you air seal and insulate your attic.

That's right!

For starters, BGE and Pepco will give you higher incentives to replace old equipment with new equipment, if you have properly tightened up your home's envelope

It is also common after a well managed insulation project to hear Maryland utility customers report that their old furnace seemed to be working much better and the AC finally shuts off for periods of time on those hot summer days.

If this does not quite make sense to you then please continue to read so you can easily understand how important proper insulation is for your comfort and overall energy efficiency.

Additionally, you can get a home energy assessment through your Maryland utility and an auditor from Hometrust can come to your home and talk to you about how this works.
 

Three Reasons to Get a Home Energy Audit

There are three reasons to get a home energy audit before your replace your HVAC system and each will help you understand why sealing and insulation need to come first.

Number 1: HVAC Units are Very Simple Machines

Just because your unit looks bad does not mean it is not working properly.  Don't let your HVAC sales rep scare you into judging a book by its cover.  It is more important to pass judgement on how the air feels coming out on the inside of your home. 

HVAC components are simple machines that are built to run and run.  Unless your unit is not producing warm or cool air when called upon to do so, replacing HVAC is not the answer to a more comfortable home or saving energy in big ways.

The key to comfort is tightening up your "envelope".  An energy auditor will talk to you about how to keep more of the air that you are paying for inside of your home.  That is the end game.  The HVAC runs less, lasts longer, costs less to operate and in the meantime - you gain comfort.  That is a recipe for success.

Number 2: Who Would Put a New Engine in a Boat with a Leak?

It would be great if your friend bought a new motor for his boat. But, if you found out that he put the new motor in a boat that had several places it leaked, it would be odd.   It would make much more sense to use the funds to fix the leak first, right?

You get the point here.  Why purchase a new HVAC system if your house is poorly insulated?  Worse, why install a new high efficiency HVAC system with leaky ducts? 

If the pathway that the air takes with a new HVAC system is the same as it is taking with the existing system, then not much will change with overall comfort and efficiency gains will be nominal.

A BGE or Pepco energy audit will uncover any issues and provide cost-effective solutions to get the most out of your HVAC before making any decision.

 

Number 3: The Audit Unlocks Higher BGE Rebates

Create a smart plan that taps into the resources that are available to you through BGE and Pepco!  And, don't feel pressure to make any quick decisions.

Rushing to get an HVAC unit replaced is never a good idea.  With a good maintenance routine and a comprehensive home energy audit this nightmare scenario can easily be avoided.

As energy auditors we perform tests and collect information around your individual home and prepare a report that models energy usage and future usage if the recommended upgrades are made. 

When the air sealing and insulation is in place, the efficiency of the new HVAC reaches it's full potential and as a result the modeling software recognizes this and increases rebates associated with the savings - so generally, the higher the rebate - the higher the savings!
 


Before Purchasing New HVAC in Maryland

Learn about the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®  Program
It is what every Maryland homeowner should know about purchasing new HVAC.



What the HVAC Companies Don't Tell You

In my opinion HVAC sales reps have a great job. 

Let's face it, when human beings don't feel comfortable - we panic.  As soon as something goes wrong with the thermostat the calculator comes out to see how much is in the finances to replace the furnace.  The thought of being without heat shakes people to the core.  If there is too much humidity in the house on a hot summer day it can be unsettling.

What often times gets missed is finding the true source of the issue.  Is it a slight malfunction?  Does the thermostat just need a battery replaced?  Could there be a connection to the outside that has gotten worse causing a temperature variance inside your home?  Believe this one or not, but sometimes our bodies change.  We simply become more sensitive to the temperature, especially in the "comfort" of our own home.
 

Law of Diminishing Returns

A good example of the law of diminishing returns can be taken from a new HVAC installation. 

Too many times I see homeowners that are strongly considering replacing their 15 year old HVAC system. 

There is absolutely no doubt that technology has advanced over the last fifteen years and in HVAC there is no difference.  But, you simply will not recoup your expense in a reasonable time - if ever - when you replace a unit that is only 15 years old. 

And, you can be sure you will never do it if you have not properly sealed the attic and insulated the areas around the house that matter most.
 

When Replacing HVAC Does Make Sense

Finding the true source to a comfort issue requires a specialized firm that can look at a house as a complete system of many separate parts - all of which need to work well with one another in order to give back to those that inhabit the space. 

A bad feeling an energy auditor gets is when they are learning that the reason that the homeowner wants the audit is to figure out why replacing the HVAC last winter did not help with the bill or with comfort.  It is a common pitfall for many.

The idea is to learn those reasons before you replace the HVAC - then the dynamics shift - on a few different fronts including the likely possiblity that you do not have to replace the system at all.

But, if replacement is necessary, by solving the bigger issues and tightening the envelope around your home first, you can maximize HVAC rebates through the BGE & Pepco Smart Energy Saver Rebates program.  Doing so will make your return on investment much greater and the initial costs much lower and you will actually be on the path to a more comfortable and more efficient home.

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