| Comparing Quality.
Ever heard the term, "You get what you pay for?" Choosing products of higher quality can mean longer lasting performance and fewer headaches (and expenses) down the road. Unfortunately, comparing quality between heating and cooling systems is not always easy. Here are three guidelines we suggest:
- Select a brand name that you trust
- Solicit recommendations
- Look for 3rd party endorsements
Select a brand name that you trust. As a general rule, the bigger, better known brands will have a better reputation for quality and reliability - that's how they got to be so well recognized. For example, American Standard products undergo a rigorous series of quality tests that begins during initial product development and continues with field-testing of hand-built prototypes. Many of American Standard's quality checks during production are performed on every product we make, not just random samples. And, final products are run-tested. Every product we make is then backed by warranty protection of key components as well as the entire product.
Smaller companies and brand names you don't recognize may not perform these types of tests. It is in your best interest to do a little more homework about the company itself and its quality/reliability testing procedures as well as their warranty programs. All of these areas can give you clues about the quality of the products they manufacture.
Solicit recommendations. Recommendations from friends, neighbors or trusted acquaintances can be helpful as well. Ask people you trust if they've had a new indoor comfort system installed. If they're happy with what they've purchased, it may be worth your time to take a look at the products yourself, check the quality of installation, and feel the comfort. When doing so, remember that every home is different, and what may work in your friend's home may not be the best solution for you.
Look for 3rd party endorsements. Product endorsements from independent ratings companies, government agencies, or consumer groups are generally good sources for reliable information. These entities have nothing to gain by praising a particular product, so you can typically trust the information and opinions they provide. Some third-party endorsements to look for may include:
- EPA's Energy Star
- EPA's Green Star
- Consumer Digest
All systems are NOT alike. Newer technology has allowed manufacturers to offer high tech systems that do more than just blast hot or cold air through your ducts and out into your home. Many of today's systems offer the technology to reduce draftiness, eliminate the up and down temperatures you may have been experiencing and more. Here's how:
Furnaces. Variable-capacity and two-speed furnaces provide lower sound levels and also enhance your comfort.
Two-speed Furnaces. By operating on low speed up to 90% of the time, two-speed furnaces run for longer periods of time than single-speed furnaces. That means fewer on/off cycles, fewer drafts (from the blower kicking on) and much smaller temperature swings -- only one or two degrees instead of the four-degree swings common with single-speed furnaces. Plus, better air circulation helps prevent air "stratification" warm air rising to the ceiling and cold air settling on the floor. In short, you get consistent, even heat throughout your home.
Variable-capacity Furnaces. Variable-capacity furnaces also offer "smart" motors than can monitor your homes comfort needs and automatically adjust the volume and speed of air to provide the greatest comfort and the most efficient heating or cooling. They provide the ultimate combination of comfort, efficiency and quiet performance.
Air Conditioners and heat pumps, Some air conditioners and heat pumps offer additional features that provide greater comfort.
Two-speed Air Conditioners and heat pumps. Two-speed units can run on low speed (using 50% of the energy) up to 80% of the time, so they offer the same benefits as multi-capacity furnaces fewer on/off cycles, fewer drafts and much smaller temperature swings. You also get better air circulation, for even, consistent cooling and/or heating throughout your home. Plus, if you purchase a multi-speed or variable-capacity furnace or fan coil with your unit, you will enhance both the comfort and the efficiency of your air conditioning or heat pump system even further.
Comparing energy efficiency of different brands of heating and cooling equipment is relatively easy. Although the rating systems are standardized, allowing you to make a fair comparison, there are three different rating systems used. Each rating is used for a specific type of product(in other words, all furnaces use the same system, heat pumps use a different system, an so on). They are:
- AFUE (gas heating)
- SEER (cooling)
- HSPF (heat pump heating)
AFUE (gas heating). The efficiency of a furnace is measured in a rating known as AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). A lot like your cars miles per gallon rating, AFUE tells you how efficiently the furnace converts fuel (gas or oil) into heat. An AFUE of 80% means that 80% of the fuel is used to heat your home, while the other 20% basically goes up the chimney.
The government mandated a minimum AFUE rating for furnaces installed in new homes is 78%. (In contrast, many furnaces manufactured before 1992 had AFUE ratings as low as 60% so nearly half the fuel was being wasted.) Furnaces with AFUE ratings of 78% to 80% are considered "mid-efficiency"; those with ratings of 90% or higher are known as "high efficiency." The maximum furnace efficiency available is around 96.6%.
In general, a higher efficiency furnace usually means two things:
- higher price
- lower monthly operating cost
If you have an older furnace (with an AFUE of about 60%), you could save up to 40% on your heating bills by replacing it with a new high-efficiency furnace. So the cost to replace your old, inefficient furnace is paid back through lower utility bills.
Payback. If you live in a cold climate, you could see a payback in a few short years. If you live in a moderate climate, it might make more sense to purchase a mid-efficiency furnace. Your dealer can use heating data from your area to help you determine about how long it would take you to recover the additional cost of a high-efficiency model in energy savings. (Of course, after the payback, you continue to save on your energy bills for the life of the system.)
Comparing Sound Levels.
One factor of comfort most people don't consider is sound. How can you relax when you have a noisy system? This section provides tips on how to make sure you are getting the quietest system available.
Air Conditioners and heat pumps. An air conditioner or heat pump sitting next to your house can create a lot of noise both inside and outside your home. To compare sound levels of different brands, ask your dealer about the bel rating of units you are considering. Bels, similar to decibels, range from 0 to 13. Most air conditioners and heat pumps operate at 8 to 9 bels; some units ratings are as low as 6.8. That may not sound like a wide range, but consider this: 9 bels sounds 10 times louder than 8 bels. That means one 9-bel air conditioner is as loud as 10 units rated at 8 bels. So we think taking the time to compare bel ratings is pretty sound advice. Sound levels inside your home may also be reduced by matching your outdoor unit with a variable-capacity furnace or fan coil.
Furnaces. There isnt a standard sound rating system for furnaces, so its difficult to compare models.
However, models that have two-speed or variable-speed operation typically also offer lower operating sound levels, because there is less noise from the blower motor and from air turbulence at lower speeds. American Standard's variable-capacity models even have a "ramp-up" feature that gradually introduces warm air into your ducts, helping prevent the "creaking" noises that come from ducts expanding and contracting.
Since two-speed and variable-capacity models normally run on "low" speed up to 90% of the time, youll find theyre a sound solution when you want to enjoy peace and quiet.
Evaluating a dealer. Evaluating a dealer takes a little more brainwork. This is an important process, however, because choosing the right dealer can make the difference between getting the most comfort and efficiency for your money or, getting stuck with a system that doesn't meet your needs. Here are some tips on evaluating a dealer:
- Ask the dealers you are considering how long they've been in business. Common sense says that older, more established companies will have a better record or customer satisfaction.
- Check to see the dealer's contractor's license. Dealers must have a license to receive the permits needed for the job. And, only licensed HVAC contractors can legally purchase the refrigerant needed for air conditioners and heat pumps.
- Ask for references. Then, follow up by calling those people and asking them how satisfied they were with the dealer. Try to ask specific questions, about the dealer's timeliness, ability to follow through on start and finish times, etc.
Questions you may want to ask. The following is a list of questions you may want to ask a dealer when you are trying to make a selection. This list was prepared by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).
- Will the contractor listen to your needs?
- Is the contractor complying with state and local codes?
- Has the contractor provided you with a list of professional, business and trade references?
- Does the contractor have continuous formal training for their co-workers to assure YOU the best quality job?
- Has the contractor given you performance guarantees in writing?
- If anything goes wrong during installation, does the contractor have adequate insurance to cover your losses?
- Will the contractor stand behind your installation?
- Can the contractor service your new system in the future?
- Will the contractor install your new system in a timely, professional manner?
- Is the contractor financially responsible?
- Does the contractor drug test and background screen all of its co-workers to assure the stability of its co-workers?
- Has the contractor provided you with a list of satisfied customers?
Making the decision. If more than one dealer satisfies your requirements, trust your judgment. If you feel comfortable with one dealer, but still have reservations about another, go with the one you feel most comfortable with.
What makes my home comfortable?
The four biggest factors in your home's comfort are:
- Cleanliness/freshness of air
- Humidity * System Control
For more info scroll ahead.
Temperature. To most people, temperature is both the beginning and the end of any discussion involving comfort. To American Standard, simple temperature management is only the beginning.. To achieve superior indoor comfort, you've got to start with the basics -- heating or cooling -- as the foundation for your system. We offer four main product families for heating and cooling:
- Heat Pumps
- Air Conditioners
Cleanliness/Freshness of Air. Dusty, dirty homes at any temperature can cause feelings of discomfort to many people, especially allergy sufferers. And, the air in today's tightly-sealed, well-insulated and energy-efficient homes can become stale as the same indoor air is circulated and re-circulated. The fact is, with dust, pollen, pet dander, mold, skin flakes, chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, Radon gas and more, the air inside your home can be even more polluted than the air outside. Carrier can alleviate these problems and therefore add another level of comfort with the following products:
Humidity. Humidity is a funny thing. In the winter, dry air can cause static electricity, itchy skin, damage to home furnishings and more. Adding humidity is a good thing because it makes the air feel warmer and more comfortable while minimizing damage to furnishings. In the summer, it is preferable to remove humidity so indoor air feels cooler and less sticky. Carrier's answer? Improved comfort through humidity control with:
- Thermidistat Control
- ComfortHeat Technology
System Control. Some of the common comfort complaints from homeowners include: inconsistent temperatures from one room to the next, up and down temperature swings, constantly adjusting the thermostat, and more. System controls of varying degrees of sophistication can help with these issues, offering straight temperature control, programmability that allows setting a "comfort schedule," temperature and humidity control combined, and dividing the home into zones which can be controlled separately. American Standard provides this kind of control with the following products:
- Thermidistat Control
- Zoning System
What kind of system is right for me?
The system that is right for you will depend on a number of factors: your budget, your comfort expectations, physical factors such as what type of system currently exists in your home, the unique features of your home, and more. Below, you can explore the system options available and some of the key factors that affect your choice.
- Types of Systems
- Key Accessories
- System Control
- Key factors that affect your choice
For more info scroll ahead, or click above on the subject of your choice.
Types of systems. For the basics of heating or cooling temperature control, you typically will have four system options. Below is a list of those options followed by the approximate percentage of U.S. homes using that particular system.
- Gas Furnace/Air Conditioner (60% of homes)
- Heat pump (25% of homes)
- Small Packaged System (5% of homes)
Key Accessories. Additional comfort comes from having clean, fresh air as well as proper humidity levels inside. These products will fine-tune your system to help improve your overall comfort and the efficiency of your indoor comfort system.
- Air Cleaners
System Control. Most people are familiar with the basic thermostat. But, system control is more than picking a temperature and walking away. It includes being able to program a comfort schedule for different times of day, setting humidity levels, and even setting different temperatures for different areas of the home. Here's how:
- Thermidistat Control
- Zoning System
Key factors that affect your choice Some of your home comfort decisions will be made for you based on some of the physical considerations involved, including:
- Your home
- Your existing system
- Your geographical region
- Energy sources available
Your home. Everybody's home is different. Some are big, some are small. Older homes are not as tightly sealed as new ones, which means efficiency is reduced. The number and size of windows, what direction the home is facing, number of mature trees in the yard and many more factors can affect your comfort, and may play a part in deciding what type of system is best for you. Your local heating and cooling contractor should have the expertise to assess any unusual circumstances surrounding the specific needs of your home.
Your existing system. If you are replacing an existing system, there are physical and financial reasons to stay with the same type of system. For example, if you currently have a boiler, it will be very expensive and physically challenging to install the ductwork you need for a forced-air furnace or heat pump.
If you want a new type of system because you were dissatisfied with your comfort, remember that a new system will bring newer comfort technology and energy efficiency. Also, your comfort problem could be related to other issues, such as improper ductwork, system balance, cleanliness or freshness of air, humidity control and system control.
Your geographical region. Although there are exceptions to every rule, geography can play a role in what type of system will work best in your home. Here's the general idea:
- Colder regions - Furnace or Boiler/Air Conditioner combo
- Warmer regions -heat pump or Air Conditioner w/ supplemental heat
- Regions with land or space issues - Small Packaged Rooftop systems
Energy sources available Some systems simply won't work if the proper energy source isn't available or too expensive to consider. The three most likely energy sources for your comfort system are electricity, gas or oil.
Electricity. If you have no gas or oil service, you will need to go with an all-electric system, which means a heat pump or air conditioner. You may be able to have a gas line installed at your home, but that could be an additional cost. In some areas, electrical rates are so low that an all-electric system can still be the best option even if gas or oil are available.
Gas. If natural gas is available, furnaces and boilers become options for you. You may still opt to have an all-electric system if that suits your home or your personal preference.
Oil. If natural gas is available, furnaces and boilers become options for you. You may still opt to have an all-electric system if that suits your home or your personal preference.
There's a hole in the ozone. Global warming is here. Most of us are aware of how our lifestyles can affect the environment. American Standard is aware of this also, and offers options for making your system more environmentally sound.
- Environmentally Sound Refrigerant
- Green Seal Program
Green Seal Program
Green Seal is an independent organization that sets environmental standards for a variety of consumer products, from light bulbs and engine oil to air conditioning and heating systems. Green Seal establishes standards in order to:
- help consumers understand how they can help reduce air and water pollution
- cut the waste of natural resources
- slow ozone depletion and the risk of global warming
- prevent toxic contamination and protect fish and wildlife in their habitat
Products must earn the right to carry the Green Seal logo, which is a national, independent, third-party certification that cannot be bought; it must be earned.
The standards established by Green Seal incorporate a product's entire life cycle, and cover the following areas, among others:
For more information on the Green Seal program, contact Green Seal directly at (202) 331-7337.
- The Manufacturing Facility
- The Production Process
- Product Labeling
- Materials Used In Production
- Promotiona Materials
- Product Performance
- Product Installation and Instructional Materials
- Energy Efficiency
- Product Disposal and/or Recycling Capability
- Noise Level
- Product Safety