For years, Freon, or R-22 refrigerant, has been used as a cooling agent in air conditioners. However, scientists have discovered that its manufacture is contributing to depletion of the ozone layer, and also creates a byproduct called HFC-23. The byproduct is a greenhouse gas that might cause global warming. Because of those public health risks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to stop creating Freon entirely by 2020, and perhaps as early as 2018.
A Gradual Reduction of Dependency
The United States has been slowly reducing its dependence on Freon since 2004. As of 2010, manufacturers were no longer permitted to produce equipment that used R-22, and instead had to make units compatible with alternative refrigerants that are kinder to the ozone layer, such as R-410A. By the time the 2020 target is reached, manufacturers that produce R-22 must cease their practices, and equipment can only use recycled or reclaimed R-22.
No Legal Obligation to Replace Your Unit
The good news is, the EPA mandates are mostly being enforced on manufacturers of refrigerants, not consumers who have air conditioners installed in their homes. If you have an older air conditioner that still uses R-22, a technician can still continue to service it with that coolant as normal, and you will not be forced to replace your unit with one that’s newer.
However, if you’re thinking about buying a new air conditioner, it’s likely the updated model will use one of the coolants that has been reviewed by the EPA and considered to be more environmentally sound. Alternatives to R-22 are still being continually tested, and air conditioning technicians are in the process of being trained about how to install the improved units while working safely with more modern cooling agents.
Minimizing Damage to the Environment
Perhaps you’re aware that your air conditioner contains R-22 and you want to do whatever you can to keep it from harming the environment. The best way to do that is to check it periodically and request assistance from a qualified service technician if you notice any evidence of leaks.
Being Mindful of the Future
One of the reasons the EPA proposed such a lengthy transition period is to give consumers and manufacturers time to familiarize themselves with alternatives to Freon. If you’re a homeowner, it’s important to be aware you may need to switch to a newer air conditioning unit in the future, but for now, it’s just necessary to keep yours well maintained.
If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, or have just been looking more closely than usual at the labelling on the one you own, you may have noticed a reference to something called a SEER rating. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and the SEER number assigned to a particular air conditioning unit represents how well it can perform.
Consumption Versus Output
The SEER rating gets assigned based on how much heating or cooling output the appliance can offer after using one unit of energy. From a consumer’s point of view, a higher SEER rating could mean lower utility bills because it shows that the air conditioner does a good job without requiring excessive amounts of energy.
More Efficient Units Are Kinder to the Environment
In addition to making it so homeowners can enjoy comfortable temperatures without dealing with overly expensive bills, a higher SEER rating may make a household eligible to receive a rebate after installing a unit. That’s because the U.S. government has mandated that all air conditioning units must have a SEER rating of 13 or better, recognizing that a more efficient unit is better for the environment.
You may be able to get money back after buying an especially efficient unit by taking part in a government program that’s put in place to encourage people to make environmentally friendly home upgrades.
What’s Best for Your Needs?
The typical climate for your area of the country can help you determine how high of a SEER rating you need. When shopping for a unit or discussing your specifications with an air conditioning specialist, it’s helpful to keep an eye out for the “ENERGY STAR” label. It’s related to a program offered by the Environmental Protection Agency, and only appliances that are able to reach a certain energy efficiency threshold are permitted to bear the label.
Looking for labels that designate good energy efficiency may be the fastest way to find something with a high SEER rating. It’s also a good idea to make a list of your other ideals, whether you want a unit that’s especially quiet, or one that has a timer function so you can switch it to a lower operating mode during times when your usage is lower.
Hopefully you’ll now feel well informed when you notice the SEER acronym on an air conditioner. Although some consumers might pass over it without a second glance, you now know that the number associated with a SEER rating might directly impact how much you pay to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
When the weather is simply too much to bear and we need some relief, we turn to our air conditioning and heating systems. We also depend on HVAC systems to provide clean air for us to breathe. Just as we rely on our cars to take us from point A to point B, we count on our HVAC systems to regulate the temperature and ventilation in our homes, offices, schools, and other buildings. And, just like a car, HVAC systems need proper maintenance to work at maximum efficiency.
Read on for some helpful guidelines for servicing your HVAC system.
Most companies recommend that you consult your HVAC manufacturer’s instructions for how often to clean and/or replace air filters. This is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your HVAC is running at optimal efficiency, and it’s something that you can do yourself. A dirty, clogged filter makes your system work harder, meaning more energy is consumed for an inferior result, which will send your energy bill skyrocketing. It’s a good general rule to replace your air filters every month.
Preventative maintenance can be easily overlooked, but to return to our car analogy, would you drive your vehicle until it broke down before you took it to the shop? Absolutely not! Car ownership comes with a responsibility to keep it running. The same is true for your HVAC unit.
Industry professionals suggest calling in trained HVAC technicians twice a year to perform regularly scheduled maintenance on your system. Ideally, you will have a professional service your system before summer and winter, so it will be in prime shape to cool or heat your space.
Here are a few benefits of having a professional HVAC technician perform regular maintenance on your system:
Longer system lifespan: With routine service, your unit can potentially last twice as long (or more!) as poorly maintained systems.
Less money on parts: Simple maintenance can really save you from wasting money. By scheduling routine cleanings, costly parts are less likely to need replacing. Additionally, your system will consume less energy, which lowers your utility bill.
Better air circulation and quality: As we mentioned earlier, your HVAC system is not only in charge of heating and cooling your space, but it also ensures proper ventilation. By having a well-maintained unit, you won’t have to worry as much about dust, pollutants, and other irritants that can adversely affect your health.
Often, we assume that being indoors means we are protected from harsh elements or other irritants that may interfere with our comfort, or worse, our health.
Poor indoor air quality can be caused by a variety of factors that, if unchecked, can lead to headaches, sinus problems, infections, lung disease, and lung cancer. In fact, shockingly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated that the air inside buildings might be five times more polluted than air outdoors. Below are a few poor indoor air quality culprits:
It isn’t uncommon for bacteria, mold, and other types of fungi to settle indoors. If your house contains areas that are prone to moisture or the accumulation of water and condensation, these may serve as prime locations for unhealthy cultures to grow. Once molds have become present, allergenic spores can be released into the air, which can then be ingested. In addition, dust mites or pet dander can settle in carpet or furniture, inducing asthma attacks or allergy symptoms.
By this point in history, there have been enough studies conducted that show the negative effects smoking has on the human body. Secondhand tobacco smoke is a leading cause of poor indoor air quality, and cigarettes contain shocking amounts of chemicals that poison our bodies.
According to the American Lung Association, in U.S. nonsmokers, “every year it causes an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and up to 50,000 heart disease deaths. In children, especially infants, it is responsible for pneumonia, lower respiratory tract infections, and ear infections. It causes asthma to develop, causes asthma attacks, and makes attacks worse.”
Besides tobacco smoke, smoke from other forms of combustion—like fuel burning stoves, fireplaces, heaters and other devices that burn fuel—can also lead to poor indoor air quality from the release of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other harmful gases.
Building Materials & Artificial Compounds
While you might not think of it, certain cleaning compounds, adhesives, and solvents may be classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are released as gases from certain solids or liquids and have been stated to be up to 10 times more present indoors than outdoors.
Examples of potential causes of poor indoor air quality include:
• Paint and lacquers
• Certain types of glue
• Permanent markers
• Copiers and printers
At the end of the day, any home that has improper or poor ventilation can trap air inside, leading to unhealthy conditions. In any building where contaminants and irritants have no means of escape, they are bound to not only remain indoors, but be compounded and lead to potentially increasing health hazards.
In the heating and cooling industry, the race is on to continually deliver more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly solutions for keeping homes at the optimal temperature. One of the latest and most effective developments is the hybrid heating system—a solution that provides more comfortable temperature control with reduced energy costs and a lower carbon footprint.
How do hybrid heating systems work?
A hybrid heating system uses a dual method for heating homes. This advanced system combines an electric heat pump with a traditional fossil fuel heating method, and automatically switches between the two heating methods at the optimal time for efficiency and cost savings.Read more ›
Winter is finally on the way out, and it’s time to prepare for warmer weather. That means making sure that your air conditioning is ready to cool things down when they get uncomfortable.
There are a lot of good reasons to prep your A/C for spring—not the least of which is the money you’ll save. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that heating and cooling account for over 54% of the average home utility bill, so the more efficiently you can run your air conditioning, the more money you’ll save.Read more ›
Programmable thermostats can be more expensive than their simpler counterparts, but they may offer significant savings over time, as well as greatly increasing the comfort of your home. Thermostats like Honeywell Lyric, Carrier Cor, and Nest offer amazing functionality for your convenience and comfort, and can often be worth the initial investment. These are a few key benefits of installing a programmable thermostat in your home.Read more ›
The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has a few changes in store for 2015, and they’re better than ever. These modifications will make the new code more energy-efficient, but the 2015 IECC must first be adopted by state or local jurisdiction before you can begin reaping the benefits. Fortunately, many states are considering making the jump in the near future. These are the changes you can expect with the newly revised IECC.Read more ›
Performing regular HVAC maintenance can be tedious, but it can save thousands of dollars in repairs.
Whether it’s for refreshing cool air in the summer heat or for comforting warmth in the depths of winter, an HVAC system is one of the most important parts of any home. Regular maintenance is essential to ensuring the system is working properly and catch any problems before they have a chance to cause severe damage to your home.Read more ›
Here in the Midwest, frigid temperatures can wreak havoc on your HVAC system when winter rolls around. Not to worry—there are some quick and easy steps you can take to winterize your system before any damage can be done.Read more ›