HVAC changes you need to know about

The Department of Energy is requiring homeowners to buy more efficient systems

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

Do you know your Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio? The SEER number on new H-V-A-C systems now needs to be 14 instead of 13 in much of the country. If you install a 13-SEER unit where a 14-SEER is required, you’ve violated state code and your manufacturer’s warranty could be voided.

The newest standard for the South, which includes both Florida and Georgia, is 14-SEER. You can still get your existing unit serviced, but if it needs to be replaced with a 14-SEER system, it will likely cost around $5,000.

“It’s not going to heat or cool any better than a 13 SEER, it’s just going to do it more efficiently. And how they do that, how the manufacturers do that: the greater the coil surface area, the more efficient the unit. We can transfer that heat whether we’re in heating mode or we’re in cooling mode,” explained HVAC professional Jon Love.

“If you are installing a new HVAC system, remember it’s not going to be cheap, but you will get efficiency savings each month on your heating and cooling bill, and it can be an asset if you’re going to be selling your house,” said founder of Angie's List Angie Hicks.

Most homeowners should recoup the higher price of the system in just two to three years.

“You’re protecting yourself from any kind of gas hikes, any kind of electrical hikes when you do go to those 16 and above. People are starting to realize, hey, now wait a minute. Let’s think about this. We’re going to be in the house. Let’s really think about how we’re going to recoup our costs as quickly as possible,” Love explained.

Experts say the new standards have not caused nearly as many issues as in 2008 when the requirements went from 10-SEER to 13-SEER. If you’re deciding between repairing an existing system or buying a new one, Angie's List says your furnace should last 15 to 20 years and that, in general, it’s best to repair if the cost is less than half the price of a new system and your current one is less than seven years old. If it costs more than half, you’re better off investing in a new one.

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