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Each year in the U.S., three million heating and cooling systems are replaced and $14 billion is spent on HVAC services or repairs. Heating and cooling account for about half of a typical home’s energy usage, making high performance HVAC systems critical to managing energy consumption and costs for individual homeowners as well as cumulatively across the nation (U.S. Department of Energy and ENERGY STAR).

Explore advanced HVAC solutions and learn about the latest research and innovations to support high performing equipment and installation practices:

High Efficiency HVAC Equipment
High Performance HVAC Installation
Emerging Innovations in HVAC

High Efficiency HVAC Equipment

Depending on your region, replacing heating and cooling equipment with higher efficiency equipment can reduce energy use by 50% for electric heating and cooling systems and 10% for gas furnace heating systems (U.S. Department of Energy’s eeCompass guide).  See the resources below for guidance on selecting and installing high performing equipment and designing effective energy efficiency programs around HVAC.    

ENERGY STAR Certified Heating and Cooling Equipment

ENERGY STAR certified heating and cooling equipment, when properly installed, can yield annual energy bill savings of 10-30%.  These products are independently certified to save energy without sacrificing features or functionality.  Certified heating and cooling products include room air conditioners, central air conditioners, ductless heating and cooling, air-source heat pumps, furnaces, geothermal heat pumps, boilers, ventilation fans, smart thermostats, commercial boilers, and light commercial heating and cooling.  Consider prioritizing ENERGY STAR certified heating and cooling equipment for higher energy savings.

Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) Multitier Performance Specifications

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s (CEE) multitier performance specifications are part of a broader effort to identify and encourage the purchase, installation, and maintenance of energy efficient residential central air conditioners, air source heat pumps, furnaces, and boilers. In order to achieve high in-field efficiency, realize savings, and overcome market barriers, CEE outlines three major elements: common efficiency specifications (multitier performance specifications), a quality installation specification, and promotion of quality maintenance. Efficiency programs can promote CEE multitier performance specifications to build demand for higher efficiency among consumers and to encourage manufacturers to design products to meet that demand.

Air-Source Heat Pumps in Cold Climates

The use of air-source heat pumps (ASHP) in cold climates has grown significantly in recent years; however, traditional sizing, selection and installation practices are not always well-suited to cold climates and have led to system inefficiencies and underperformance.  To address this challenge, with support from DOE’s Home Improvement Catalyst (HI Cat) Initiative, the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) prepared two new resources: the Guide to Sizing & Selecting ASHPs in Cold Climates and the Guide to Installing ASHPs in Cold Climates.  These guides provide clear guidance for ASHP installers to help ensure overall system performance and customer satisfaction. 

ENERGY STAR Guidance on Duct Sealing

The ENERGY STAR Program offers technical and homeowner guidance to support duct sealing and repair. Up to 20% of conditioned air is lost while moving through a home’s duct system because of air leakage, holes in ducts, and unconnected ducts.  Sealed ductwork can reduce that loss and direct conditioned air to where it is needed.

High Performance HVAC Installation

Heating and cooling systems that are installed without verification of performance can result in as much as 30% higher energy use. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Improvement Catalyst (HI Cat) Initiative is developing tools to support trades and program administrators in applying high performing HVAC installation practices.

HVAC Installation Practices: A Review of Research Findings

This systematic literature review documents and summarizes findings from available literature, research, and studies on better quantifying the benefits of improving current installation practices for the residential retrofit HVAC market.

HVAC SAVE Case Study

This case study describes how the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) partnered with gas and electric utilities in Iowa to establish the Iowa HVAC Systems Adjustment and Verified Efficiency (HVAC SAVE) program, take it to scale, and improve the performance and energy efficiency of HVAC systems, while helping local contractor businesses grow and gaining consumer trust. 

Advancing High Performance HVAC with Installation Verification Tools

The DOE HI Cat Initiative developed a market snapshot of HVAC installation verification tools. The snapshot illustratively presents the categories and uses for the growing market of installation verification tools.  The accompanying selection guide includes a cross-walk of tool categories with target user audience, benefits and features. This matrix can assist contractors, programs, utilities and others in selecting the appropriate resources to support installation and performance measurement.

ENERGY STAR Verified HVAC Installation Program

The ENERGY STAR Verified HVAC Installation Program (ESVI) offers utilities a platform to expand their residential energy efficiency programs beyond providing rebates and incentives for HVAC equipment. ESVI helps utilities cost-effectively deliver energy savings through third party verification of the quality installation of HVAC equipment.  Consider the value of ESVI to your program and customers.

Emerging Innovations in HVAC

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Energy Research and Development program is working on new air conditioning technologies to significantly reduce energy use. Learn more about these 5 projects underway:

  • Optimized Thermal Systems in Maryland is developing an advanced heat exchanger that minimizes joints by 90% compared to current models in order to reduce refrigerant leakage. By minimizing the joints, the refrigerant stays where it should and does its job, working to keep homes cool and energy bills down.
  • The University of Florida is developing a prototype that combines a water heater, dehumidifier, and air cooler, which could result in more efficient heat transfer. This technology provides enhanced dehumidification control in residential buildings, resulting in better comfort and significant energy savings.
  • Dais Analytics in Florida, in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is developing a new membrane-based rooftop air conditioner, which would use water as a refrigerant instead of conventional chemicals. Not only is this technology well-aligned for sweltering, humid summer nights, but it could also save 30-50% in electrical consumption compared to today’s roof top units.
  • United Technologies Research Center in Connecticut is exploring electrocaloric, solid-state technology to develop a heat pump that will keep a space cool without using any chemical refrigerants. This technology is ideal for residential and small commercial buildings. It’s small and quiet, and could result in 25% system efficiency improvement. With fewer mechanical parts, overall reliability could be improved—reducing the chances of air conditioning going out in the midst of a heat wave!
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, in partnership with Georgia Tech and IntelliChoice Energy, is developing an energy storage system that integrates with HVAC units to reduce the overall energy requirements of air conditioning systems by utilizing waste heat that would otherwise be lost in traditional systems. Integrating ground-level diverse energy storage with HVAC could reach overall energy storage efficiency of 70% and improve HVAC performance by 35%.

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