Smarter HVAC Systems Could Help Families Focus on Sustainability and Savings

Now that it’s finally fall, you might be relieved that the temperatures are dropping a bit. Before too long, it’ll be time to crank up the heat. While it’s a good thing that furnaces last an average of 15 to 18 years, the costs that show up on your monthly heating bills might not bring you much joy. But there may be a way to keep costs low and support efforts to live a greener lifestyle: smart HVAC.

Although today’s newest air conditioners use nearly 50% less energy than they did back in 1990, HVAC designers and manufacturers still aren’t completely satisfied with the energy efficiency rates offered by the average unit. In fact, one source reports that HVAC systems account for almost half of all energy used in an American home. Thus, industry professionals have continued to make improvements — and these advancements may appeal to tech-lovers who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

One of the ways to make HVAC greener is to focus on designs that are small and flexible. These units need to be able to fit into tight spaces that already exist in buildings, rather than being installed through a big reconstruction project. Customers want more modular systems that are ductless. And while the centrifugal blower found in HVAC systems — which has fan blades that can be arranged in one of three different ways — might not be replaced with another option, there are big changes that can be made to these systems that can mean big savings (of both energy and money).

For example, there are actually ice-powered and solar-powered air conditioners that use less energy than conventional systems. These systems may be supplemented with natural gas in some cases, which is still less expensive than what you might pay for installation and use. Reportedly, these systems are also more reliable, particularly in the event of a power outage; they’re more efficient on an everyday basis and they’ll keep on running if the electricity goes out, too.

There are also systems that self-monitor or that allow homeowners to control the temperature in individual rooms. The idea there is that you’ll save money by being able to keep temperatures exactly to your liking, rather than compensating with extra units or overheating or overcooling rooms just to get comfortable elsewhere. This idea expands on the smart thermostat — but instead of merely being able to adjust the temperature from your phone, this would allow the homeowner to automatically close vents and redirect air elsewhere when it isn’t needed.

There are many possibilities on the horizon for smarter, greener HVAC systems. From better heat pumps to wireless units, it doesn’t look like the industry will be shifting its focus away from these innovations any time soon. In the meantime, of course, there are ways to reduce your energy consumption from heating and cooling — even without a smart HVAC system.

For one thing, you can put your curtains to good use by letting in light during the brightest and warmest parts of the day and shutting them to keep the heat in at night. You can also pick a thermostat setting and stick to it, rather than fidgeting with the temperature all day. (Of course, a smart thermostat that automates these temperature changes is ideal.) Make sure to check for leaks and seal up drafty doors and windows. And of course, get your existing HVAC system serviced. Efficient HVAC maintenance systems require maintenance checks twice a year to keep running smoothly. While it may not be the most energy efficient model currently available, you can improve its efficiency by ensuring that it’s clean and repaired, if needed.

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