Frequently Asked Questions

Does Hill’s sell vent free stoves?

No, although vent free stoves are legal to sell in New York State we have elected not to sell them. Even though they are less expensive we don’t consider them a good investment in this part of the country.

Vent free stoves are supposed to be run a maximum of 4 hours in each 24 hour period. This mean they are not designed to be a heating unit.

Some people have returned stoves because they emit a unique odor. Vent free stoves produce moisture when they burn. In some cases this has ruined interior paint and wall paper. Some manufacturers of vent free stoves recommend that you keep a window cracked open when burning the stove.

A good vented stove will last for years and give you great ambiance and good heat. One thing you can be sure of at Hills, if we wouldn’t put it in our house, we certainly aren’t going to put it in your house.

What does AFUE mean?

AFUE means annual fuel usage efficiency. The AFUE test is a test that is used to rate products so that all manufacturers heating products are rated the same. This test has to be done in a laboratory. To you this means that the quality of the installation as well as the AFUE of the equipment has everything to do with how well the equipment performs in your home. The installation has to take into consideration the correct duct sizing and fuel line sizing just to mention a couple of items.

My Utility Company told me my 40 year old furnace is 80% efficient. What does this mean?

The only efficiency test that can be done in your home is called a steady state test. This has only to do with how efficiently your furnace burns the gas. It doesn’t take into consideration that most of the heat generated is going out the chimney. Heating equipment of this age was built before there was an AFUE test and actually is about 60% efficient.

Will adding a humidifier to my furnace save me money?

By keeping the humidity level in your home at 40 to 55% in the winter the air can feel more comfortable. This may allow you to set the thermostat a little lower and still feel comfortable. I have seen solid hardwood furniture crack and split from the lack of humidity but probably the best reason for a humidifier is that it can eliminate the feeling of a dry nose or throat. Strange thing about a comfort level, when you don’t feel any thing objectionable it’s just right.

HVAC SEER Ratings

What is SEER?

Every condensing unit, the core component of a central air condtioning or heat pump system, is given a SEER rating which is a measurement of its energy efficiency.  The SEER rating is short for the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating.  It lets consumers know just how efficiently the unit turns electricity into heating or air conditioning.  The higher the SEER rating is, the more efficiently it uses electricity.

How is SEER Determined?

SEER is much like fuel efficiency in your vehicle. The further your car or truck can go on a gallon of gas, the more fuel-efficient it is.  For a condensing unit, the more air conditioning or heating it can produce for the same amount of electricity, the more efficient it is.  The reason it is called the “Seasonal” EER is that it is measured over an entire heating or air conditioning season.  Technically speaking, SEER measures the heating or air conditioning output of a condensing unit in British thermal units, or Btu, during an entire heating or cooling season.  It divides the output by the total input of electricity, measured in watt-hours during that period.  The higher the unit’s SEER rating the more energy efficient it is.

What SEER Ratings are Available?

In 2006, federal regulations were put in place that requires a minimum SEER rating of 13 of new central air conditioners and heat pumps.  There are still units at work in homes with a SEER rating as low as 8.  Manufacturers today make a product lineup that features a range of SEER ratings.  The best selling models offer SEER ratings between 14 SEER and 18 SEER.  The most efficient residential condensing units have a SEER rating or well over 20.

SEER and Cost

The more efficient a condensing unit is, the more it is likely to cost.  As a rough estimate, with every 1 point increase in SEER, the unit will go up in cost by 8-10%, all else being equal (capacity, features, brand, etc.).  Of course, the higher the SEER rating, the less energy it will use and the lower the energy cost will be.  If an 8 SEER air conditioner is replaced by a 16 SEER model, energy use will be cut in half, and so will the cooling portion of the utility bill.

In warmer climates, choosing a unit with a higher SEER is a cost-effective decision.  The time it takes to recoup the extra expense of a more efficient unit in the form of lower energy bills is known as the “payback period.”  In warm climates, the payback period for choosing an 18 SEER central air conditioner over a 14 SEER model can be as little as 2-3 years.

SEER and Energy Star

The federal government began the Energy Star program as a way to identify energy-efficient products.  Currently, for a condensing unit to meet Energy Star requirements it must be rated 14 SEER or higher along with an EER of 12.5.  EER is the point in time Energy Efficiency Rating versus the SEER that measures seasonal average energy efficiency.

Conclusion

Today’s condensing units continue to get more energy-efficient with each new generation of products.  Homeowners welcome this due to the high and volatile cost of electricity.  Higher efficiency is also attractive to many consumers because it means that their HVAC system is producing less greenhouse gas, reducing their impact on the environment.  Knowing what SEER is and how it affects your energy bills and your lifestyle is an important part of choosing the right central air conditioner or heat pump for your home.

Have a question?
Email your FAQ to
Hillsact@twcny.rr.com