On Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Your Home
Home building technology has evolved over time to meet the needs and wants of homeowners to provide economical shelter. A recent renovation inspired me to become more educated about building technologies. Given where energy prices have been going for the last couple of years, it really pays to better understand how they work and what you can do to make your home more energy efficient.
If you are new to the wonderful world of heating and cooling technology, I suggest having a look at my glossary page of HVAC terms. Though clearly not exaustive in it's scope, it may help explain some of the terms you'll see on this and other sites.
Besides reading a number of good books, I was drawn to the many excellent HVAC resources on the internet. The books and the pros steered me in the right direction: Waste Not, Want Not. Thus, do what you can to minimize the undesirable heat gain and heat loss of your home.
- If you are just starting to build your home, consider the many simple ways to optimize your home to passively gain heat via the sun during the winter and to keep the sun out during the summer. Our Cool House is a great primer into the art of building homes with minimal energy needs.
- For those of us that bought existing homes, the options narrow depending on the extent of your planned renovations. Check out the resources for homeowners at buildingscience.com as a primer. Through careful application of insulation, weatherization, etc. our home will require ¼ of the heating and cooling per square foot than it did before the renovation.
Where to start with insulation and weatherization upgrades is a good question. Many US energy utilities offer energy audit programs, as does the federal Energy Star program. The audit will help determine what is cost-effective, and what your energy needs are. The costs of such audits are usually neglible. Optimizing a heating and cooling system can be approached using several methods, which I describe on my heat gain and heat loss calculation methods page. I even have a homeowners review of HVAC-Calc, one of many calculators you could use.
Many kinds of systems to make your home comfortable, from exotic ground-source heat pumps to simple furnaces. Once you have addressed the envelope and know what size of equipment you need to remain comfortable, one remaining question is which fuel to use. I put together a small discussion of home heating fuel choices that I hope will help you make an informed selection.
Lastly, remember to have your equipment be serviced annually. Our neighbors steam boiler dry-fired one night to acrid effect, destroying the boiler and melting bits and pieces around it. I have a bit of a photo gallery and some "after" pictures. Thankfully, no one got hurt.