To make the process of replacing your home’s HVAC easier, the ModHVAC Calculator offers system recommendations and a quick estimate of your replacement costs to save you the guesswork. To use the tool, just slide the bar in the green box to match your home’s square footage. Then enter your city and state below and click Calculate Cost. Seconds later, you’ll be provided with a set of options for your new HVAC unit.
Replacing or Installing HVAC Systems in Texas
Variable speed, SEER rating, vented, modulating? Selecting a new Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system for your home can feel a bit overwhelming if you don’t speak the language. Simply put, HVAC systems control and monitor the temperature, humidity, and air quality of your home. Modernize can help you navigate the lay of the land, helping you determine your needs in terms of budget and energy efficiency, while providing you with a primer on the most commonly used systems in Texas.
Average Weather in Texas and How it Affects Your HVAC System
Texas’s climate varies widely, from arid in the west to humid in the east. Temperatures in Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Del Rio and Victoria, for example, stay perfectly warm in winter, and summers there get a little hotter than in southern California, reaching highs in the mid-90s. Galveston stays slightly cooler year round with average monthly highs ranging from 61 degrees in January to 90 in August. North Texas occasionally freezes, south Texas rarely does. No matter where you are in Texas though, your air conditioning unit is going to be working the hardest from June through August when temperatures across the state are stifling.
Furnace Installation in Texas
You probably heat your home with a furnace. Your furnace is most likely located in your garage or attic. A furnace works by pulling cold air from the house and passing it around a heated metal box called a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers heat from the metal to the air and a blower fan pushes the heated air through ducts that distribute it throughout the house. Furnaces can be single-stage, two-stage, or modulating:
- A single-stage furnace can only be on or off. The result is greater peaks and valleys in temperature and more inefficiency.
- A two-stage furnace has two settings, high and low. These models are preferred to a single stage furnace because they have a low-burning setting that keeps the heat from dropping too far below your desired point. They are also more efficient because they keep the air temperature from varying as much as it would with a single-stage furnace.
- A modulating furnace can adjust the flame to any point between off and high. It constantly adjusts its flame to try to keep the air temperature constant. In theory, this results in greater comfort and better efficiency. That said, modulating furnaces are relatively new and unproven.
Air Conditioning Your Texas Home
A high functioning and efficient air conditioner is essential when you live in Texas. Your air conditioner works similarly to your refrigerator. A refrigerant runs through a closed system of metal coils. As warm interior air passes over these coils, the liquid refrigerant absorbs the heat cooling the air, which is then blown back into the house through ducts.
It’s important to make sure you buy the right size air conditioning unit for your home as only the right size of unit or system will efficiently and effectively keep you and your family comfortable. Air conditioners that are too big use more electricity and leave the air in your house with excess humidity. Air conditioners that are too small do not cool your home to a comfortable temperature.
The Move to More Energy Efficient HVAC Systems in Texas
In 2009, the United States adopted the International Energy Conservation Code, or IECC. The purpose of this legislation was to set forth a long term system of energy efficiency upgrades within certain geographic areas of the United States. The IECC agreement lays out a framework of upgrades that continues until 2030, and requires manufacturers and installers to use progressively more efficient units.
These changes are good for both consumers and the environment. Less energy from sources such as electricity and natural gas are used, and therefore these changes drive down monthly costs and environmental damage. These changes are especially important in Texas. Texas emits the most greenhouse gases in the US. The state’s annual carbon dioxide emissions are nearly 1.5 trillion pounds. If Texas were an independent nation, it would be the world’s seventh-largest producer of greenhouse gases. primary factors in Texas’ greenhouse gas emissions are the state’s large number of coal power plants and the state’s refining and manufacturing industries which provides the bulk of the United States’ petroleum products.
Federal law and manufacturers determine efficiency with a rating called the SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER ratio is calculated by dividing the total cooling output used during cooling season by the total electrical energy used during that same season. When less energy is required to run a unit, it will have a higher SEER ratio. The U.S. Department of Energy has enacted SEER standards for air conditioners and heat pumps installed on or after January 1, 2015.. In Texas, the 13 SEER standard for air conditioners has moved up to 14 SEER.
Understanding AFUE Ratings
Most homes in Texas are heated by furnaces or boilers. A furnace or boiler’s efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The Federal Trade Commission requires new furnaces or boilers to display their AFUE rating so that consumers can compare the heating efficiencies of various models. AFUE is a measure of how efficient the appliance is in converting the energy in its fuel to heat over the course of a typical year. For instance, an AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10% escapes through the chimney or elsewhere. Unfortunately, the AFUE rating does not account for heat lost through your duct system or piping, which can be as much as 35% of the energy for output of the furnace when ducts are located in the attic, garage, or other partially conditioned or unconditioned spaces.
An all-electric furnace or boiler has a high AFUE rating, typically between 95% and 100%. Units that fall in the lower end of that range are typically installed outdoors and impacted by greater jacket heat loss. While electric models are definitely more efficient, the high cost of electricity in most parts of the state makes all-electric furnaces or boilers can be a larger strain on your monthly budget.
Utility Based Incentives to Upgrade Your HVAC System
Many Texas investor-owned utilities provide customers with “standard offer” energy efficiency incentives. These incentives can vary by location and are available to residents who implement energy efficiency measures in retrofits, renovations, and new construction projects. Participating utilities include:
- Entergy’s Commercial Solutions Program offers incentives for HVAC, lighting, refrigeration, roofing, and custom projects.
- El Paso Electric provides technical assistance and cash incentives for permanent energy demand reductions ($240 per reduced peak kW). Qualifying efficiency and peak reduction measures in new construction and retrofit projects include lighting, HVAC, and roofing.
- Texas-New Mexico Power’s Commercial Solutions Program covers lighting, HVAC, chillers, motors, VFDs, window films, roofing, and custom projects.
- Oncor offers incentives through service providers for lighting, HVAC, chillers, Energy Star roofs, and food service measures.
- CPS Energy’s incentive programs cover energy-efficient HVAC systems, lighting, new construction and custom projects. Custom projects pay $0.08/kW for first-year savings.
- Denton Municipal Electric’s GreenSense Rebates program offers incentives for the installation of energy-efficient HVAC equipment, smart thermostats, air ducts, attic insulation, and attic reflective radiant barriers. Upgrades must be installed by registered DME Authorized Installers.
- Pedernales Electric Cooperative offers incentives for the installation of energy-efficient lighting, HVAC equipment, and variable frequency drives (VFDs). Existing buildings and new construction are eligible for rebates up to $17,500 per measure type (up to $35,000 per project site).