According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for 56% percent of energy use in the typical home. While needs vary considerably across different types of commercial activities, estimates are that heating and cooling can be much as 73% of total energy use for commercial buildings.
For both residential and commercial property owners, those statistics make the move to green HVAC technology an appealing idea. After all, compared with standard heating and cooling systems, green hvac systems help to:
- Reduce greenhouse gasses and environmental footprint
- Increase energy efficiency and cost savings
Clearly, switching to green HVAC technology can have a positive impact on the environment and your wallet. And there are more options available than you probably realize.
But why switch NOW? Below are 9 good reasons to go ahead and embrace green HVAC technology.
1. A sizable tax break when you replace old technology
We can’t be sure how long the law will remain in effect. But under federal law, this year you can qualify for a tax break when you install a new HVAC system. Typical savings are $5,000 or more, depending on the size of the system. And that can do a lot to help offset the cost of replacing an older and less efficient system with newer green HVAC technology.
2. The phase out of R22 in air conditioners
While R22 was once standard in air conditioning and heat pump systems, the U.S. EPA has phased out the use of this ozone-depleting refrigerant. Effective January 1, 2020:
- R22 is illegal to manufacture or import in the U.S.
- All new air conditioners will use alternatives such as the more environmentally friendly R410A refrigerant.
- Replacing R22 refrigerant and servicing older systems may become more difficult — and more expensive.
Getting rid of old R22 AC units and buying new green air conditioning technology today will prevent expensive repairs AND let you take advantage of the current tax break. And of course, any newer green HVAC technology will run more efficiently, for added cost savings.
3. Local support for going green
Many local and state governments have stepped up to promote green initiatives and help in the move to green HVAC technology. For example, the NYC Carbon Challenge encourages business owners, commercial tenants, nonprofits, and private organizations to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% or more over ten years.
Under this voluntary program, the mayor’s office provides support and resources to help participants implement improvements such as green alternatives for heating and cooling, efficient on-site energy generation, and sustainability initiatives. The ultimate goal is to reduce citywide emissions by 80% by 2050.
4. Green enhancements for traditional HVAC systems
There are number of green HVAC technology options you can pursue right now to improve the energy efficiency of your current HVAC system.
- A smart thermostat lets you control your HVAC system anytime, anywhere, using a smart app on your phone, tablet, or laptop. For example, if you have an unexpected business closure or forgot to adjust the temperature before leaving on vacation, a smart thermostat lets you program the settings from a remote location. It’s a quick and easy way to make sure you’re always using your HVAC system efficiently.
- A zoned HVAC system lets you divide your space into multiple heating and cooling zones, and control each zone separately. Zoning works with traditional ducted split HVAC systems, VRF systems, and ductless mini splits. And it allows you to keep occupied spaces comfortable while shutting off or adjusting settings in unused areas, to reduce energy use and costs.
- Use an HVAC economizer to draw cooler outside air into your indoor space to provide, essentially, “free cooling.” By reducing the time your AC needs to run, this green HVAC technology can reduce the amount of mechanical cooling by up to 75%. If your existing HVAC unit doesn’t already have an economizer built in, an HVAC professional can add one without a lot of structural or mechanical changes to your current setup.
5. Custom heating and cooling in multiple zones
For the ultimate in heating and cooling zones, consider a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system. This green HVAC technology uses multiple small air handlers that can be individually controlled but are all part of a single system. The main system’s VRF detects each zone’s requirements and controls the amount of refrigerant flowing to each air handler.
A VRF HVAC system can deliver green heating and cooling — in fact, it can do both simultaneously. Unlike a traditional HVAC system, the variable-speed compressor of a VRF unit provides exactly the amount of cooling needed for the current conditions in smaller zones. That means it runs less frequently and at lower capacity, making it more energy efficient.
A VRF system’s green HVAC technology also captures heat from the cooling process and redirects to areas that may need heat. In addition, the small, indoor air handlers are quieter than a traditional split system.
6. Readily available solar power
Between solar farms and rooftop-mounted systems, solar energy is probably the most familiar green HVAC technology. The solar panels contain photovoltaic materials for converting ordinary sunlight into electricity that can be used for heating, cooling, and lighting.
While solar energy systems can be expensive to install, there are tax rebates and other incentives to help reduce the cost. In addition, there are less expensive systems that use a liquid or air to absorb the sun’s energy and transfer the heat to a building or storage system for later use.
7. Geothermal — it’s not just for Icelanders!
It’s no surprise that, with its volcanoes and geysers, Iceland has been a pioneer in geothermal energy — using it to meet the heating needs of about 87% of its buildings. But it may surprise you to hear that geothermal energy is a viable option for green HVAC technology in the U.S.
A geothermal system takes advantage of the constant temperature only a few feet below the earth’s surface to provide both heating and cooling. The system consists of a geothermal heat pump and underground, looped piping containing water or refrigerant. During cold weather, the fluid in the pipes absorbs heat from the earth and is carried indoors to radiate warmth into the air. In the summer, the process works in reverse: the fluid in the pipes draws warmth out of the indoor air and transfers it outdoors. The system also provides an added bonus: hot water!
While a geothermal heat pump does use electricity, it is still the most energy efficient green HVAC technology.
8. The latest cool idea: AC on ice
The ice-powered air conditioner is a new green HVAC technology that not only cools the air, but also reduces energy consumption.
Basically, an ice-powered AC unit freezes a large amount of water at night. Then during the hottest part of the day, the AC uses the ice — rather than a compressor — to cool the unit’s refrigerant. This reduces the amount of electricity the unit uses. When the ice melts, the regular AC system kicks in while the water is recirculated to be frozen overnight and reused the next day.
While ice-powered AC does consume electricity, the combination of cooling and cost savings is likely to make it a popular green HVAC technology as it becomes available on a larger scale.
9. Bringing radiators into the 21st century
Heating systems that use hot water flowing through pipes and radiating heat are nothing new. But today’s hydronic heating systems use much more sophisticated green HVAC technology.
In a modern hydronic system, the liquid — whether it’s water, antifreeze, or some other fluid — runs through plastic tubing. The tubing might run under the floor or through radiators, baseboards, or other heat exchangers. Depending on the design, heat is transferred via conduction, convection, or radiation. And for maximum green impact, the boiler that heats the liquid can use solar or geothermal power rather than fossil fuels.
The possibilities are endless!
Experts agree that green HVAC technology is changing the industry — making sustainability and the environment as important as cost savings and comfort. With the growing emphasis on sustainable HVAC solutions and R&D, the list of new green HVAC technology is sure to grow, along with the options for more energy efficient traditional HVAC systems.