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Have some questions about keeping your home or business comfortable? You're not alone. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about heating and cooling:



What kind of system do I need to keep my home comfortable?

Since most of us spend the majority of our time indoors, it makes sense to have an indoor environment that's healthy and comfortable.

While your home may have unique needs, the best way to insure your comfort and health is to have your heating and cooling system provide the right balance of heating, air conditioning, air cleaning and humidification. No other single system plays a larger part in how much you enjoy your time at home or in how much you pay out to utility companies each month.

For most of us, comfort starts with keeping our home the right temperature, whether that's toasty warm on bone-chilling winter nights or pleasantly cool in the 'dog days' of summer. Maintaining the perfect temperature is the job of your heating and cooling equipment.

Today's heating systems are more efficient and reliable than ever, but heating is still the single largest energy expense in most homes. In northern climates, it may account for up to two-thirds of the energy budget. So it's important to understand what kind of system will give you both comfort and affordability.

Gas and oil-fired furnaces provide warm, even heat throughout your home by circulating heated air through ducts. Boilers typically heat your home by circulating steam or heated water through a system of pipes and baseboard or radiator-type heat exchangers. Today's furnaces and boilers are far more efficient than they were even a decade ago.

The electric heat pump is another energy-efficient option that provides year-round heating and cooling. Heat pumps are much more reliable and efficient than they were 10 years ago, and they're an excellent choice where gas is unavailable or where electricity is the most economical energy option.

On those sweltering days of summer, air conditioners provide cooling relief by taking heat from inside your home and moving it outside. In the process, they remove humidity from the air so you feel even cooler. New technology has made today's air conditioners quieter, more reliable and more efficient than ever before.

Thermostats help your heating and cooling equipment maintain the optimal temperature setting with the utmost energy efficiency. Today's electronic models are a vast departure from earlier mechanical styles. Microprocessors allow you to program your home temperatures to suit your lifestyle, so you can keep things comfortable while you're home and automatically set back your temperatures to save energy when you're away or sleeping. That keeps you comfortable all the way to the bank.

Today's "tighter" homes are built to be more energy-efficient, and many seal in air as effectively as they keep the weather out. That may sound good at first, but it also means that air quickly gets stale. Plus, dust and other pollutants circulate throughout your home, settling on furniture, drapes, your heating and cooling equipment or, worse yet, your lungs. Today's mechanical and high-efficiency electronic air cleaners offer trouble-free, low-maintenance cleaning that will remove up to 95% of all airborne particles and make your home environment healthier and more comfortable. A ventilating system can provide up to eight air changes a day and eliminate the unhealthy build-up of gases and contaminants in your home. It's literally a breath of fresh air.

Winter takes its toll on your indoor environment. The warm, dry air from your furnace or heat pump can damage wood moldings and furniture and sap your skin of its natural moisture. It even makes you feel colder because your body senses heat as a combination of temperature and humidity. If you add humidity with a humidifier, you can actually set your thermostat a few degrees lower. You'll feel just as warm, but you'll notice the difference on your utility bills! Plus, you'll replenish much-needed moisture to your home, making it a healthier, more comfortable place to spend your time.

Wouldn't it be great if you could turn off heating and cooling in a room the same way you can a light switch? You wouldn't have to waste energy by heating or cooling a room you're not using. A zoning system is the perfect solution. By putting heating and cooling where you need it most, zoning can enhance your overall comfort and reduce your energy costs - by as much as 30%!

No matter what climate you live in, you'll find the best combination of comfort and energy savings with a complete indoor comfort system. Today's energy-efficient components work together to give you precise temperature control, healthy air and the right level of humidity - and the savings on your utility bill might just make you the most comfortable of all.





What should I look for in a new furnace?

The three most important factors to evaluate when you're considering purchasing a new furnace are quality, efficiency, and comfort features.

When you buy a new car, the quality of it helps determine how well it will perform and for how long. A furnace is really no different. Purchasing a brand name that has a reputation for quality and reliability can save you headaches and extra expense down the road.

New Bryant furnaces, for example, undergo a rigorous series of quality tests and checks during production, with many of the tests being performed on every unit - not just on random samples. Plus, we back every furnace in writing, with a 20-year or more limited warranty on the heat exchanger (the heart of the furnace) and a one-year limited warranty on the entire unit. Extended warranties are also available: contact your local Bryant dealer for details.

A furnace's efficiency rating, or AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency), tells you how efficiently the furnace uses fuel (gas or oil). In general, the higher the efficiency, the less fuel the furnace will use to heat your home. For more details on AFUE, go to How can I compare the performance of heating and cooling products?

In 1992, the government established a minimum AFUE rating for furnaces installed in new homes at 78%. In contrast, many furnaces manufactured before 1992 had AFUE ratings as low as 60%.

Mid-efficiency furnaces, also known as non-condensing or induced draft furnaces, offer efficiencies from 78% to about 80%. High-efficiency furnaces, also called condensing or sealed combustion furnaces, offer AFUE ratings from 80% to about 96%.

Usually, the higher the efficiency, the more expensive the furnace. If you live in a cold climate, you will probably see the higher cost of a high-efficiency furnace paid back (through lower utility bills) in a few short years. Your dealer can use heating data from your area to help you determine about how long it would take you to recover the additional cost in energy savings. Of course, after the payback, you continue to save on your energy bills for the life of the system.

Some mid- and high-efficiency furnaces offer additional features that provide greater comfort (as well as additional energy savings). Two-speed furnaces can run on low speed up to 90% of the time, so they operate more quietly and run for longer periods of time than single-speed furnaces. Longer operating periods translate into fewer on/off cycles, fewer drafts and much smaller temperature swings -- only one or two degrees instead of the four-degree swings common with single-speed furnaces. Plus, better air circulation helps prevent air "stratification" - warm air rising to the ceiling and cold air settling on the floor. In short, you get consistent, even heat throughout your home.

Variable-capacity furnaces provide the ultimate combination of comfort, efficiency and quiet performance. In addition to the benefits of two-speed furnaces, they offer "smart" motors than can monitor your home's comfort needs and automatically adjust the volume and speed of air to provide the most efficient heating or cooling. They offer added electrical efficiency as well: the "smart" fan motors on Bryant's variable-capacity furnaces use less electricity than a 100-watt light bulb. They operate so efficiently that they can actually increase the efficiency rating of your central air conditioning system and offer you added energy savings when you use continuous fan operation in any season.



What should I look for in a new heat pump or air conditioner?

While heat pumps and air conditioners require the use of some different components in your heating and cooling system, the three most important factors you should evaluate are essentially the same: quality, efficiency, and comfort features.

When you purchase a new car, the quality of it helps determine how well it will perform and for how long. An air conditioner or heat pump is really no different. Purchasing a brand name that has a reputation for quality and reliability can save you headaches and extra expense down the road.

New Bryant air conditioners and split systems, for example, undergo 34 quality tests and checks during production, with more than 20 of these being performed on every unit - not just on random samples. Plus, we back every air conditioner and heat pump in writing, with a 5-year limited warranty on the compressor (some deluxe models have 10) and a one-year limited warranty on the parts. Extended warranties are also available; call your local Bryant dealer for details.

Cooling efficiency for air conditioners and heat pumps is indicated by a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, which tells you how efficiently the unit uses electricity. Heat pumps also have heating efficiency ratings, indicated as an HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). In general, the higher the SEER or HSPF rating, the less electricity the unit will use to cool (or heat) your home. For more details, go to Comparing Performance. In 1992, the government established minimum efficiency standards for units installed in new homes at 10.0 SEER and 6.8 HSPF. Most air conditioners and heat pumps manufactured before 1992 had SEER ratings below 7.0 and HSPF ratings below 5.0.

Air conditioners and heat pumps manufactured today have SEER ratings that range from 10.0 to about 17. Heat pumps are available with HSPF ratings from about 6.8 to 10.0.

Usually, the higher the efficiency, the more expensive the unit. If you live in a warm and/or humid climate, you will probably see the higher cost of a high-efficiency air conditioner or heat pump paid back (through lower utility bills) in a few short years. Your dealer can use cooling data from your area to help you determine about how long it would take you to recover the additional cost in energy savings. Of course, after the payback, you continue to save on your energy bills for the life of the system.

One other point to keep in mind is that your heat pump or air conditioner is a "split system," which means that there is an outdoor unit (condenser) and an indoor unit (coil). If you're replacing an existing system, both units should be replaced to make sure your new condensing unit gives you optimal performance, efficiency and comfort. For more information about matching your indoor and outdoor components, go to Why do I need to "match" my condensing unit and indoor coil? Note: Air-source heat pumps - the type most commonly used in homes - are typically installed with additional back-up heating (usually electric resistance strip heating) for days when the outdoor temperature drops below 30 and the heat pump cannot extract enough heat from the outside air to heat the home. SEER and HSPF ratings do not refer to the efficiency of electrical resistance backup heat, which is calculated differently.

Some air conditioners and heat pumps offer additional features that provide greater comfort (as well as additional energy savings). Two-speed units can run on low speed (using 50% of the energy) up to 80% of the time, so they operate more quietly and run for longer periods of time than single-speed models. Longer operating periods translate into fewer on/off cycles, fewer drafts and much smaller temperature swings -- only two or three degrees instead of the four-degree swings common with single-speed units. Plus, better air circulation helps prevent air "stratification" - warm air rising to the ceiling and cold air settling on the floor. In short, you get consistent, even cooling throughout your home.

If you purchase a multi-speed or variable-capacity furnace or fan coil with your unit, you will enhance both the comfort and the efficiency of your air conditioning or heat pump system even further.





What should I ask my dealer (or builder) about before I purchase a system?

When you buy a new car, the quality of it helps determine how well it will perform and for how long. A heating and cooling system is really no different. Purchasing a brand name that has a reputation for quality and reliability can save you headaches and extra expense down the road. Ask your dealer about the brand's reputation for quality and its record for reliable performance.

Make sure you ask your dealer about the efficiency rating for the furnace, heat pump or air conditioner. It will tell you how efficiently the unit uses fuel(gas, oil or electricity). Furnace efficiency is measured as AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency), and ratings range from 78% to about 96.6%. Furnaces with AFUE ratings from 78% to 80% are considered mid-efficiency; ones with AFUE ratings above 90% are considered high-efficiency.

Air conditioners and heat pumps have cooling efficiency ratings from 10 to 17 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). Heat pumps also have heating efficiency ratings from 6.8 to about 10 HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). High-efficiency units have efficiencies of 12 SEER and 7.5 HSPF or above.

One other point to keep in mind is that your heat pump or air conditioner is a "split system," which means that there is an outdoor unit (condenser) and an indoor unit (evaporator coil). If you're replacing an existing system, both units should be replaced to make sure your new condensing unit gives you optimal performance, efficiency and comfort.

In general, the higher the efficiency of the unit, the more it will cost but the less fuel it will use to heat or cool your home. So the cost to replace your old, inefficient unit (or to move up to a higher efficiency model) is paid back through lower utility bills.

There's a good chance you won't ever think about the sound level of your air conditioner or heat pump ... until, that is, you try to enjoy a quiet conversation with some friends in your back yard. Sometimes noise from condensing (outdoor) units even interferes with your peace and quiet indoors, so it's a factor you should at least look at when you're comparing different models.

The sound level of outdoor units is measured in bels (similar to decibels), on a scale from 0 (barely perceptible sound) to 13 (the threshold of pain). Most air conditioners and heat pumps operate at 8 to 9 bels; some units' ratings are as low as 6.8. That may not sound like a wide range, but consider this: 9 bels sounds 10 times louder than 8 bels. That means one 9-bel air conditioner is as loud as 10 units rated at 8 bels. So we think taking the time to compare bel ratings is pretty sound advice.

Some furnaces, heat pumps and air conditioners offer additional features that provide greater comfort (as well as additional energy savings). Two-speed units can run on low speed up to 80% of the time, and offer fewer drafts, smaller temperature swings, and better air circulation for more consistent heating or cooling throughout your home.

Variable-capacity furnaces provide even more added comfort features for the ultimate combination of comfort, efficiency and quiet performance. They can also increase the efficiency rating of your central air conditioning system and offer you added energy savings when you use continuous fan operation in any season.

For the optimal combination of comfort and efficiency, a total comfort system is your best bet. By matching a furnace and air conditioner (or heat pump and fan coil) with the right products for air cleaning, ventilation, humidity and system control, you can make your home a much more comfortable place to spend your time and save money on your energy bills.

For your peace of mind, be sure to ask your dealer about the manufacturer's warranty that comes with your new heating and cooling system. You should particularly ask about the length of time your equipment is covered and what specific components are included under the warranty. Additional extended warranties may also be available from the manufacturer or directly from your dealer.

You may also want to ask your dealer about the availability of service agreements and maintenance agreements, two ways to keep your equipment in peak operating condition and provide insurance against unforeseen repair costs.


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