According to a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the leading cause of inefficient HVAC units may have nothing to do with the units themselves or the way in which homeowners operate the units — poor installation appears to be the real leading cause of energy inefficiency when it comes to heating and cooling systems.
According to the study, space cooling costs make up about 21.3% of all electrical energy consumption in the U.S., and space heating accounts for an additional 8.7% of electricity costs. This large portion of energy usage has led to increased government support for more efficient HVAC units, but despite better technology being available for use in the average American house, homeowners still overpay for their energy bills.
“Numerous studies and surveys indicate that typically-installed HVAC equipment operate inefficiently and waste considerable energy due to different installation errors,” the study states. The leading “installation error,” according to the study, is duct leakage; this problem is closely followed by refrigerant undercharge and incorrect indoor airflow patterns.
Although this might be good news to many people, it could come across as extremely frustrating for homeowners who have been, unknowingly, wasting a lot of energy on faulty HVAC systems. As a recent Forbes article notes, manufacturers often support eco-friendly technology because they can charge more for the equipment upfront.
In other words, homeowners are willing to pay more upfront because they think that they’ll be saving money in the long run when they buy newer efficient HVAC units — but improper installation of the units could cancel out all potential savings.
Although the study didn’t assess the same house while it was affected by an installation error and again after that error had been fixed, industry experts are still often able to predict a ballpark figure of how much money can be wasted due to one small error. An HVAC unit that uses about 30% more energy than necessary, the Forbes article notes, could run up a homeowner’s energy bill by hundreds of dollars per year.
“The installation of the product is equally if not more important than the product itself. A great piece of equipment installed incorrectly just isn’t going to work,” says Chris Long, Director of Sales & Marketing, All Seasons Comfort Control. “We have found common mistakes are improper match system, poor installation practices such as not taking the proper steps to ensure a clean system without contamination. More often than not a poor quality installation team will skip steps which ultimately leads to the product not functioning properly.”
On the bright side, this inefficiency is something that is easily solved — but only if homeowners are aware of the potential problems with faulty installations. And considering that winter weather is finally setting in, there’s nothing wrong with calling up a local HVAC repair service to conduct a routine maintenance check.