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When it comes to HVAC, heating, cooling, and air flow, what does the future actually look like in this age of dwindling resources? HVAC expert Alex Wayne is here to talk about some possibilities for his industry he feels may point the way forward in 2012. Have a read, and see if you agree …

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As we assess the state of the HVAC industry in 2012, there’s no doubt that the industry as a whole is optimistic about what lies ahead. The widespread view amongst HVAC equipment manufacturers, for instance, seems to be that after weathering several years of slow growth, sales of new and replacement equipment should grow significantly as older equipment becomes too worn-out or outdated to be worth repairing.

For consumers, replacing and upgrading HVAC equipment is a chance to take a look at emerging technologies that offer better energy efficiency as well as more effective overall performance. Energy is a big topic of discussion in today’s world, and many consumers are interested in alternative energy sources, whether it’s a cleaner fossil fuel like natural gas or something wholly new like solar.

Natural gas and geothermal energy

Natural gas is a great option for homeowners now, as prices have plummeted in the wake of the natural gas market glut produced by new “fracking” techniques in the mining industry, and natural gas powered furnaces and hot water heaters are widely available.

Geothermal systems that take heat or hot spring water from underground and transfer it to housing structures can work well, but only in areas where the geology has led to large amounts of thermal energy being available (mostly in the Southwestern United States).

Solar energy and technology

Solar power seems like a wonderful source of abundant (and free!) energy, but the realities of expensive installation costs for the required equipment and the relative difficulty of consistently gathering enough solar energy to power an HVAC system, let alone an entire home, make solar a poor return on investment for most homeowners.

That being said, if you aren’t put off by the high start-up costs, there are government grants and tax credits available for homeowners who install solar systems, including tax breaks based on how much extra power you’re feeding back into the system (assuming you’re able to generate that much). If you are financially comfortable with waiting a few (or possibly many) years for your investment to pay off, solar may be worth it for you. It’s certainly the best energy source for the environment.

What is the cheapest and cleanest form of HVAC energy?

Taken together, all this leads us to the conclusion that in 2012, fossil fuels are still the most cost-effective way to power a home’s HVAC system, natural gas being the cleanest and cheapest choice available for most consumers.

Luckily, what’s good for consumers doesn’t have to come at a cost to the environment, as HVAC manufacturers are continuing to come up with new refinements and designs that have made today’s HVAC system components more energy efficient and “green” than ever. Variable speed air handlers and furnaces, especially when combined with modulating gas valves, mean that far less energy is required to effectively heat or cool a home and keep the temperature steady and comfortable.

The next generation of residential heating and air conditioning systems will surely follow this trend, making every component of these systems variable and able to use only what energy is needed at any one time, as opposed to the more wasteful “always on” paradigm that until recently was the only workable approach.

Developing HVAC technology

Sound insulation and system design is almost as important to energy efficiency as whatever type of system is actually forcing the air through a house’s ducts, so homeowners who take the time to properly insulate their houses and take advantage of zoning systems which direct heating and cooling energy only to areas of a house where it is needed will be getting the most out of today’s increasingly energy-efficient HVAC systems.

So thanks to the huge variety of energy-efficient systems on the market today and the ready availability of cheap natural gas, consumers can make a smart economic choice that is also good for the environment even if solar, geothermal and wind energies aren’t yet viable on a large scale. What’s more, by installing proper insulation and having a well-designed duct system in place, homeowners will be ready to get the most out of these new “green” energy technologies when they do become viable.

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Thanks, Alex.

Alex Wayne  is a plumbing and HVAC industry blogger who enjoys writing about DIY home improvement, energy efficiency, and eco-friendly lifestyles. He is the in-house blogger for several plumbing, HVAC and home-building contractors and his posts have appeared on blogs covering a wide variety of topics. He lives in Maryland, just a few hundred yards from Washington, D.C.

Alex wrote this post on behalf of http://www.mckeehomesnc.com

Cheers,

Rob.

 

 

 

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.