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Energy Efficient HVAC

leavesThe key to a building occupants comfort is ensuring a consistent inside temperature with the ability to adjust for individual preference; no matter what the environment is like outside. A system responsible for achieving this is called the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). The average building or home consumes half of its energy to operate the HVAC system.[1] Older systems use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as the cooling gas; these were phased out in the 90’s due to the severe damage they cause to the ozone layer. With the advances in today’s technology, new green HVAC systems have become a crucial component toward a fully sustainable building solution for they are substantially more efficient without the use of environmentally harmful chemicals. 
 
Advancements in the design of HVAC systems are derived from the building engineers and architects work in concert with the outside environment. By incorporating environmental aspects into the design of the buildings, higher efficiencies can be achieved requiring less energy. In addition, such designs overcome heating and cooling loads by leveraging whole system thinking into the design of the buildings. Such design utilizes natural light, geothermal systems, building orientation, and use of trees and plantings to impact the load variables on the HVAC system.
 
If the HVAC system is over 10 year’s old then there is a good opportunity for efficiency gains by upgrading to a new system. Energy Star® rated systems have proven annual savings in heating bills by nearly $200.[2] Follow this link for Energy Star’s guide to energy efficient heating and cooling.
 
An energy efficient HVAC system is one component in a larger sustainable building concept. See also theDoors, Windows, Building Envelope, and Insulation sections for more advice on sustaining your HVAC system. Keeping a good seal throughout the building helps maintain comfortable living temperatures without high energy costs. It is important to note that these systems work in tandem with one another. Each individual component makes up the whole, hence whole system design of all the systems are vital considerations to the efficient operation of the building.

[1] New Zealand Ministry of Environment. Heating Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) Systems. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/sus-dev/office-fitouts-dec05/html/page11.html. (Accessed July 28, 2008).
 
[2] United States Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Air and Radiation. May 2005. A Guide to Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling. http://www.energystar.gov/ia/products/heat_cool/GUIDE_2COLOR.pdf. (Accessed July 29, 2008).