The Best HVAC Upgrades for Winter

When it comes to HVAC equipment and components you now have more options than ever. There are so many ways to heat and cool your home that sometimes deciding which way is right for you can be difficult. And even then, once you have a heater and an air conditioner, there are so many options for how to improve upon them. Do you take the route of going with the bare minimum and making that work for you? Or do you make improvements here and there over the years in order to optimize your system and reap the benefits in comfort and energy efficiency that will eventually pay off in your utility bills?

Those kinds of questions don’t have obvious answers but the goal of this tip of the day is to outline some of the options you have for HVAC improvements. Let’s take a look at some of the best-rated and most commonly advised improvements and upgrades you can make to the HVAC systems that you can benefit from, especially during the colder months. These are the best HVAC upgrades for the winter.

Heater Replacement

The first upgrade option we’re going to talk about is potentially both the most expensive and the one with the most payoffs. For those in certain circumstances that are surprisingly more common than you think, the best improvement you can make to your house during or just prior to the colder months of the year is to replace your heater and upgrade to something newer or better.

Who is this option good for? If you plan on staying in your current residence for a while, at least five years or so, and the heater you have now is older than ten years, this is something to consider. If you have an older HVAC unit, you may have started to notice that it hasn’t been running as reliably or efficiently as it once did. This may indicate that it is time to replace your system with a newer, more efficient HVAC unit that can fulfill all of your home comfort needs without wasting energy and driving your electricity bills up. Fortunately, there’s no better time than now to replace your existing unit and find a new home comfort system that meets all of your needs.

You may find the prospect of shopping for and purchasing a new heater a bit daunting but it doesn’t have to be. A reliable HVAC contractor that specializes in Austin heating will be able to help you make the purchase that’s right for you. There are many factors to consider when choosing a new heater, from the size to the type to the brand and the model. You’ll need to consider things like the energy efficiency, which is rated using the AFUE rating system, what kind of fuel you’ll be running the heater on, and many more. But one by one these things can be considered and decided and before you know it you’ll have a brand new heater that provides superior comfort and lowers your heating bills this winter.

One exciting new type of heater that you may want to consider is a hydronic heater. Cousin of the older type of heater, the boiler, hydronic heaters is especially worth considering if you’re also thinking of replacing your water heater because they operate as both. These systems are very comfortable due to low “heat rise”, meaning they will deliver steady warm air. This is better than hot air, which is uncomfortable right at its source and rises too quickly. Hydronic heaters are also highly efficient and more adjustable than furnaces. But this is just one option. It’s best to consider all the possibilities before settling on something.

Attic Insulation Overhaul

It’s often the case that if a house has any weak spot in its insulation it’s in the attic. The attic is often the most overlooked part of the insulation of the house and many houses in our area could be due for an upgrade when it comes to insulation. Insulation is important because it is a key factor in determining how much efficiency you’re getting out of the heating system in your home. The better the insulation, the less heat is getting out and the less cold is getting in during the winter. Because heat rises, insulation in the attic is of the utmost importance when it comes to winter home heating.

Rising furnace heat conducts through the ceiling and is lost into the attic. However, you’ll still get the bill for it. Most homes are under-insulated by today’s higher standards. Attic insulation is easy to upgrade by simply adding to the existing level. Different layers of insulation, such as fiberglass batts and cellulose loose-fill, maybe mixed to arrive at the recommended depth.

You’ve got options when it comes to upgrading your attic insulation. For example, one type is called the loose fill. This can be done DIY style. The insulation fibers are packaged in bags and blown in place to the desired depth and density using special machinery you can rent from a home center. You can pour the fill in place and spread it manually, but the process is much more labor-intensive and the results won't be nearly as good.

Then there are also fiberglass batts, as previously mentioned. This flexible insulation material is most often packaged in rolls that come in various thicknesses and standard widths, usually 16 inches and 24 inches, to fit between joists or studs in a house's framing. They come with or without a paper or foil facing that acts as a vapor barrier. You add one or more layers to achieve the desired level of insulation.

Of course, you can also go the professional route and hire someone to determine exactly where your attics stand on the insulation front as of now and the best kind of insulation and how much of it will be needed to bring it to optimal levels.

Crawl Space Upgrade

If you have ducts running under your house in the crawl space you may find it well worth it to take on this particular home improvement. It will be worthwhile for the winter, not just this one, but the many more in the future. Crawl space upgrades refer to two things, encapsulation and vapor barrier. This is a form of insulation, meaning it is about controlling the temperature of the crawl space. As it turns out, keeping the temperature of the crawl space closer to that of the ducts is extremely effective in terms of energy savings.

But the benefits go beyond energy savings. Another benefit of this upgrade is that air quality will be improved due to moisture control, which in turn will lead to a reduction of pests in your home. Of course, energy savings are a big factor. This kind of home improvement will raise your home’s energy efficiency by acting as an effective form of floor insulation and also reducing heat loss in the ducts below your home if you have any.

Make sure you get a reputable Austin heating expert when you have this upgrade done, however. Many contractors will install the barrier but won’t seal off the vents around the perimeter. Done this way, you lose all the efficiency benefits described above. The argument for leaving the vents open generally applies to humid climates and even then, you’re letting in moisture in the rainy season. In the rare case with very high moisture, a french drain is usually recommended (which would be the case with or without the vapor barrier). So, for an effective encapsulation, each plastic sheet should be sealed to the blocks and foundation wall, and all crawl space vents should be sealed as well. This will create a clean, dry, relatively warm environment under your home, and a big boost to air quality and efficiency.

Programmable Thermostats

Truth be told this HVAC upgrade will benefit you greatly during the whole year-round, not just the winter, but it is worth mentioning regardless as it will almost certainly pay off and isn’t all that expensive, to begin with. The premise behind a programmable thermostat is that it allows you to take control of your thermostat in a way you probably never have before. Most people choose a temperature that everyone in the household agrees is comfortable each season and leave the thermostat on that setting. This gets the job done but it doesn’t take advantage of the immense saving that can be made on your energy bill if you change the temperature during the times in the day when people aren’t home and conscious to enjoy the controlled air.

Sure you could manually adjust the thermostat every time the household goes to bed or leaves for school or work but that isn’t a habit that’s practical for most people. A programmable thermostat automates temperature adjustments to match your daily household patterns, saving energy as well as keeping indoor comfort consistent. Many of today’s programmable models are also internet-connected, so you can monitor home temperatures and change programmed settings remotely with a phone app or browser format. Energy savings from utilizing a programmable thermostat will usually pay for it after one year of use.

Winter HVAC Upgrades and Heating Repair in Austin

There are many things you can do to improve both your experience with the air in your home and the amount you pay in energy bills each month. The winter can be harsh weather-wise even for us in the relatively mild central Texas as we were witness to this past weekend. You deserve the best heater and the best indoor air conditions available and that’s why AC Express prides itself on delivering top-quality Austin heating services.

Our service area includes everything from Buda and Kyle to Lago Vista and Lakeway and more. We provide heater repair in Austin and are always available for even same-day heater repair. If you’re in need of Austin heater repair don’t hesitate. Call today!