Existing HVAC System Upgrade or Expansion

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High-Efficiency Gas Furnace
High-Efficiency Gas Furnace
Scope

Upgrade an existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system for expansion, efficiency, or comfort with one or more of the following measures. Modifications with an excellent return on investment based on projected energy savings are underlined.

  • Replace a PSC fan motor with an ECM drive.
  • Replace burners in oil furnaces or boilers.
  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat.
  • Add dehumidification.
  • Improve filtration.
  • Improve source-exhaust fans (i.e., bath or kitchen exhaust fans).
  • Add whole-house mechanical ventilation.
  • Seal and/or insulate the duct system.
  • Improve supply air coverage and balancing capability.
  • Add ductwork to extend space conditioning to added living space.
  • Add terminal units (e.g., radiator/convector, or additional ductless head) to extend space conditioning to added living space.
  • Add a dedicated system to independently heat or cool a new addition.

Prior to undertaking an upgrade or expansion:

  • Assess the need for replacing or upgrading the HVAC system. See the guide Pre-Retrofit Assessment of Existing HVAC Systems.
  • Examine the HVAC equipment and distribution system to determine the scope, capacity, and capabilities of the existing system.
  • Confirm that the existing system has adequate remaining useful life to warrant the effort and expense of an upgrade.
  • Confirm the compatibility of the upgrade with the existing system, including power and airflow requirements.
  • Complete inexpensive and easy fixes before investing in costly upgrades.
  • Repair non-functioning items and clean dirty components prior to beginning the upgrade.
  • Remove old construction debris and clear a safe and convenient working/staging area.
  • Collect all necessary tools and supplies prior to beginning work.
  • Provide an adequate light source.
  • Turn off all switched equipment and power down all equipment at the breaker box (except as needed for equipment testing with a multi-meter, etc.).

NOTE: If combustion appliances are upgraded or replaced or if other energy-efficiency upgrades are made to a home with combustion appliances, review the guide Pre-Retrofit Assessment of Combustion Appliances to ensure safe conditions currently exist and to avoid introducing unsafe conditions.

For more information, view the U.S. Department of Energy’s Standard Work Specifications regarding HVAC system upgrades.

See the Compliance Tab for related codes and standards requirements, and criteria to meet national programs such as DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home program, ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, and Indoor airPLUS.

Description

When it comes to getting optimal performance from an older home’s HVAC equipment, improvements span the spectrum from maintenance and tuneups to total system replacement. In between are several other steps homeowners and contractors can take to improve and extend the performance of the home’s existing systems. Below are several options to consider.

Decision Making

Carefully consider if upgrading an existing HVAC system is the appropriate choice. In many cases the costs associated with intervention beyond basic maintenance and cleaning do not reap adequate benefits compared to replacing the system with new equipment because new equipment often has higher efficiency and better performance.

For general assessment and decision-making, including useful decision trees for determining whether or not to replace an existing system, see the guide Pre-Retrofit Assessment of Existing HVAC Systems. For general information regarding HVAC system types, typical efficiencies, and capabilities, see Building America Best Practices Series Volume 14 - HVAC: A Guide for Contractors to Share with Homeowners. You can also search the Building America Solution Center for guides describing specific heating and cooling systems.

Maintenance and Repair

For general maintenance and repair, see the following resources:

Upgrades

In addition to general maintenance, there are several specific HVAC upgrades that can improve system performance, extend system life, or expand service. The upgrades below were included on this list because they were either deemed cost-effective due to energy savings, or reasonable interventions to improve or expand system capability, or necessary because of lifestyle or architectural changes. Each of these measures is further addressed in the guides linked here.

Costs

The upgrades listed above vary widely in terms of costs and labor involved in installation.  If you are considering equipment replacement instead, while replacing HVAC equipment can be costly and labor-intensive, it often reaps large rewards in terms of energy cost savings and comfort.

Some upgrades that reduce energy use may qualify for local or federal rebates. Check for rebates and incentives on local utility websites and also at the following database:

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

Climate

No climate-specific information applies.

CAD

Compliance

The Compliance tab contains both program and code information. Code language is excerpted and summarized below. For exact code language, refer to the applicable code, which may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.

Check with the Authority Having Jurisdiction to determine if upgrade or expansion to existing Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) equipment requires compliance with current codes.

If replacing old or adding new HVAC equipment, use the following Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Technical Manuals to

  • determine building’s loads (Manual J)
  • select the equipment (Manual S)
  • design the distribution network (Manual D, Manual ZR)
  • commission the system (ACCA Quality Standards and manufacturers’ requirements).

More Info.

Access to some references may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.

Case Studies
References and Resources*
Author(s)
Aldrich,
Arena
Organization(s)
CARB,
Steven Winters Associates,
SWA
Publication Date
Description
Report describing the evaluation and selection of ventilation systems for homes retrofitted for energy aesthetic and health/safety improvements in Las Vegas.
Author(s)
Gilbride,
Baechler,
Hefty,
Hand,
Love
Organization(s)
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Publication Date
Description
Report providing information about energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) equipment options to help homeowners cut their energy use, reduce their carbon footprint, and increase their homes comfort, health, and safety.
Author(s)
ENERGY STAR
Organization(s)
ENERGY STAR
Publication Date
Description
A ENERGY STAR guide on efficient heating, ventilation and cooling systems in residential homes.
Author(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Organization(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Publication Date
Description
Standard providing nationally recognized, manufacturer-endorsed set of inspection tasks for HVAC maintenance.
Author(s)
Gilbride,
Baechler,
Hefty,
Hand,
Love
Organization(s)
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Publication Date
Description
Report providing information about energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) equipment options to help homeowners cut their energy use, reduce their carbon footprint, and increase their homes comfort, health, and safety.
Author(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Organization(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Publication Date
Description
Standard covering equipment sizing loads for single-family-detached homes, small multi-unit structures, condo­miniums, town houses and manufactured homes.
Author(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Organization(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Publication Date
Description
Standard outlining industry procedure for sizing residential duct systems.
Author(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Organization(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Publication Date
Description
Standard covering sizing strategies for all types of cooling and heating equipment, as well as how to use comprehensive manufacturer’s performance data on sensible, latent, or heating capacity for various operating conditions.
Author(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Organization(s)
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Publication Date
Description
Technical manual from ACCA outlining correct methods for residential zoning.
*For non-dated media, such as websites, the date listed is the date accessed.
Building Science Measures
Building Science-to-Sales Translator

High-Efficiency HVAC Equipment = High-Efficiency or Ultra-Efficient Comfort Equipment

Image(s)
Technical Description

Because heating and cooling costs are the largest contributors to utility bills, inefficient comfort equipment creates significant costs for homeowners. Not installing high- or ultra-efficient comfort equipment is a missed opportunity, especially if the proper steps have been taken to insulate and air seal a home. High-efficiency comfort equipment meets ENERGY STAR requirements for efficiency. Ultra-efficient comfort equipment meets or exceeds the criteria for ENERGY STAR’s “Most Efficient” designation, indicating it is among the most efficient heating and cooling products available on the market.

High-Efficiency or Ultra-Efficient Comfort Equipment
Sales Message

High-efficiency comfort equipment provides heating and cooling with less wasted energy. What this means to you is less cost to keep you and your family comfortable. Wouldn’t you agree it’s important to take advantage of proven advanced technologies in all homes?

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