Dennis Stinson is the VP of sales for Fujitsu General America, a manufacturing company that specializes in residential heating and cooling systems. We asked him about the latest innovations in HVAC technology and what new homeowners can do to save money on their heating and cooling bills.
Vice President of Sales, Fujitsu General America
“Improving your energy efficiency starts with making sure you have a qualified contractor.”
What are some of your best tips for new homeowners looking to reduce their energy usage and costs?
There are a couple of great things consumers can do to reduce their overall energy cost, and it all comes down to better efficiency and preservation of energy. Improving your energy efficiency starts with making sure you have a qualified contractor. That contractor should be looking at your equipment and servicing it once a year. They should be making sure the coils are clean, and making sure it is fully charged and operating as it was designed. It’s also your responsibility to make sure you’re changing air filters on a regular basis so the air flow across the coil is maximizing the system’s efficiency.
The best way to preserve energy is to make sure your home is well insulated. Make sure your windows and siding are caulked, and are securing the energy inside.
So to recap, having a relationship with a qualified contractor and keeping your equipment up to date and in great shape are extremely important.
What kind of cost and energy savings can homeowners realize by taking steps to reduce heating and cooling their homes?
In terms of preserving efficiency, we know efficiency is measured. That would be the seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) for air conditioning side and HSPF [Heating Seasonal Performance Factor] for the heat pump. With both of these metrics, the higher a system’s number, the more efficient it is. And we know that you buy efficiency upfront — you’re paying for efficiency and looking for a return on your investment.
As a homeowner, I’d be looking to buy the best value in terms of sewer and HSPF, and you’ll notice there are consumer rebates built around specific efficiency levels and performance ratios based on where you live. I would recommend that consumers look online to see what rebates are available based on your zip code and the efficiency of the equipment. In many instances, it is less expensive to install a more efficient piece of equipment than it is to install the basic minimum piece of equipment because of the incentives that come back.
Can you talk a little bit about how homeowners can benefit from rebates tied to the Inflation Reduction Act?
The Inflation Reduction Act is a fantastic piece of legislation, because it addresses a lot of entities of efficiency. We know this was birthed 30 years ago when we were looking at oil embargoes and trying to move away from depending on foreign fuel sources.
There are really three main pieces to this. First, it’s a continuation of the tax credits we already had. This has been renewed through multiple administrations now, and this is the $3,000 tax credit you get for making an improvement to your home. This tax credit can then apply and be bundled on top of others that you may have taken. We know what products qualify; the consumers are notified of it. So, this is an easy investment for us to continue to move forward.
The second piece of this legislation, which is a little unique, is that there is a tremendous amount of money for consumers to use energy efficiency equipment in their home, and it’s driving down the avenue of the electrification of America. It’s not the exclusion of fossil fuel, but it’s incentivizing using and improving electric equipment. So, if homeowners have a 60-AMP or 100-AMP system and need to upgrade, there’s up to $4,000 for them to improve their electrical infrastructure and up to $10,000 for them to improve their piece of equipment. So, there’s considerable money there to do it. It’s also income-based, so if you’re the biggest house on your block, you’re going to get less. If you are a modest house, you’ll get average. And if you’re in a greater need, then you’ll get more.
The last piece of this is something we haven’t seen before, which is incentives for manufacturers to build the product here in the United States, where in the past legislation has aimed to penalize the country of origin. So, we’re now seeing many manufacturers looking at building and producing products here in the United States, which is fantastic.
What are some of the latest innovations in HVAC systems for homes and at what point is it worth it for homeowners to upgrade their equipment?
Some of the latest innovations have been inverter technology. This is the technology that allows a piece of HVAC equipment to ramp up and ramp down based on the need. For so long in the United States, we’ve had equipment that turns all on or turns all off. 90% of the time, the equipment is oversized. We size equipment based on degree days and we designed it to do 99% of the load, which means we designed a system to cover the load for 360 days out of the year, which means that we’re oversized for 90% of the time. So, when we turn it on and off, we are giving it too much and we are inefficient in doing that.
So, inverter technology, by converting AC to DC and creating the energy output incredibly more efficiently, we’re also only giving the space what it needs —we’re never overshooting or undershooting the space. By going from standard equipment to inverter technology, you’re looking at reducing home energy usage by more than 30%.
As a consumer, you can change the light bulbs, you can caulk the windows and doors — that’s all good stuff to do. But the greatest impact you’ll have will be by updating your HVAC system and taking a hard look at your hot water heater. If you address those two things, you’re addressing the real money drawls coming out of your energy budget.