As soon as I purchased my first home, I realized that it was going to be difficult to take care of all of the appliances. I was worried that some components would fail or that others would simply suffer from neglect. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do in order to avoid these types of problems. To ward off my worries, I decided to hire a professional HVAC contractor who could help. I was able to find an incredible business in my area who really cared about their products and services. They taught me how to look for problems and how to troubleshoot a lagging system. Check out this blog for more information about protecting your HVAC system.
Whether you're setting up a small office building or a massive multi-use structure, you will always face one significant HVAC choice: spend more upfront for lower operating costs, or save money now in exchange for higher costs later. Heating a large, commercial building is a complicated task that requires significant amounts of energy. Even with building automation systems, nothing will affect your long-term costs as much as the efficiency of your core HVAC equipment. Selecting the right unit for your needs isn't always easy, but there are a few considerations that can help you to choose suitable heating equipment for your building.
"High-efficiency" is a term that's thrown around in a variety of contexts, but it has a clear definition for heating equipment. Furnaces use a measurement known as AFUE or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. A gas furnace generates heat within a combustion chamber along with dangerous combustion byproducts. The furnace's heat exchanger transfers heat from the exhaust stream into the structure's interior environment. AFUE measures the amount of heat transferred to the building versus the amount of heat that is lost with the exhaust stream.
A high-efficiency furnace likely has an AFUE of 95% or higher. In practical terms, this means that about 5% of your annual fuel costs are lost to the outside environment along with the combustion exhaust. Modern standard efficiency units will still have an AFUE of 80% or higher.
Is the case in favor of high-efficiency units airtight? Not quite. While high-efficiency units will always cost less to run over the long-term, they are often significantly more expensive upfront. With a typical commercial furnace lasting 20 years or last, the total operating cost of the unit must be considered against its purchase price. For large structures with high heating costs, the case is clear: high-efficiency units will almost always cost less over the life of the unit.
For smaller structures, the decision is more complicated. In these cases, it often makes sense to perform a detailed energy audit. How high are your annual fuel expenses likely to be with a standard efficiency unit? How are high are they likely to be with a high-efficiency unit? You may find that your total costs over the lifetime of the furnace fail to justify the initial purchase price of a high-efficiency furnace, ultimately making it a poor investment.
Moving Beyond The Wallet
Of course, there are larger considerations than cost. High-efficiency furnaces will heat the same space while using less fuel. Not only does this mean that you pay less on your building's utility bills, but it also means that your structure's overall carbon footprint will be lower. Reducing your energy usage is inherently good for the environment, and it may also qualify you for local or state incentives. If the cost calculus is close, then these incentives may be enough to warrant the higher purchase price.
Most importantly, avoid quick decisions. Your choice of heating system will affect your building's energy and maintenance requirements for decades into the future. Carefully evaluating your options and working with an experienced commercial HVAC contractor is the best way to ensure that you find the right balance between cost and energy efficiency.