Getting an HVAC system for your home might seem simple, but a lot goes into that decision. If you get the wrong system, you might end up paying more in energy costs while still not enjoying the comfort you crave. Learning about the various components that make up your HVAC system will help you make the right choice for your needs. We offer seven tips for getting the right system for your space.

HVAC System Components

Let’s start with the various components that make up the typical HVAC system. Traditionally, you have a heating unit, a cooling unit, and a way to distribute conditioned air throughout your home.


The furnace is the traditional heating system in residential applications, usually burning either natural gas or propane. Electric furnaces are also available, but these tend to be less cost-effective when used as a primary heating source.

Gas and propane furnaces lose some heat with the exhaust. Furnace efficiency describes how much heat the exhaust carries with it. This is measured using AFUE or annual fuel utilization efficiency. The federal government sets the minimum allowed efficiency at 80%. However, high-efficiency systems may achieve as much as 98%, meaning they only lose 2% of the heat they generate.

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are the standard for cooling your home, using a refrigerant to redistribute heat from inside your home to the air outside. The efficiency rating used for air conditioners is SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) or SEER2. This effectively evaluates the amount of heat transferred compared to the amount of electricity it consumes.

When it comes to cooling your home, you can choose room units, such as window or portable units, or whole-house options. Whole-house is the most common one used in residential applications. Consider that running multiple smaller units generally uses more electricity than a single whole-house system.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are an incredible option for efficient and environmentally conscious heating and cooling. The one unit provides cooling in the summer while also providing heating during mild winter weather.

These use a refrigerant, much like an air conditioner, but have a reversing valve. This valve allows the unit to absorb heat from the air outside and redistribute it inside your home while it’s in heating mode.

Ducted Versus Ductless

Most traditional HVAC systems use a central air handler. This means there’s one place that either heats or cools the air moving through the system and then pushes it back out. These central systems use a series of ductwork to distribute the air out to the various supply vents around your home.

The alternative is a ductless system, which is compatible with air conditioners and heat pumps. These use a single compressing unit outside but have multiple smaller air handlers inside. The smaller air handlers are commonly mounted to an exterior wall for easier installation, with refrigerant lines running to each.

7 Tips For Choosing the Right HVAC System

A professional HVAC technician can help you evaluate the types of systems and determine the best way to effectively meet your needs. Beyond that, there’s a lot of variation between models, so getting the right one is important for both the cost and the experience it’ll provide. Whether you’re considering a new heating or cooling unit, these tips will help you get the best fit for your home.

1. Start With a Proper HVAC Load Evaluation

Getting the right size unit for your home will not only give you the most efficiency but will also affect the frequency of repairs and unit service life. HVAC size refers to the heating or cooling capacity it offers. To truly get the best size for your home requires a proper load evaluation, with most professional technicians using the Manual J calculation.

This calculation starts with the size of your home. However, it also takes into account factors like:

  • Ceiling height
  • Insulation
  • Windows and doors
  • Heat-generating appliances
  • Number of occupants

2. Climate Considerations

As you consider heating options, you’ll need to factor in the climate where you live. While furnaces are universally useful, they can be overkill in mild climates that don’t get below freezing very often. Conversely, heat pumps become ineffective in frigid temperatures and could struggle to keep your home warm. A popular alternative is the dual-fuel system, which has a heat pump as the primary heater and a gas furnace as a backup heater for frigid weather.

3. Get the Right Thermostat

Your system’s thermostat is critical for effectively controlling your system. However, not all thermostats are designed to work with all systems, so you’ll need to know which ones are right for you. For instance, if you have a heat pump, you need one designed to signal the reversing valve. Likewise, if you have a dual fuel system, you’ll need one that will switch to the furnace at the appropriate time.

4. Consider System Efficiency

A significant consideration is the efficiency of the system you’re installing. Standard systems use single-stage and single-speed components, meaning they’re either on or off. These use the most energy and fuel. At the extreme end of efficiency, you have modulating and variable-speed components that provide the exact amount of heating or cooling you need at a particular time. Part of determining which is best for your home is the experience, such as whether you want to maintain a steady temperature or allow for minor swings between cycles.

5. Evaluate Installation and Operational Costs

Cost is always a factor when considering your HVAC system, especially understanding it’s a substantial expense to install and one of your largest consumers of energy. The cost to install the system should balance with the cost to operate it. High-efficiency systems will certainly cost less to run and have less environmental impact. However, the energy consumption alone won’t balance the cost of the system. This is why the rebates and tax incentives available from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 are beneficial, helping further reduce the installation costs.

6. Don’t Forget About Warranties

The warranty is another important factor as you consider which system to get. Read the details carefully to understand not only the length of the warranty but also what’s covered and other terms. For instance, components like your heat exchanger may have a different warranty than the base system. It will also likely include terms like the system can only be serviced by a professional technician and that it requires routine maintenance.

7. Be Sure to Include Air Quality Improvements

Finally, consider your home’s air quality needs. When you’re installing a new system, you may get a bundle discount for installing components that help improve your home’s indoor air quality. In many cases, homes around Portland may benefit from a dehumidifier. You may also want to consider an air purifier or air scrubber. A trained technician can help you evaluate your home’s air quality and options to best improve it.

Whenever property owners around Portland need help keeping their homes comfortable, they’ve trusted Specialty Heating & Cooling LLC for more than 30 years. Our award-winning team provides heating installation and cooling installation, maintenance, and repair alongside indoor air quality solutions, water heater, and generator services. Call to schedule a consultation with one of the NATE-certified technicians to evaluate the best system for your home.

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