What if I said you could reduce your home’s carbon footprint, pretty much eliminate your energy bills … and also make your home even more comfortable than before?
It’s easier than you think with the right combination: High-efficiency heating and cooling plus solar panels.
Solar’s come a long way since the first residential setup in the early 70s. And, HVAC equipment has been steadily getting better and better. Now, they’re both at the point where you can pretty much go off the grid without sacrificing your home comfort.
That’s thanks to the technology improvements for solar and HVAC and the financial incentives available today.
In this article, we’ll look at solar and high-efficiency heating and cooling, all through the lens of using them in tandem to use far less energy and almost no fossil fuels. Then, we’ll look at how you can save money on installations.
Solar’s been around for a long time — decades, even. But it’s been a novelty for the most part, especially for residential use. The problem was that the panels themselves didn’t produce that much electricity.
In all, older panels captured less than 10 percent of the energy they were exposed to. More recently, that number has jumped to 18 percent. And, the best out there now capture 27 percent.
That means going solar now means you’ll greatly reduce your carbon footprint. It’s way more likely that you can fit enough panels on your roof, or property, to create enough energy to power your entire home without using your utility company.
And, when you pair those with the latest and greatest in HVAC technology, you’re much more likely to produce more electricity than you need. Then, you’re helping others use less energy, too.
Where solar energy provides power, high-efficiency heating, and cooling help you use less of it. With the right system, you can completely cut your dependence on fossil fuels. And, depending on what you get, you’ll also make your home more comfortable.
At its most general, “high-efficiency” means you have an HVAC system that provides just as much heating or cooling as other models. But, they use significantly less energy to do so.
While anything “high efficiency” means “less expensive to run,” you can choose models that can get you off the grid in this sense.
The best example is heat pumps because they heat and cool using electricity. So, you’re cutting out gas or oil. And, your solar panel provides the power.
Meanwhile, heat pump systems, particularly ductless heating and cooling, use a fraction of what a furnace or central air need to do the job. Now, you’ve got a better chance of getting all your electricity through solar.
Think about how much your bill goes up when you run the AC in the summer. Or, how much more you pay in gas during a cold, cold Illinois winter. Those expenses mean you’re using a lot of power.
When you drastically reduce your energy consumption, those solar panels will likely be more than powerful enough to keep your home running.
That means you’re making money at that point: All that excess electricity goes back to ComEd, and you’ll get credited for the power you supplied.
An inverter system makes the space more comfortable while reducing energy consumption.
The technology behind many high-efficiency units also helps make you more comfortable. Specifically, we’re talking about Inverter technology, which you see in heat pumps and on some high-end air conditioners.
This allows your system to run at a variety of speeds, not just “On” or “Off.” As a result, you don’t get an HVAC system that turns on when the temperature drifts, shuts off once it’s done the job. Then, it turns on again a little while later to fix the drift again.
That cycling is how your regular furnace or AC works. It does the job but uses a lot of energy. And, you notice those hot and cold fluctuations.
With inverter technology, the system instead runs in a low-power mode the majority of the time. This advancement achieves two things: First, you’re more comfortable because you’re getting a consistent temperature.
Second, you use less energy than if your system had to start and stop again a few times every hour. It’s the same as how your car gets better mileage on the highway than in a city with stop signs and traffic lights.
In this case, you can reduce your energy usage by up to 40 percent. It depends on the models you choose and the set up in your home.
On the one hand, you’ll save a whole lot of money in the years to come with a solar/high-efficiency HVAC combo. But, you still have to pay for those systems upfront.
Fortunately, you can reduce those costs thanks to a variety of incentives and tax credits.
Put that all together. Odds are it adds up to more than the $14 a month you’d spend with a plan. Especially if you have an older system, you’re likely ahead of the game by the second year.
Let’s start with ComEd. That’s right: Your local electric utility will pay you to use less electricity!
Well, more specifically, to install energy-efficient equipment. It reduces stress on the grid, which makes business run more smoothly for them. Also, they’re mandated by federal guidelines.
Either way: You’re making out on the deal.
Common air-source heat pumps and ductless mini splits can earn you up to $400 in rebates. Geothermal systems, which are far less common, are eligible for up to $1,000 cashback.
Then, add in federal tax credits for these energy-efficient appliances. You can knock up to $500 off what you owe Uncle Sam next April if you install one this year.
When it comes to solar, the upfront cost is way more: $17,000 or so for a whole-home mini split versus up to $30,000 for solar.
But — if you play your cards right, you may never pay anywhere near that much. Depending on how big your home is, you can save around 65 percent. That’s the difference between paying $30k or just over $10,000.
However, those exact numbers vary depending on how many panels you have and how well your roof is suited for solar. But, you can use this calculator to get a better idea for your home.