House & Home

Green Glossary of Home Heating and Cooling

Posted November 4, 2014

In the typical American home, heating and cooling account for close to 50 percent of all energy use. This means that regulating your household temperature can cost you a bundle in terms of fuel bills, and add appreciably to your carbon footprint. However, it's possible to increase the efficiency of your HVAC system by as much as a surprising 20 percent, using green techniques. Here's a glossary of home heating and cooling terms to help you understand how to go more eco-friendly.

Air Sealing: Treatment of a building to prevent leakage of interior or exterior air.

Attic Fan: Thermostat-controlled, roof-mounted fan. It cools the attic and the roof in order to reduce air conditioning expenses and extend the lifespan of roofing shingles.

Ceiling Fan: Ceiling-mounted fan which replaces or supplements air conditioning and can also be set to help heat more efficiently in the cold season.

Energy Audit: Inspection, usually by a specially trained professional, to measure the efficiency of a building's energy usage and recommend improvements.

Energy Efficient Appliances: Large household appliances, such as furnaces and central air conditioners, which use a relatively small amount of electricity or other fuel.

Energy Star: A certificate issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy that indicates energy efficiency.

Heat Pump: Device which pumps warm or cool air, according to the season, from the earth, air, or water, to heat or cool your home.

High Efficiency Furnace: Furnace with a high rate of annual fuel utilization efficiency ratio of BTUs of useful heating to BTUs of fuel which it consumes. Today's high efficiency furnaces have an AFUE of approximately 98:100.

HVAC: A Heating, Ventilation and Cooling system.

Insulation: Material employed to reduce the rate of heat transfer from interior to exterior (and vice versa), and improve HVAC efficiency. Insulation may be composed of fiberglass batt; spray foam; or blown fiberglass, cellulose, or wool. It is used in walls and attics, as well as around duct pipes.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification: Comprehensive rating system to measure the eco-friendliness of a building as a whole.

Low-Emissivity Windows: Windows containing specially coated glass which admits light radiation while excluding heat radiation.

Multi-pane Windows: Windows with either 2 or 3 panes, separated by a layer of insulation (either air or gas). As well as energy wastage, multi-pane windows may also reduce noise pollution and ultraviolet rays.

Programmable Thermostat: Thermostat which may be preprogrammed to set the home's HVAC system to operate at different temperatures according to the time of day.

R-Value: Measure of the insulating properties of various materials. A higher R-value indicates better insulating ability.

Sealed Ductwork: Ducting system whose seams have been sealed to minimize energy leakage.

Smart Home: System of technology that allows a home's processes, such as HVAC, to be controlled remotely, often via a Smartphone app.

Solar Energy: Energy from the sun which is used to heat water for household use (solar thermal) or converted into electricity via voltaic panels (solar photovoltaic).

Swamp (Evaporative) Cooler: Device which cools the air in a building by the process of evaporation, or transforming liquid to vapor. A swamp cooler is especially suited for dry climates such as Arizona's and is much more efficient than an air conditioner for a Phoenix home.

Tankless Water Heater: System that uses natural gas, electricity, or propane to heat water on demand. A tankless water heater does not require a tank to store preheated water.

Zoned: Heating or air conditioning which has independent thermostats in various areas of the home. This saves energy by limiting HVAC use in rooms that are not currently being used.

Laura Firszt writes for

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