SPECIAL SECTION: HVAC, ENERGY AND COMFORT SHOWCASE
Find that Balance Between Living Well and Saving More
On the Section Cover: Air Mart of Texas offers specialty SpacePak and Unico high velocity systems, conventional systems by American Standard and Bosch variable speed A/Cs and heat pumps. Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr via CC
By Katricia Lang, Natalie de la Garza and Susie Tommaney
The debate between living comfortably or choosing to be energy efficient ends here. You want it all and, thanks to new technologies on the market, it looks like that’s finally possible.
Sometimes even a few upgrades can help reduce your carbon footprint. Schedule an HVAC tune-up with a trusted contractor to make sure your system and ducts are working efficiently, then make a decision about the best time to buy new. Evaluate your water heater and the appliances in the kitchen and laundry rooms, as well as all of the lighting systems throughout the home. Investing in new windows, doors and insulation can keep the house cooler in the summer and toasty warm in the winter.
Every time we install or upgrade an appliance or system, we’re given the opportunity to select Energy Star® products that save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. Improving a home's energy efficiency can help lower high energy bills, improve comfort and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Preservationists, like those of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Florida, know there is only one heating and cooling solution for a house with little to no space for ducting. The Unico System® boasts flexible ducts one-third the size of traditional heating and air-conditioning systems, making them small enough to fit in attic crawl spaces, closets, basements, and even wall and ceiling cavities. Despite their size, the small-duct HVAC is capable of delivering even temperatures throughout every room of the house, while the sound-dampening insulation keeps it quiet and reduces air leakage. Gulf Coast residents should also take note: Purchasing a Unico System from a company like Air-Mart of Texas is the ideal solution for humid conditions, as its cooling coils remove up to 30 percent more moisture than standard systems. — NG
In the past year, Houstonians’ electricity costs rose by 18 percent. If you’re still reeling from the increase, it might be time to make the switch to a geothermal heating and air conditioning system. Like an air conditioner, it uses a refrigerant, but unlike traditional heating and cooling solutions, these systems use a heat pump to capitalize on the constant temperatures underground. Once installed, a geothermal unit is nearly maintenance free. The geothermal experts at Airtron Heating and Air Conditioning say a geothermal system is four to five times more efficient than your typical heating and cooling system. It has a 500 percent efficiency rating, so your energy bill can decrease by 65 percent. Even with electricity prices skyrocketing, that’s a net gain. — KL
Instead of impact glass or shutters, homeowners looking for protection against hurricanes, security from burglars, or just a little relief for their wallet can now “armor up” their existing windows with Armor Glass®, a breach-proof polycarbonate film. This NASA-approved plastic barrier can not only withstand everything from errant golf balls to wind-borne debris, Armor Glass reduces up to 79 percent of the solar heat that seeps in through windows, earning it the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star seal. It’s also carbon negative, meaning it saves more energy than it takes to manufacture, and even the installation process is green, requiring only baby shampoo and water. But don’t think you have to sacrifice aesthetics for the environment — Armor Glass makes a clear product that is invisible when applied. Various tints, however, are available to cut down even more solar energy and increase savings on your electric bill.
ENERGY STAR WINDOWS
When you’re deciding on replacement windows, think blue and green. Energy Star’s aqua logo will lead you to both money and energy saving opportunities. The government-backed program partners with dealers like Cambridge Doors & Windows to cut costs and increase energy efficiency. Cambridge orders its window systems from energy-conscious suppliers and manufacturers like Showcase Windows and Doors, a specialist in climate-based products. This includes windows that can withstand a Gulf Coast hurricane and hot Houston summers. Ditch the clear glass too. Cambridge offers EnviroShield's® Low-E Glass, an insulated glass unit that can reduce your energy bills by up to 15 percent as well as give you lifelong bragging rights: The unit battles air pollution, smog and global warming. — KL
There’s nothing better than basking in the sun. Ask any house cat; they’ll give you a mew of affirmation. With a daylighting system, you too can recline like a feline. Daylighting systems employ the power of the sun to light your home. A traditional skylight allows for plenty of sun gazing, but if it has any weak spot in the insulation, it will undermine your heating and cooling system. And it makes the hotter months even hotter. But through the magic of domes, tubes and technology, the Solatube system stays steady in any season or climatic condition. And instead of adding heat to your attic as a traditional skylight might, Solatube offers a solar powered attic fan to cool it down. Houston Daylighting, a company that exclusively installs Solatube systems, says in two hours you can turn your day in the sun into a lifetime in the sunlight. — KL
The hot Texas sun is a powerful force indeed, and one way to ensure comfort is through window screens, awnings, shutters and blinds. These products come in a variety of attractive treatments and can provide hurricane, security and sun protection. The experts at Rolltex Shutters can guide homeowners in the best application for their home: from accordion, rolling, colonial or Bahama shutters to retractable awnings and solar screens and even hurricane panels and outside blinds, there’s a creative solution for every problem. — ST
Armor Glass® International, Inc.
12926 Dairy Ashford, Sugar Land
Air-Mart of Texas
Airtron Heating and Air Conditioning
Cambridge Doors, Windows & More
12999 Murphy, Stafford
18703 Clay Rd Suite #200
Milgard Windows & Doors
705 Wildlife Parkway, Grand Prairie
Rolltex Shutters, LLC
3004 Beverly, Pasadena
Showcase Windows and Doors
Windstorm Services, LLC