Home Innovation Insights

Optimizing HVAC for energy efficiency and comfort

Michelle Foster
August 8, 2023

Sizing Up Comfort: The Art and Science of Proper HVAC Equipment Sizing

When it comes to achieving optimal comfort and energy efficiency in a home or apartment, proper sizing of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) equipment plays a pivotal role. Just like Goldilocks searching for the perfect bowl of porridge, getting the sizing just right can ensure that an HVAC system performs at its best, providing consistent comfort and saving you money in the long run.

The Goals 

  • Save Energy: An oversized HVAC system wastes energy because it will heat or cool a home too quickly, reaching the desired temperature before it can effectively dehumidify the air. This frequent cycling on and off consumes excess energy and puts undue stress on the system components, potentially leading to premature breakdowns and higher maintenance costs.
  • Consistent Comfort: Properly sized HVAC equipment is essential for maintaining consistent indoor comfort. An undersized system will struggle to reach the desired temperature, leading to discomfort and uneven temperature distribution. On the other hand, an oversized system might overshoot the target temperature, causing fluctuations and discomfort. 
  • Improved Air Quality: A correctly sized HVAC system not only controls temperature but also manages air quality and humidity levels. An oversized system can't adequately dehumidify the air, leading to a clammy and uncomfortable indoor environment. Excessive humidity also creates a breeding ground for mold and allergens. 
  • Long-Term Savings: Oversized systems consume more energy during frequent cycles, resulting in inflated utility bills, and the additional strain of constant cycling can reduce the lifespan of the equipment, leading to more frequent replacements. 
  • Environmental Impact: A right-sized HVAC system has a smaller environmental impact and a smaller carbon footprint for the home. 

The Calculations

NGBS Green Certified homes and apartments are designed and constructed to meet the rigorous requirements of ICC-700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS). To earn certification, it is mandatory that the HVAC system and ducts are properly sized by a qualified professional using the standards and protocol developed by Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Specifically, Manual J is the method used by HVAC professionals to calculate the heating and cooling loads for a specific building while Manual S is used to select the correct equipment. ACCA Manual D is used to ensure that the duct system is properly designed and sized for the HVAC equipment.

  • Manual J calculations take the lead in determining the precise amount of conditioned air required for each individual room within your home. These calculations are an amalgamation of various elements, encompassing factors such as your home's orientation, square footage, window type and placement, as well as insulation levels and air leakage rates. Variables like energy-consuming appliances, lighting, and occupancy are also factored into the equation.
  • Manual S comes into play to align the HVAC equipment with your home's distinct conditions. The outcomes of the Manual J analysis are cross-referenced with metrics like static pressure, air movement volume, and capacity. This meticulous matching ensures that the selected equipment is appropriately sized. It's crucial to get this right, as installing equipment that is either excessively large or undersized can lead to a host of issues down the line. 
  • Manual D enters the scene to outline an effective blueprint for your ductwork design. This phase is of paramount importance to enable your HVAC equipment to function at peak efficiency. The calculations conducted under Manual D guarantee that the ducts within your forced-air system are calibrated correctly, ensuring the even distribution of conditioned air throughout your home. A multitude of variables contribute to these calculations, including factors such as friction rate and static pressure in individual rooms, duct material, distances to each air register, the placement of the air handler, and the required airflow (measured in CFM) to facilitate effective heating and cooling throughout your living space.

For every home seeking NGBS Green certification, an NGBS Green Accredited Verifier will work with the project team to confirm that the required calculations were completed, used to select the HVAC and duct systems, and that the correct systems were installed correctly. 

Lots of builders claim their homes are green. But without an NGBS Green Certification issued by Home Innovation Research Labs, you have to take the builder's word that the green features are installed correctly. Independent, third-party certification is your proof that a home or apartment building is, in fact, NGBS compliant and truly green. Learn more about Green Certification and the rigorous inspections included in the process. 

In the quest for high-performance homes that deliver ultimate indoor comfort, cost-efficiency and reduced environmental impacts, proper HVAC sizing is non-negotiable. This is just one of the hundreds of factors that make an NGBS Green Certified home a better place to call home. 

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