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Green HVAC Technology: Upgrading To Eco-Friendly Heating And Cooling

Green HVAC Technology: Upgrading To Eco-Friendly Heating And Cooling

Combustion heating systems and traditional HVAC technologies produce ozone-depleting gases, which has led many Americans to look for alternatives with lower carbon footprints. 

Of course, building owners have other reasons to go green: Traditional HVAC units require expensive fossil fuels to operate, and they’re much less efficient than alternative technologies. The United States Department of Energy estimates that properly installed Energy Star-certified equipment can deliver annual energy bill savings of up to 30%, and some all-electric technologies can yield even greater savings.

Beyond pure cost savings, many of the modern heating and cooling technologies offer improved comfort by allowing more climate control year-round.

At BlocPower, we’re passionate about delivering eco-friendly heating and cooling solutions. Whether you’re concerned about rising energy bills, frustrated with uncomfortable or uneven indoor temperatures or your building’s environmental impact, green HVAC systems offer an excellent alternative. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most popular eco-friendly technologies—and several factors to keep in mind if you’re considering an upgrade. 

It’s time to improve your building with a green HVAC system. To get started, answer a few quick questions to see if BlocPower is available in your area.

Types Of Green HVAC Systems

The term “green HVAC” encompasses a wide array of technologies, including some combustion-based systems. Essentially, any system with less of an environmental impact than a traditional HVAC unit can be described as “green,” but to take advantage of rebate and incentive programs, systems need to meet certain criteria. 

Below, we’ll address the advantages and disadvantages of several of the most popular green HVAC technologies. One important note: To deliver optimal benefits, you’ll need to look for green HVAC companies that have experience designing and installing the system you choose, or find a trusted partner like BlocPower to find the right contractors and equipment for your project.

Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs)

Air source heat pumps use ambient air from outside a building as a heat source or a heat sink. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, ASHPs work similarly to refrigerators: Ambient air moves over a coil in the outdoor unit to create a heat exchange. An indoor unit acts as a condenser or evaporator, delivering hot or cold air to the building’s interior.

Types of air source heat pumps include:

  • Mini-Split Heat Pumps—These systems have one indoor unit and one outdoor unit. In apartment buildings, each apartment might have its own mini-split system, allowing tenants to set their own temperature.
  • Multi-Split Heat Pumps—In these systems, multiple indoor units connect to one (or several) outdoor units. Indoor units can be set to different temperatures, but the outdoor unit is either in heating or cooling mode—it cannot provide both heating and cooling at the same time. 
  • Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Heat Pumps—These systems are similar to multi-split systems, but they’re capable of providing heating and cooling simultaneously. In other words, the indoor units can deliver hot or cold air on demand. 

ASHPs can deliver air directly to a room through the indoor unit. Systems can also use a building’s existing ductwork for delivery. 

In prior decades, heat pumps were less efficient in extremely cold temperatures, but modern air source heat pumps have virtually eliminated this drawback and will keep your space cozy and comfortable through the coldest winters. Cold climate air source heat pumps offer 100% efficiency at temperatures as low as 5°F and offer reliable operation at up to -15°F.

Ground Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps operate similarly to air source heat pumps, but the heat source—as the name implies—is the solar energy stored in the ground. They’re extremely efficient when used in single-family and some multi-family residences, but they usually have higher upfront costs than air source heat pumps.

A ground source pump must also transfer heat throughout a building, which can limit efficiency for larger installations—by definition, the hot or cold air comes from the ground, and heat energy loss becomes a greater factor when the heat travels long distances (for instance, to the upper floors of a high-rise building). Cold climate ASHPs typically offer a better return on investment when properly installed in larger buildings. 

Ice Powered Air Conditioning

Ice storage systems freeze large quantities of water at night, then use the ice in place of a refrigerant to cool the air during the day. While this green air conditioning technology can lower energy consumption, it has several significant drawbacks.

Ice-powered systems can only provide cold air until ice melts. On hot days, this may only generate several hours of energy-efficient cooling. When the ice melts, the system will need to use a traditional refrigerant. Ice-powered green air conditioning units also use a large amount of water and are impractical for larger buildings.

Alternative Fuel Combustion HVAC Systems

Some green HVAC systems use renewable fuels like biodiesel in place of fossil fuels. This limits the ecological impact of heating and air conditioning by reducing carbon output. 

However, alternative fuels are often as expensive—or more expensive—as natural gas. While biofuels are a better choice ecologically, they don’t always provide a return on investment. 

Why Upgrading To Green HVAC Makes Sense

At BlocPower, we typically recommend air source heat pumps (ASHPs), which provide efficient heating and cooling through an all-electric design. 

In most climates, modern air source heat pumps provide the most efficient (and eco-friendly) solution for commercial, like-commercial and residential buildings. While ASHP can sometimes have higher installation costs compared with fossil fuel systems, state and federal energy incentives can offset this expense.

By upgrading to green heating and air conditioning units, building owners can see immediate benefits including:

1. Lower Energy Costs 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy.gov, air source heat pumps can reduce electricity usage for heating by up to 50 percent! All-electric systems can also provide efficient air conditioning, particularly when the systems are ductless. 

For single-family residences, cold-climate heat pumps deliver an annual savings of $459 on average when compared with oil systems, according to one study from the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP). These savings can be more significant for larger buildings (even before accounting for steep fines in some regulatory environments like NYC). Through our proprietary analysis software, we’ve determined that heat pump systems save our clients an average of 20–40% on heating and cooling bills each year.

2. Energy Programs & Incentives 

A new HVAC system can be an expensive purchase. However, eco-friendly systems often qualify for rebates and tax incentives that limit the upfront cost of your investment.

Program availability varies depending on the technology. In New York State, some incentive programs are limited to large buildings that install air source or ground source heat pumps. In any case, BlocPower can be a great asset and partner as a project manager, handling most or all of the required hurdles.

3. Improved Tenant Satisfaction 

BlocPower’s air source heat pump systems provide flexible temperature control on demand. Residents can control their units independently; some heat pump systems can even set different temperatures for different rooms in an apartment or office. 

After installation, units operate quietly and require limited maintenance. For commercial buildings and multi-family units, heat pumps can reduce tenant complaints and improve retention—and many new tenants see eco-friendly heating systems as a major selling point. An eco-friendly heat pump system can improve your building’s value by an average of $10,400 to $17,000

4. Better Air Quality

Think of your building as a complete organism: If you’re burning fuel in the basement and sending it through an extensive network of ductwork, you’re sending carbon, mold, and other pollutants to every room. 

Heat pumps don’t burn fossil fuels, which eliminates the risk of carbon monoxide exposure (provided that the building owner replaces other fuel-burning appliances). Compared with traditional HVAC, heat pumps provide a more comfortable humidity balance and filters in the indoor units can remove common allergens. Even when the heat pump uses existing ductwork, air quality improves significantly.

5. Regulatory Compliance

Building decarbonization and electrification are becoming key fixtures of the regulatory landscape. Municipalities throughout the country are updating building codes to require some form of green HVAC, so it’d be wise to be prepared. 

Specifically in New York City, a component of their Climate Mobilization Act called Local Law 97 places strict greenhouse gas emission limits on buildings. These rules are set to take effect in 2024 and failure to comply will result in significant fines, making green retrofits the most economical choice. 

BlocPower’s experts can help you find green HVAC services for your building.

If you’re ready to enjoy the advantages of eco-friendly heating and cooling, BlocPower’s team is ready to help. Whether you’re retrofitting an existing system or planning a new construction, we use a streamlined process to customize your system:

  1. Answer a few questions via our online form.
  2. Our experts analyze your property and make building-specific recommendations.
  3. We help you take advantage of available incentive and rebate programs. BlocPower also offers lease options to further reduce your upfront costs. The BlocPower Lease has low, predictable monthly payments and does not require a lien on your building.
  4. Our experts install your system. You’ll immediately enjoy the benefits of green HVAC including lower energy costs, improved tenant satisfaction, and more capital for other improvements.
  5. Our straightforward maintenance program gives you peace of mind, and our proprietary software provides continuous, detailed information about energy savings. We also offer a 15-year performance guarantee through our BlocPower Lease program.

The costs of fossil fuels continue to rise, and there’s never been a better time to invest in clean energy. To get started, find out whether BlocPower is available in your area.