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Old 10-21-2010, 08:43 PM   #1
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


I realize this a very general and abstract question but I'll ask anyway...

I figure it makes sense to do an upgrade that will qualify for the $1500 tax credit before it expires at the end of the year.

Moved into our house about a year ago knowing we'll do upgrades down the road.
- 1978 single story
- Brick construction; slab-on-grade
- ~ 2800 sq ft

Debating between:
Replacing the HVAC system. I'm assuming it from twenty years old to original.
-or-
Replacing the single pain windows.

I realize this is a hard and very subjective question to answer over the internet, but...
Better utility savings from windows or more efficient HVAC?

Windows provide an improved cosmetic appeal in addition to being more efficient. (ours don't look terrible - typical late '70's; at least there brown and not silver aluminum)

New HVAC should ease the concern of the unit breaking down on us at an unexpected time.

Thoughts?

Mods - please move if in the wrong forum.

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Old 10-21-2010, 09:12 PM   #2
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


You'd have to spend $4500 on heating equipment to get $1500 back. The credit is only for the units, not the installation. If you buy 15 $300. windows, you get $1500. Why don't you get estimates so you know which gives you the bigger bang.
Ron

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Old 10-22-2010, 06:14 AM   #3
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


Actually I believe I need to spend $5000 on equipment; thought the credit was 30% of cost up to $1500 max.
HVAC replacement should get me the full $1500.
Windows may of may not; in the process of getting quotes for the windows and more for the AC.

Awhile back I thought I had heard that replacing an older AC system with a newer higher efficiency system sounds good on paper there is really not that big of a monthly savings to justify the initial cost - Thoughts? Agree / Disagree?
In some regards is it better to keep an older AC system w/ R-22 vs a newer system running R-410 (assuming the older system is working) or better to go ahead and jump into the newer system?
Local HVAC companies seem to really be making a push right now for sales and because of the current economy; but then again so are window companies.

Overall objective:
- Take advantage of the $1500 tax credit
- Get the Best for Buck

Last edited by CZSteve; 10-22-2010 at 06:28 AM.
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Old 10-22-2010, 06:30 AM   #4
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


You might want to post the HVAC questions on that forum. You'll get more answers.
Ron
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Old 10-22-2010, 06:32 AM   #5
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


I had an energy audit done in my 35 year old home. I can tell you this, the auditor said my 35 year old Pella Windows were a bit leaky and needed upgrading but the payback is less than 3% in energy efficiency according to him. The tax credits in Ontario would give me money for both, but made it a far lower priority for windows.
My new furnace was $4200 but is using 35% less gas, my credit for it was $1700 but add to that in the past 2 years $1200 in fuel savings so in outright payback, $2900 so far...and counting.
While both add resale value, windows are visual for cub appeal but my energy savings will pay for the new windows as I have time and my furnace is under warranty for 10 years. I figure I break even on the furnace by the end of year 4. My widows are getting rough and need replacing, exposed sides of the house are the worst. But my furnace will keep me warmer than my windows and gas is likely going up.
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Old 10-22-2010, 07:28 AM   #6
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


I would replace the windows first. Unless your HVAC contractor has honestly stated that the HVAC system is on its last legs, I would not change it. There are systems out there that still work as good as day one forty years ago, the key is that they have been maintained on a regular basis. Majority of home owners never touch the HVAC system, unless something goes wrong.
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Old 10-22-2010, 07:54 AM   #7
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


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I would replace the windows first. Unless your HVAC contractor has honestly stated that the HVAC system is on its last legs, I would not change it. There are systems out there that still work as good as day one forty years ago, the key is that they have been maintained on a regular basis. Majority of home owners never touch the HVAC system, unless something goes wrong.
How efficient are these older systems? Gas fired hot air units are 90%+ efficient now.
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Old 10-22-2010, 12:22 PM   #8
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


Does not matter about how efficient the system is, if the windows are crap. The furnace will always run at high speed to make up for heat loss. First things first. insulate Attic & crawl/basement rim joist areas, replace windows, seal cracks and air leaks, replace storms with better insulated units, update to better door sealing, then worry about hvac system.
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Old 10-22-2010, 09:11 PM   #9
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


From his profile it says the OP is in TX. Heating is a lesser concern than AC. Are we talking electric heat pump/AC or gas heat? I've done most of my research from the keep the cold out in the winter aspect not the keep the cold in during the summer. Living in Houston for a number of years I know there is only a certain temperature difference your house can maintain based on your cooling capacity and your insulation etc. (My house was pretty bad so it could only keep it around 75 degrees when the temps got around 100 +) You would have to do some research on the differences between those old units and the newer 14+ SEER rated ones. Have you had your HVAC system serviced lately and if so did they say what kind of overall shape your system is in. If not it might be worth a general inspection and see what they say, maybe from someone who's not working for a company pushing new sales.

Did you say you had aluminum windows? If so they are very poor insulators and new windows could really help. That being said, I've read that well sealed and insulated single pain windows (with wood sashes etc) can be almost as efficient as the newer ones especially if you have thick curtains and storm windows but again that's from a heating in the winter perspective.

Good luck. I know how confusing it all can be.
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:05 AM   #10
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


Speedtree I did see that CZSteve is in Texas yes, however point being a leaky window is a leaky window, but how much benefit versus expense. My independent energy auditor had no ties to any contractor, but he still made the point payback in energy savings on windows is often over rated and very low priority unless your windows are terrible and my Pellas are not great and not well sealed ...versus the entire house HVAC system and attic.
So energy wise, windows versus a well insulated home with good ACH and an efficient HVAC system I think the system pays back. For resale, the windows, for long term comfort HVAC.
Good insulation in a properly vented attic and a properly mantained HVAC system still work in a hot climate though. In the end on a tight budget I can swallow a couple of windows at a time. But when that AC blows on a hot summer day you could be over the barrel in a big way and if you arent prepared for the big cash outlay it can be tough.
I say have the whole HVAC system checked , but from what I read the new 14-16 SEER are twice as efficient which means more $ saved gas or electricity.. I don`t see any rate drops coming.
Even if your new windows are 200% more efficient how much does that affect your energy cost.
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Old 10-23-2010, 07:19 AM   #11
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


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Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
Does not matter about how efficient the system is, if the windows are crap. The furnace will always run at high speed to make up for heat loss. First things first. insulate Attic & crawl/basement rim joist areas, replace windows, seal cracks and air leaks, replace storms with better insulated units, update to better door sealing, then worry about hvac system.
I was just curious as to the efficiency level of an older unit and how that level drops over time.
I'll try posting it on the HVAC forum.
Ron
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Old 10-23-2010, 10:11 AM   #12
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


It is more about how much the government wants us to believe that efficiency of HVAC units get worse over time. Knowing how to use the unit to save money until you get it replaced vs. knowing that you can't sink over $10 grand to do everything at once is the better solution.
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Old 10-23-2010, 10:18 AM   #13
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


Gregzoll's comments are accurate, and I have been through the procedure, however never touching my crappy windows I still reduced my air loss from over 6 ACH to under 3.5. In fact I scored higher on my return audit for air loss improvements than several homes with newly spray foamed basements...and I am just starting the basement work now.

My audit revealed draft caused by a "leaky" house equal to having a 2 square foot window open year round...but it wasn't attributed to my windows, granted there are lots of bad windows out there.

So after improving the air loss, through rim joist, attic, baseboard and door sealing and then insulating I gain even more from the new HE funace.

The audit should give you a really good idea how bad the windows actually are, but have the AC checked as well. You may get lucky and find a contractor who will credit your service inspection towards replacement if required.
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:12 PM   #14
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


My house is 48 yrs. old, I replaced the old furnace last year with a modern efficient one, true it uses less fuel etc. but if i had my way about it I would without question replace the aluminum frame windows, fix attic and such as that, then worry about upgrading the furnace later. If I had the right windows, attic insulated, better doors........ That old furnace would of only run a fraction of the time.
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:41 PM   #15
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Utilizing $1500 credit - HVAC vs Windows


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Originally Posted by jimrr View Post
My house is 48 yrs. old, I replaced the old furnace last year with a modern efficient one, true it uses less fuel etc. but if i had my way about it I would without question replace the aluminum frame windows, fix attic and such as that, then worry about upgrading the furnace later. If I had the right windows, attic insulated, better doors........ That old furnace would of only run a fraction of the time.
You own the house, didn't you have your way?
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