Sorry to reply so late, wanted to do it on a computer versus my phone.
First, I am not an expert on residential equipment, but I know a little. Much of what dryfly says is correct, but I take issue with a few things.
First, I see no reason to expect energy prices to go up significantly in the next decade. Perhaps if we were keeping with the Paris Accord, but not otherwise. I do expect electric cost to go up more than fuel costs though. There are still lots of fields to be fracked and I expect natural gas prices to stay low as a result.
Second, fuel fired heating does really well in turn down mode in the shoulder seasons while heat pump efficacy falls off rapidly with falling outdoor temperatures. Heat pumps have really extended their range down to being able to generate heat at lower outdoor temps, but their efficiency at those temps really falls off rapidly and no technology will change that – it’s thermodynamics that determine that. Even if a residential furnace does have to cycle from off to on to off for heating, it’s still more efficient at low outside temps than a heat pump is. The heat pump will also obviously be more impacted by rising electrical costs.
Bottom line is I’m not a huge fan of heat pumps in Minnesota, unless they are water source – not usual in residential.
As to inverter technology I don’t see that being so prevalent in residential equipment, I’d expect to see more ECM (electronically commutated motors) for the smaller motors on residential equipment.
I do agree that it’s unlikely you’ll (we’ll) get 17 years out of residential equipment in the future. Ten to 15 is more likely.
There is no reason that the furnace and condensing unit/A coil would have to be by the same manufacturer. There is some minor interface regarding fan/off but otherwise the thermostat just controls both devices as needed.
I hope this is some help, feel free to PM me or email me at home (I’m not at E-P anymore).
Thanks – I was waiting your reply too.
I was not a huge fan of heat pumps here until lately but they have improved so much I absolutely would look at one
As for residential AC with inverter technology it is just now coming on to the market in a big way. They are currently expensive but prices are dropping. Lennox I know offers one with SEER 25 and is even solar off-grid ready. I know because we are looking at that for developing world applications where electrical prices are 2-3X what they are in US. Right now most high SEER units like that are mini-split but I have started seeing traditional US-style residential units like the Lennox one starting to be offered. There will be more.
As for why I see energy prices going up has nothing to do with Paris [either being in or out – no factor]. It is macro economics. We have been in a commodities super cycle for some time [all commodities – food like corn/wheat and metals like ore/aluminum and energy nat gas/oil]. A decade or more ago they were increasing globally and peaked [corn got up to something like $6/bu and oil near $100/bbl]… capacity was added faster than demand and the prices crashed. Capacity and new supply has NOT been added aggressively since then due to weak pricing but demand continues to expand. Look for prices to strengthen gradually for all of them over the next 10-20 years as demand catches up with current supply. Since adding supply takes quite a lot of time the opportunity for overshoot on prices is likely.
Our electrical grid was somewhat insulated from this because we had such low natural gas prices – due to fracking in the Marcellus primarily but elsewhere too. Nat gas is the ‘marginal input’ affecting base line pricing for all other sources. It puts very intense price pressure on the other energy sources for electricity – coal nuclear and alternative. Historically nat gas was very difficult to transport internationally – its a gas you can’t just fill up a tanker and ship it. So was priced regionally – might be low here in US but high in Europe because it didn’t transport easily. That is changing with improvements in LNG technology. We are bringing online quite a few very large LNG plants with tanker load-out capability and there are more and more vessels capable of transporting LNG every year. Transport is getting easier and less expensive.
So there is expectation that our low natural gas prices will eventually merge with higher international prices. Natural gas will still be abundant here but priced higher – more in line with international markets not unlike how oil and grain and metals price. That is what will be driving our electrical prices higher over the next ten to twenty years – without super low cost natural gas pricing at the margin the generating costs will go up across the board.
Now I was told that by oil and gas people who have ‘an interest’ in seeing this happen. Maybe its just wishful thinking on their part but they have been more right than wrong over the years so I think they will be mostly right again. My biggest skepticism is ‘how soon’ and ‘how much’? There YMMV.
Again – thanks for your input.