Average temperatures continue to rise across the U.S. making your home’s central air conditioning unit more relative than ever. While the relief they provide is priceless, they can become expensive if not operating efficiently. Central air conditioning and heat pumps rank third in total residential energy usage. Only heat and water heating consume more.
3 Things to Consider before Replacing Your Air Conditioner
Let’s discuss three topics: air conditioner efficiency, selecting the right size air conditioner and buying a new system.
1. SEER: Measuring an air conditioner’s efficiency
An air conditioner’s efficiency is measured by it’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The Department of Energy defines SEER as the total cooling in BTU’s divided by the watts consumed. A higher SEER indicates a more energy efficient system.
Until 1979 the average central home air conditioning system had a SEER of 6.0. In the ’90’s a minimum standard of 10.0 was set. Now, the minimum standard SEER rating is 13 for air conditioners. Most modern air conditioners have a SEER that ranges from 13 to 21. ENERGY STAR® qualified central air conditioners must have a SEER rating of 14.5 to qualify. As you might expect, an air conditioner with a higher SEER will cost more. Rather than continuing to confuse you with numbers, here is a calculator that tell you exactly how much money you can save annually. All you need is your current system’s SEER rating to compare to higher SEER units.
Will a more efficient air conditioner save enough to pay for the cost of the new unit?
It depends. Remember that SEER only measures the efficiency of the air conditioner. It doesn’t take into consideration how well your home is insulated, the condition of your ductwork or other factors that affect cooling. However, purchasing a new system with an higher SEER rating can instantly save you upwards of 15-25% on your annual energy expenses. This is especially true if you live in an area with very high temperatures or your home requires an air conditioning system with high tonnage.
2. Choosing the correct size air conditioner
Determining the correct size is a harder problem. Air conditioners are rated in Btu’s/hour or in ‘tons’. A ton is 12,000 Btu’s/hour. A bigger air conditioner is not necessarily a better air conditioner. If a unit is too big it will cost more to buy, more to operate and won’t do as good a job dehumidifying the air. According to The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), a national, non-profit public benefits corporation, a properly sized air conditioning system can reduce energy usage by up to 35%.
Determining the correct size isn’t easy. It’s not just a matter of calculating the volume of air that you need to cool. The climate, style of your home, number of windows, amount of insulation, weather stripping and shade as well as other variables all effect the size of the unit needed. It’s hard to do the calculation yourself. Contact us for a free calculation.
3. Buying a new unit
Before calling for estimates, you should do any insulation upgrades or weather-stripping since that will effect the calculation. (See Air Sealing Your Home for more information on insulating and weather-stripping.) Before making a purchase check with the local electric company. It’s possible they may offer rebates when you buy a more energy efficient air conditioner. Also, be sure to research the repair record and the warranty offered by the manufacturer.
Should you replace your old air conditioner before it quits working?
Should you replace your air conditioner before it quits working? The average life span of an air conditioning system is 15 years. If your system is 10-12 years old now may be a time to search for a more energy efficient system. If you review the SEER savings calculator again you will find that in some case you are able to drastically reduce your energy bill. While this may not “pay for the unit” it can definitely help homeowners save money and so, it could be a good decision to buy now. If you still don’t know, give us a call at Intelligent Air (850) 567-9001. We will walk you through the entire process and help you find the unit that fits your home and your budget.