Is your outdated cooling equipment on its last leg? It could be time for an air conditioner upgrade. However, you should take your time before you jump into this investment. Really do your research because the unit you select could impact home comfort and energy bills for a decade or more to come. Here are the top four considerations of an air conditioner upgrade if you want it done right.
Matching the Air Conditioner Components
Split-system air conditioners are the most common in residential applications. The system is literally split, with the condensing coil and compressor located in an outdoor metal cabinet and the evaporator coil installed in a cabinet within your home.
To save money, you may attempt to only upgrade the outdoor component. Why waste money replacing the indoor coil if it’s still in good shape, right? Actually, this is flawed thinking for two reasons:
- First, if the two components don’t match, you are not likely to see any improvement in efficiency even if you invest in a top-of-the-line compressor. If the two components use a different refrigerant, the system likely won’t work at all without serious modifications.
- Second, the old coil could cause the new compressor to fail prematurely, negating your efforts to save money.
It’s likely you’ll need to replace both components because an R-22 refrigerant phase-out is currently in effect. This older type of refrigerant, better known as R-22, is being replaced with a more eco-friendly alternative known as R-410A. All newly manufactured A/C coils run on R-410a and are not compatible with older models still operating on R-22 refrigerant.
Choosing the Right Energy Efficiency
The most efficient air conditioners available today have the potential to save you 20 to 40 percent on your cooling bills after you upgrade your decade-old system. In order to achieve these substantial savings, you need to choose an Energy Star-qualified air conditioner upgrade rated at 14.5 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) or higher. These are more efficient than base models available today, which are rated at 13 SEER. The highest SEER ratings possible today reach into the mid 20s.
Keep in mind that more efficient A/Cs require a greater upfront investment. As you decide how much you’re willing to spend, consider the payback period. The money you spend to purchase a high-end air conditioner is repaid in energy savings over the coming months and years. If you maintain your investment properly, you can certainly expect to recoup your investment over the equipment’s lifetime.
Sizing an Air Conditioner Upgrade
Another important part of air conditioner efficiency and a huge factor in home comfort is the size of your air conditioner upgrade. Some HVAC contractors use generic rules of thumb to size equipment based on climate and the home’s square footage. Or they might just automatically go with the capacity of your old system, whether it was correct or not.
However, many other factors contribute to proper equipment size, such as air infiltration, insulation levels, window size and layout, home orientation, interior heat gain and more. Calculations for proper A/C sizing are found in the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA’s) Manual J. When you choose a contractor to size your equipment, make sure they follow the guidelines for calculating accurate cooling loads found in this manual.
Having a Replacement Air Conditioner Installed Properly
Choosing matching equipment of the right size and efficiency are certainly critical steps, but you can’t forget the final step that brings it all together: the installation. Nearly half of all air conditioners are installed incorrectly, causing homeowners to pay higher energy bills despite investing in more efficient equipment.
An Energy Star Quality Installation is the key to getting the most from your air conditioner upgrade. It includes the following:
- Sealing ducts: The ductwork is your home’s circulatory system. Gaps and cracks allow cooled air to escape into unconditioned spaces, wasting energy and money. The installation technician should check your ductwork and seal any leaks with duct mastic.
- Measuring airflow: The correct volume of air through the ducts optimizes energy efficiency and comfort. The technician should measure airflow and adjust the blower as necessary to achieve the optimal velocity.
- Charging the refrigerant correctly: Most often, new equipment is charged at the factory. Still, it’s wise for a technician to double check the charge during installation and make adjustments if necessary so you enjoy peak comfort and the lowest energy bills possible.
With this information, you should feel more prepared to make your air conditioner upgrade. For answers to the rest of your questions, please contact Bruce Thornton A/C today. We have the expertise to help you make the perfect investment decision for your home.
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