Even with regular maintenance and preventative care, the average life expectancy of a central air conditioning system is between 15 to 20 years. If your air conditioner is getting older, you’re no doubt seeing some of the signs that indicate the need for replacement. A loss of cooling capacity, rising energy bills, and more frequent repairs all signal that an air conditioner upgrade might be necessary to ensure your home stays cool and comfortable. When you are ready to upgrade, seek the expert advice of a reputable HVAC professional, and keep these four key considerations in mind:
The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating of the unit you choose impacts your comfort and operating costs over the life of the equipment. In 2006, the minimum SEER for units sold in the U.S. increased from 10 to 13, which represented a 30-percent improvement in efficiency. Today, SEER ratings range between 13 and 20. Air conditioners with higher SEER ratings are more energy efficient, but also more expensive. A 16 SEER air conditioner is 30 percent more efficient than a 13 SEER unit, so the energy savings can be significant. You should invest in the most efficient air conditioner available that fits your budget. At the same time, you need to weigh the additional up-front cost against the potential lifetime energy savings.
The accurate sizing of your new equipment is vital to reap the full benefits of your air conditioner upgrade. If the unit is too large, it will cycle on and off frequently, which can damage the system’s components and increase your energy usage. That short cycling won’t allow it to dehumidify your home effectively either. An air conditioner that’s undersized won’t be able to keep your home cool enough for comfort. Knowledgeable contractors use specialized software that calculates the capacity needed based on a number of key criteria. They’ll factor in the square footage of your home, the number of windows, your insulation level, the attic setup, and even your home’s orientation to the sun to arrive at the correct cooling capacity.
When a new A/C system is installed properly, you can expect it to provide many years of reliable service with annual maintenance checkups. If it’s not installed correctly, however, you may not see much of an improvement in performance in comparison to your older unit even if you invest into the most expensive, energy-efficient model available. To reap the greatest benefit from your investment, ensure that your contractor:
- Includes an adequate number of supply and return registers so that the system can deliver cold and return warm air effectively
- Allows ample space around the new unit to ensure ease of access for routine maintenance and repairs
- Includes an access panel or door to reach the evaporator coil for cleaning
- Incorporates an efficient ductwork design based on Manual D from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
- Installs the ductwork inside your home’s conditioned space as much as possible
- Seals the ductwork using mastic sealant and fiberglass mesh, and then insulate any ducting installed in unconditioned areas, such as the attic or crawlspace
- Ensures ample spacing around the condenser so that vital airflow isn’t blocked
- Chooses a location for the condensing unit that minimizes noise
- Checks that the airflow rate and refrigerant charge on the installed unit matches the manufacturer’s specifications
- Installs the thermostat in an ideal location, away from windows, supply registers and other potential heat sources
If only one of your A/C components has reached the end of its useful service life, you may not feel that replacing the entire system is cost effective. If you decide to replace just one of the components, you’ll need to make sure that the new unit is fully compatible with the older parts of your system. Keep in mind that the condenser and evaporator coils must match as well, or the system may not work properly and could even fail completely.
These Valuable Add-On Features Can Enhance Your Air Conditioner Upgrade:
- Variable speed air handler to maximize your comfort and energy efficiency
- Fan-only switch that lets you switch to ventilation-only at night to help lower your energy costs
- Thermal expansion valve that boosts efficiency when the temperatures really heat up
- Check-filter light that helps to remind you about this vital monthly maintenance chore
- Automatic-delay fan switch that gives the fan time to push all the cold air from your ductwork before shutting down
If you’re considering an air conditioner upgrade and need expert advice, contact Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning today.
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