Do High-Efficiency Air Conditioners Reduce Energy Costs?

Summers are really heating up across the U.S. Regardless of whether you enjoy warm weather all year round, or are in a location where you experience the changing seasons, the hotter temperatures can make summers unbearable without air conditioning. The only problem is, you might also find your air conditioner struggling to keep up with demand if it is an older or less energy-efficient model.

This can impact your budget because you are either a) paying for more repairs or b) paying for additional energy consumption. Both cases point to the possible benefits of installing a new, high-efficiency air conditioner. But will a high-efficiency AC unit really reduce energy costs? Yes, as long as you consider these three important factors.

1. Choosing the Best Unit for Efficiency

Since high efficiency is your goal, you have to compare the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for each unit. This measurement is assigned based on the Department of Energy’s SEER ratings which look at the total cooling in BTUs divided by the watts consumed. When comparing SEER ratings, the higher the rating, the more energy-efficient the system. If you think this won’t make much of a difference, consider that the average AC system in 1979 had a SEER of 6 and by the 1990’s the minimum standard was set at 10. Higher standards are constantly being debated, which means your unit could easily become short on meeting those standards.

Although the units with higher SEERs do cost more, they will provide as much as 30% more cooling per watt, so you can save money in energy costs to help offset the cost. The warmer your climate the higher SEER you should choose. Although SEER is important, if your home is poorly insulated you won’t see as much energy efficiency. So when investing in an energy efficiency unit it makes sense to have your home checked for insulation issues. More on this in point #3!

2. AC Size

Always discuss your needs with a licensed HVAC professional in Columbia. They understand AC ratings which are based on Btu’s/hour or in ‘tons’ which are equal to 12,000 Btu’s/hour per ton. When shopping on your own it’s easy to think a bigger air conditioner is best. However, if you get a unit too big for your home it actually costs more money not only to buy and install but also to run. So basically you will not be doing much to improve energy efficiency, or can maybe even make it worse.

Larger units in smaller homes also have trouble dehumidifying the air. If you choose the right-sized unit you can effectively reduce energy by as much as 35%.  Your Columbia MasterTech Plumbing, Heating and Cooling will calculate the volume of air needed to keep your home cool, but also consider your local climate, the layout of your home, your insulation and how much sun exposure your home has. All of these variables contribute to the heat in your home. There is a formula used as an industry standard to measure size requirements.

3. Preparing for a New Unit

As mentioned in point #1, your new SEER-rated AC unit is only as efficient as your existing insulation. Before you arrange for your AC installation, consider having an energy efficiency audit performed by a professional. Since your insulation and overall home energy efficiency impact the size of the AC unit you need, you want to make improvements that will help improve not only your new unit’s performance but also potentially reduce the size of unit you require. This in turn could allow you to buy a less expensive model. Your auditor will make recommendations of how you can improve your home’s insulation such as new weather stripping on doors and windows or insulation upgrades for interior walls, attics, or basements.

4. Is Your Unit Still Working?

Before you jump the gun, you should also consider how well your unit is working now. For example, how old is your unit? What is its SEER? How often are you calling for repairs? These questions are important, especially for newer units with higher SEER ratings. For example, although you might think replacing a 10 SEER unit with a 13 SEER unit will offer savings, you’ll really only be saving maybe $42 per year. That really isn’t worth the investment or effort.

However, if you have a lower SEER unit of 8 and replace it with a SEER unit of 12, you can actually reduce annual costs by a third. When it comes to age, units at about 12 to 14 years old are approaching their life expectancy so it makes sense to start shopping. Anything around 10 years old or less that has a good SEER rating and that is not yet costing money in repairs could still last at least another 5-years with regular maintenance.

5. Research Local Rebates

While this won’t impact the effectiveness of your energy-efficient unit it will certainly help offset the costs. Many local electric companies offer rebates for any form of energy-efficient upgrades including HVAC systems. Last but not least, consider warranties to make sure you find a unit with a good manufacturer warranty.

Speak to your Columbia AC experts at MasterTech Plumbing, Heating and Cooling today for more information on the benefits of a high-efficiency air conditioner today.

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