As your air conditioner ages, it becomes less reliable and efficient, even with regular care and proper maintenance. Some of the signs that indicate your equipment is approaching the end of its useful service life are a gradual loss of cooling capacity, rising energy costs, and an increasing number of repair bills. If you are considering an AC upgrade, it is wise to consult with a reputable and reliable HVAC professional. As you explore your options, keep these four key factors in mind:
Air conditioners are rated based on their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), which is a measure of the amount of cooling delivered by the air conditioner compared to the total amount of energy consumed in that same period. Models manufactured after January 26, 2006, must have a minimum SEER of 13. Air conditioners with higher SEER ratings are more energy-efficient and less expensive to operate, and the savings provided by higher SEER equipment can be significant. Your HVAC professional can help you to weigh the up-front equipment cost against the potential energy savings for various models so that you invest in the most efficient equipment that fits your budget.
In order to reap the full benefits of an air conditioner upgrade, your new equipment must be sized accurately. If an air conditioner is undersized, it will not cool your home effectively on the hottest days. Oversized equipment satisfies the thermostat’s temperature setting too quickly, leading to repeatedly on-off cycling that increases energy consumption and does not dehumidify properly. Over time, frequent cycling can also shorten the lifespan of key system components. Your HVAC contractor should use Manual J from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) to calculate your home’s cooling load. This method takes many factors into consideration, including your home’s square footage, the amount of insulation, the number of windows, its orientation and other essential data, to arrive at the correct equipment size.
A properly installed air conditioner that is inspected and tuned annually should provide reliable, trouble-free service for a long time. If your new air conditioner is not installed correctly, you may not see any appreciable improvement in your energy consumption or comfort level, even if you opt for the most efficient model on the market. You will realize the biggest benefit from an air conditioner upgrade when your contractor follows these best practices:
- Installing the correct number of supply and return registers so the system circulates air effectively.
- Allowing enough space around the equipment so that it is easy to access for necessary maintenance and repairs.
- Incorporating a ductwork design that is based on the ACCA’s Manual D.
- Sealing ductwork using fiberglass mesh and mastic sealant, and insulating it if installing it in the attic, crawlspace or other unconditioned areas was necessary.
- Installing the system’s thermostat in a location away from heat sources, windows, and supply registers.
- Allowing ample space around the condensing unit to ensure proper airflow.
- Locating the condensing unit appropriately so that nuisance noise is minimized.
- Verifying the airflow rate and refrigerant charge on the newly-installed equipment to ensure it meets the manufacturer’s specifications.
Sometimes, a single component of a cooling system becomes unreliable or fails completely. It may seem logical that you could reduce your costs by replacing just this one component, but that isn’t necessarily true. A new component must be fully compatible with your existing equipment, and the condenser and evaporator coils must match. If you have an older system that uses obsolete refrigerant, or if you have to retrofit existing equipment, you could save money and future headaches by replacing the entire system all at once. When you are selecting a new air conditioner, look for equipment with the following features:
- A variable speed air handler. This will provide optimal comfort and energy savings.
- A fan only switch. This allows you to switch to ventilation-only mode at night to reduce your energy consumption.
- A thermal expansion valve. When extremely high temperatures hit, this boosts the system’s efficiency.
- A check filter alert light. This will remind you to keep your filter clean.
- An automatic delay fan switch. This lets the fan run briefly after the compressor shuts off to push the remaining cold air from the ductwork.
Your experts at United Air Conditioning can help you with selecting the right equipment for your home or office. We provide reliable and experienced service to Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Call us at 727-470-6803 to learn more about what we can do for you.
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