Many customers struggle with the question of whether to repair their existing air conditioner, or to replace it with a new one. If your air conditioner is over 10 years old, or if the repair is going to be very costly, there are many good reasons to replace it.
Increased Efficiency = Lower Electric Bills
If your current air conditioner is rated at 10 SEER or below, and your needed repair is quite costly, it may be wise to replace the unit. New air conditioners are considerably more efficient than older models. According to Trane, even replacing your old unit with a 13 SEER rated air conditioner, can result in a 30% energy savings over an 8 SEER unit. Other expected annual energy savings percentages when replacing an 8 SEER air conditioner are 16 SEER – 50%, 18 SEER – 56%, and 22 SEER – up to 64%!! As you can see this quickly adds up, especially if you run your air conditioner quite often.
Increased Cost of R-22 Refrigerant
The cost of R-22 refrigerant, otherwise knows as Freon, has sky-rocketed over the past few years. When your old system has developed a coolant leak, adding R-22 to the system is often cost-prohibitive. In addition, if you don’t get the leak fixed, you will have to keep adding the coolant. It may make more sense to replace your air conditioner, rather than to keep putting money towards the expense of R-22 that will just be leaking out. The government has been adding onto the cost of R-22 to discourage people from using it, and will cease all production in 2020. It may make sense to just replace your old R-22 unit with the new, environmentally friendly R-410A refrigerant.
Your New Unit May Qualify for a Utility Rebate
Many utility companies offer rebates to customers that install new, energy efficient equipment. Let one of our professional sales persons discuss what rebates may apply, should you decide to replace your current unit.Now that you’ve decided it’s time to replace your air conditioner, here are some things to consider when selecting your new AC:
What is a Ton?
The size of air conditioners is measured in tons. The sizes of residential air conditioners typically range from 1.5 tons to 5 tons. The sizes commonly available are 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4 and 5 tons. You may wonder why the size for air conditioners is measured in “tons.” One ton is equal to the amount of heat required (288,000 BTU) to melt one ton of ice in a 24 hour period. A one ton air conditioner is rated at 12,000 BTU per hour (288,000/24). A two-ton unit has the capacity of 24,000 BTU per hour. Why do they use a ton of ice for this measurement? This term is leftover from the time when ice was the means used for refrigeration instead of mechanical cooling.
How do I know what size AC I need?
If you have a newer home, the chances are that your home’s air conditioner is properly sized. It is common practice, nowadays, to use a specific calculation to determine the size. If you have an older home, this may not be the case. In some instances, people would think “bigger is better.” This is definitely not the case when it comes to air conditioning! The proper size for your AC, not oversized, is much better for a couple of reasons. First, if your unit is too large for the area it is cooling, it will run in very short cycles. These short cycles of cooling do not allow for the air to pass over the chilled coil for sufficient periods of time to allow enough moisture to be removed from the air that is delivered to your home. This results in high humidity in your home in the summer. Cool, humid air feels like a cave and is very uncomfortable. The second reason you do not want your air conditioner running in short cycles is it results in uneven cooling of your home. The AC will run only long enough to satisfy the thermostat which is most likely in a central part of your home. The areas of your home that are farther from the thermostat are likely to be warm, as the air conditioner has not run a sufficient period of time to evenly cool your home. In both heating and cooling, longer run times are preferable because they result in a more even temperature in your home.
A homeowner may feel that their air conditioner is not large enough to cool their whole home, when it actually is, for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the coil could be very dirty. If the unit has been operating at times without proper filtration in place, dirt and dust will collect on the damp coil. This builds up over time, reducing the efficiency of the unit, and reducing air flow. When you replace your AC, the coil is also replaced. Many times this will greatly improve the performance just because the coil is clean and the air can flow freely. A homeowner may also feel their AC is too small to handle the job, when it is actually oversized! How could that be? The homeowner may complain that their air conditioner just isn’t big enough to cool their whole home. Actually, the air conditioner may be too large and turns off after quickly satisfying the thermostat with the blast of cold air that it produces. This short cycle of cooling is just not enough to allow the cooling to reach all parts of the home.
How can you be sure you are getting a properly sized air conditioner?
The only way to be sure is to have a Heat Gain/ Heat Loss calculation done for your home. This is also referred to as a “Manual J.” In order for this to be properly done, your sales person will need to measure all the openings, both windows and doors, and note which direction each of them is facing, ie, N, S, E, or W. Many other factors need to be taken into account, such as amount of insulation, type of construction, type of windows and doors, number and type of fireplaces, etc. This data, along with information taken from the sketch of your home on the county auditor’s site, will be placed into a computer program that will accurately determine the amount of heat loss your home incurs in the winter, and the amount of heat gain your home incurs in the summer. This information, along with the historical temperature data for your area, allows the computer program to correctly determine the proper size for both your heating and cooling equipment. Westin Air’s sales persons are happy to provide you with this service at no charge.
The efficiency of a particular model of air conditioner will be stated as the SEER rating. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the SEER the more efficiently your air conditioner will operate, resulting in lower electric bills. Air conditioners sold today have become much more energy efficient than in the recent past. Not many years ago, a 10 SEER unit was considered very energy efficient, while now a 13 SEER is the lowest rating that you can buy. Split system air conditioning units on the market today typically range from 13-20+. It is important to remember that as air conditioners get older, the actual SEER may go down. In order to keep your air conditioner working at it maximum efficiency, it is important to keep the unit clean and properly maintained. Always be sure to keep a clean filter in place, to keep dirt and dust from collecting on the indoor coil. Also, you will want to keep the outdoor unit clean and with plenty of room around the unit for proper air flow. We have found that many times, people will have planted shrubbery around their outdoor air conditioning unit in order to hide the unit. Over time, the shrubbery grows and gets too close to the unit, resulting in reduced air flow, reduced efficiency, and can result in shortening the life of the compressor. Be sure to keep a good distance that is clear around the sides and top of the air conditioner to allow for adequate air flow.
There are several different compressor options available when selecting your new air conditioner. The most common is a single stage compressor, and is probably what your present air conditioner has. There are many fine air conditioners on the market today that have single stage compressors, and many of them are capable of running very efficiently. In the quest for more efficiency, manufacturers have developed air conditioners with dual compressors, 2 stage compressors, and variable speed compressors. We will discuss the different options in more detail below.
Single Stage:Single stage air conditioners cool your home with the compressor running in just one stage. When the house heats up, the thermostat calls for cooling and the compressor comes on and runs to cool your home. Once the temperature that is set on the thermostat is reached, the unit shuts off. When the house gets too warm again, the thermostat will call for cooling and the compressor comes on until the desired temperature is reached. A single stage compressor is either running at full speed or not at all. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and single stage compressors cost less than a 2 stage or variable speed compressor. However, there are advantages of upgrading to a 2 stage or variable speed compressor, and we will discuss these below.
Two Stage:An air conditioner with a 2 stage or dual compressor has two stages of operation. The air conditioner will start in the low stage, and when it is not that hot out, the low stage may be adequate for keeping your home at the desired temperature. Should the low stage not be able to reach the desired temperature in a certain amount of time, the air conditioner will then go into the high stage and cool the home to the temperature set on the thermostat. One main advantage of a 2 stage air conditioner is that the unit is more energy efficient than a single stage. The temperature in the home is maintained without the compressor running at full speed all of the time. Because the compressor runs at lower capacity at times, the system requires less energy to operate.
Although all air conditioning systems control humidity levels in the home, 2 stage systems have a longer run time in the cooling cycle. When the system is running, humidity is drawn out of the air, lowering the humidity levels in the air of the home, making it much more comfortable. When the home has less moisture in the air, the potential for mold and mildew growth is also minimized.
Another benefit is that 2 stage systems are generally quieter. When the compressor is running in the low stage, the system runs quieter and is less noticeable.