Summer heat can be unbearable at times. But, in places like Pennsylvania, where temperatures fluctuate significantly from one season to the next, energy bills are always a concern. That’s why smart homeowners are looking for ways to cool their house more efficiently.
According to the Department of Energy, “air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the country, at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners.” A good portion of these homes could benefit from upgrading to systems that are more energy efficient. Because replacing a central air conditioning system is a big investment, you want to make sure that you do it right.
Let’s look at the main factors to keep in consideration when selecting a new residential A/C system.
Why Now is a Good Time to Upgrade
Research and development has helped HVAC technology to improve over the years. For example, air conditioning refrigerants have become more environmentally friendly. Because older AC units may become unusable by 2020 due to regulations restricting the use of ozone-damaging Freon, now is a good time to consider retrofitting.
Experts recommend that systems 15 years old or more be replaced with energy-saving HVAC systems. By updating to a newer unit, homeowners can cut monthly energy costs by about 30 percent in the summer. Even systems that are just 10 years old, can be replaced with newer models that deliver a 15-20% improvement in performance.
Important Factors when Purchasing a Central Air Conditioning System
But how can you choose the right air conditioning system for your house? Here are some key purchase considerations.
To get cool temperatures and energy savings, the unit must be the right size for the space. If the unit is too large, it will waste electricity in order to cool the home. If the unit is too small, it will need to run at maximum capacity for long periods and still may not reach the ideal temperature indoors.
For most residents in Pennsylvania, with an average-sized house of about 2,600 sq. ft, a 4-ton central air conditioner is ideal. But this is just an estimate for size. When upgrading or retrofitting, don’t assume that the new unit should be the same size as the old. Additions and renovations to the home are likely to have changed your cooling needs. Energy efficiency improvements, such as added insulation, window replacement and redoing weather stripping should decrease the demand for cooling output.
Energy consumption is measured by the seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) for central air conditioning. This rating makes it possible to compare different types of systems in terms of efficiency. The SEER ratio calculates the amount of energy needed to deliver a certain amount of cooling output. The current minimum SEER is 13. Outdated HVAC units may have ratings as low as 6, while effective newer models range from 14 to 21 SEER.
A quick way to find out if an air conditioning system is efficient is to look for an Energy Star® certification. This is an unbiased, government-authorized seal attesting to an appliance’s energy efficiency. You can trust this as a quick guide for purchasing reliable household products.
Some advanced features can ensure greater savings. When selecting a new system, look for a variable speed air handler, a fan-only option to cool even when air conditioning isn’t needed, and an automatic delay feature to reduce fan running time. A filter check light can also be helpful a helpful feature to keep the unit running at peak efficiency.
This is another technological advance which can really help homeowners to save. A programmable thermostat helps to decrease cooling expenses by 10%, according to the Dept. of Energy. Homeowners can set the times when heating or air-conditioning should run for each day of the week. Using a programmable thermostat, you can save multiple daily settings or manually override the set temperature when needed without changing the program. In this way, you can eliminate energy wasted to heat and cool the space when nobody is home and while everyone is asleep.
Learn more about Optimizing Heating & Cooling with Smart Home Automation.
How to Know When it’s Time to Replace the A/C Unit
It might be time to update your central air system if…
- Your furnace or heat pump is more than 10 years old.
- The HVAC equipment has failed recently or needs to be fixed frequently despite regular maintenance.
- Energy bills at your house have been increasing.
- There is a noticeable temperature difference from one room to the next or spots that are warmer or colder than others.
- You are unable to customize cooling operations to fit your family’s schedule.
- The air conditioning unit runs almost constantly without maintaining the temperature desired.
- Your HVAC unit has become more noisy and less efficient.
- The humidity levels in the house are high during the summer.
If you’re unsure about the condition of your HVAC system, ask for a consultation from a certified technician.
Tips for Reducing Your Energy Bills
For more information on how to cut energy bills at your house, refer to these energy-saving tips from the EPA.
Air Conditioning Service & Maintenance
See the yearly maintenance plans that AQM offers to ensure your cooling system runs well this summer, and for years to come. Our convenient A/C maintenance programs aim to be affordable while increasing the performance and efficiency of your system.
AQM technicians are also trained to install and program programmable thermostats. We supply a wide range of models to fit virtually any home or business.