Today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the me 1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 50% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.
Proper sizing and installation are key elements in determining air conditioner efficiency. A unit that is too large will not adequately remove humidity. A unit that is too small will not be able to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days. Lack of insulation and improper unit and duct installation can greatly diminish efficiency.
What are SEER Ratings?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measure of system efficiency, which translates to how much it costs to operate and indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide specific cooling output. The higher the number, the more efficient the system. A SEER rating of 16 or higher with stepped capacity modulation is considered high efficiency and could save you over $400 per year versus an older lower efficiency system. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. The minimum SEER allowed today is 13.
Central Air conditioners are rated according to their SEER rating. If you are thinking about purchasing a new air conditioner, look for a model with a high efficiency or look for the ENERGY STAR® label for central air conditioners with SEER ratings of 13 or greater. Also consider using air conditioning equipment with higher SEER ratings for greater savings.
Department of Energy (DOE)
Residential Central Air Conditioner Standards
New residential central air conditioner standards went into effect on January 23, 2006. Air conditioners manufactured after January 23, 2006 must achieve a SEER of 13 or higher. SEER 13 is 30% more efficient than the previous minimum SEER of 10. The standard only applies to appliances manufacture after January 23, 2006. Equipment with a rating less than SEER 13 manufactured before January 1, 2015 may still be sold and installed anywhere in the U.S. If you are in the North region, as specified by the DOE, you may continue to install SEER 13 AC systems even if they were manufactured after January 1, 2015. There is not yet a date for phasing out those units in the North. However, All heat pump systems built after January 1, 2015, must be at least a SEER 14.
If you are located in the South or Southwest DOE regions, you can only install SEER 13 units (AC or heat pump) built before January 1, 2015, and you can continue to do this until the 18-month grace period is over on June 30, 2016. After this date, everything in those regions must be SEER 14 irrespective of when it was built. Also, the Southwest region has an EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) minimum in addition to the SEER minimum, so homeowners in the region will need to watch for the EER rating as well. It is not clear how the availability of SEER 13 units built before January 1, 2015 will play out, but there are certainly some in the channel for the 2015 cooling season. It is likely that this availability will drop significantly as we move closer to the June 30, 2016 date when they can no longer be used (except in the North).
The standards do not require you to change your existing central air conditioning units, and replacement parts and services are still available for your home’s system. The “lifespan” of a central air conditioner is about 15 to 20 years. Manufacturers typically continue to support existing equipment by making replacement parts available and honoring maintenance contracts.
Other features to look for when purchasing an air conditioner
- A thermal expansion valve and a high-temperature rating (EER) greater than 11.6, for high-efficiency operation when the weather is the hottest
- A variable speed handler for new ventilation systems
- A unit that operates quietly
- A fan-only switch, so you can use the unit for nighttime ventilation to substantially reduce air conditioning costs
- A filter check light to remind you to change the filter after a predetermined number of operating hours
- An automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off
If you have an older central air conditioner, you might choose to replace the outdoor compressor with a modern, high efficiency unit. If you do so, consult a local heating and cooling contractor to assure that the new compressor is properly matched to the indoor unit. However, considering recent changes in refrigerant and air conditioning designs, it might be wiser to replace the entire system. (Read more about R-22 and R-410A Refrigerant)
For questions concerning your air conditioning unit, call ACE HI PLUMBING, HEATING & AIR at 970-667-0300 today. We have NATE-trained technicians and provide 24-hour emergency service. Ace Hi Plumbing services the Northern Colorado area including Loveland, Fort Collins, Berthoud, Longmont, Windsor, Greeley, and Estes Park.