Installing a new air conditioner might seem like more of an exercise in spending money than saving money, but it can reduce your utility bills over time. Air conditioner manufacturers continually increase energy efficiency, allowing new units to cool your home while using less electricity. Along with system capacity, the efficiency of your new AC will be one of the most critical choices you'll make.
For whole-home central air conditioning systems, you'll look at the unit's SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating. If you've looked at window unit efficiencies before, you may be familiar with EER (energy efficiency ratio) ratings. These two values are similar, but SEER considers temperature changes throughout a season. Understanding how this works is essential to choosing an energy-efficient option.
How Useful is Your System's SEER Rating?
You can use a system's SEER rating to perform an apples-to-apples comparison against other air conditioners, but what does it mean in practical terms? If you're like most homeowners, you're probably more concerned with the bottom line on your energy bills than the rating stamped on the side of your AC. Fortunately, you can use the latter to estimate the former.
A valuable feature of SEER is that it's a linear ratio. In other words, the increase in energy efficiency is proportional to the rise in SEER value. Suppose your new air conditioner has a SEER rating that's double your old air conditioner's SEER rating. In that case, you can expect your new unit to produce equivalent cooling while using about half as much electricity.
If you need to make a more exact estimate, you can use a SEER energy usage calculator to determine the savings you'll realize by upgrading to a more efficient air conditioner. Remember that these values are always estimated at best, and environmental, usage, and maintenance factors can impact energy efficiency. In many cases, you'll see benefits just by replacing an old system with worn-out components.
What SEER Rating Do You Need?
Now that you know how to turn an AC's SEER rating into a realistic cost estimate, you can consider how much energy efficiency you need. A good approach is to multiply the yearly cost savings of a more efficient unit over the average 15-year lifespan of a central AC system. If you save more money than the upfront cost of the more efficient unit, it may be worth considering.
Of course, future savings don't put money into your pocket right now. You should always consider your current budget when choosing a new AC unit. Modern air conditioners all tend to be reasonably efficient and reliable, so you can still see a tangible improvement to your utility bills even if you choose a cheaper model.
For more information on air conditioning installation, contact an HVAC contractor.