4 Factors to Consider When Upgrading Your Air Conditioner

Posted on: July 2, 2014

couple-on-laptop-home-comfort-300x200-300x200When it comes to ideal comfort and energy efficiency this summer, central air conditioning is the best option for your Raleigh-area home. However, don’t take upgrading your air conditioner lightly. With proper preventive maintenance your new equipment can keep you comfortable and your energy bills low for another decade or longer. That’s why you should consider these four factors when upgrading your air conditioner to help you make the best decision possible.

Match Indoor and Outdoor Components

You first need to decide if you should replace both the indoor evaporator coil and the outdoor compressor. These components must run on the same refrigerant to be compatible. Older units tend to run on R-22 refrigerant, or Freon. However, this has been replaced with R-410A refrigerant, or Puron. This more environmentally friendly alternative is not compatible with Freon.

Have a contractor check whether your old evaporator coil will work with a new compressor. If it won’t, then plan to replace it as well.

You may be tempted to ignore this recommendation and save money by only replacing the outdoor compressor. However, this decision could negate all potential energy savings. In fact, the old evaporator coil could cause the new compressor to fail prematurely, costing you more in the long run.

Choose a High SEER Rating

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a measure of air conditioner efficiency. When upgrading your air conditioner, compare SEER ratings and energy usage on the EnergyGuide label.

You’ll notice that more efficient equipment costs more to purchase upfront, but it also consumes less energy and saves you money in the long run. If an air conditioner lasts ten years and saves you money on energy bills every month, it’s clear to see how you could recoup the extra investment a few times over during the A/C’s lifetime.

Today, the lowest SEER rating allowed is 13. To qualify for the Energy Star rating, a split-system air conditioner must be 14.5 SEER or higher. Efficiency ratings go all the way up to the mid 20s today, providing ample opportunity to save on cooling bills.

What makes some equipment more efficient than others? The answer lies in the advanced features. Look for the following features that help boost A/C efficiency:

  • Thermal expansion valve to increase efficiency when the temperature climbs.
  • Variable speed air handler to lower cooling capacity on mild days and prevent uncomfortable temperature fluctuations.
  • Fan-only switch to accommodate nighttime ventilation.
  • Automatic-delay fan switch to keep the blower running a few minutes after the compressor has shut off.
  • Filter check light to alert you when it’s time to change the filter.

Size the Equipment Properly

Contrary to popular belief, ideal air conditioner size is determined by more than just climate and square footage. For example, a leaky home with large south-facing windows needs a larger air conditioner than a tightly sealed home with only a few south-facing windows, even if the two homes have the same square footage.

To determine ideal equipment size, HVAC contractors refer to Manual J. This reference includes the energy consumption metrics necessary to calculate cooling loads. Not all contractors are informed of this proper sizing method and use the “square feet per ton” formula, a shortcut that could impact comfort and efficiency for years to come.

An oversized air conditioner tends to cycle on and off frequently, increasing energy consumption, placing greater wear on system components, and impacting humidity removal capabilities. On the other hand, an undersized system can’t keep up when cooling demand skyrockets. That’s why it’s essential to count on a reputable contractor to size your equipment properly.

Insist on a Quality Installation

The final step of upgrading your air conditioner is to have a quality installation performed. Even the most efficient, properly sized, matching equipment can’t perform at its peak efficiency if it’s not installed properly. Insist that your contractor take the following steps when installing your air conditioner:

  • Install the outdoor condensing unit in the shade to improve efficiency, if possible.
  • Allow adequate space around the unit for ample airflow and easy accessibility.
  • Check for gaps and cracks in the ductwork and seal any leaks that could let cool air escape into unconditioned spaces.
  • Measure duct size and adjust the blower to achieve optimal airflow.
  • Verify correct refrigerant charge.

If you’re ready to begin the process of upgrading your air conditioner, please contact us at Air Experts. We have proudly provided exceptional HVAC services to the Raleigh area since 1986.

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