Considering an Air Conditioner Upgrade? Make Sure You Do It Right

The average lifespan of a central A/C is 12-15 years, and as yours ages, you’ll start to see higher operating costs, decreased cooling capacity and frequent repair bills. Upgrading air conditioning is a major investment, and if you want to get the greatest benefit, it needs to be done right. A reputable HVAC professional is your best source of advice when considering an air conditioner upgrade, but here are some key considerations:

Maximum Energy Efficiency

Operating an HVAC system accounts for roughly half of the energy used yearly in an average home, and cooling alone typically consumes more than 2000 kWh of electricity. The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of your new equipment has a big impact on energy consumption. Today’s A/Cs range from the federal government’s minimum allowable 13 SEER up to 24 SEER. The higher the rating, the more efficient a unit is, and the potential energy savings increase dramatically as well.

If your older A/C is a 10 SEER, for example, your energy consumption could drop by 60 percent if you upgraded to a 16 SEER. Your HVAC pro can help you compare the upfront costs versus the potential energy savings so you can choose the most efficient model that works with your budget.

Supplemental A/C Features

When you’re upgrading air conditioning, look for equipment with the following add-on features:

  • A thermal expansion valve to maximize efficiency in extremely hot weather.
  • An automatic delay fan switch to push all the cooled air from the ducting when the compressor cycles off.
  • A fan-only switch that lets you use just ventilation mode when you choose.
  • A variable-speed air handler to optimize airflow, energy savings and comfort.
  • A check-filter alert light so you’ll remember routine replacements.
  • A dehumidifying heat pipe to boost moisture removal and cooling.

Accurate A/C Sizing

For efficient, effective cooling, your new air conditioner must be sized correctly. If it’s too large, it will cycle on and off frequently because it’s reaching the thermostat’s target temperature too quickly. It won’t dehumidify the home adequately¬†either, and your equipment could fail prematurely due to the extra wear and tear. If the A/C’s too small, it simply won’t cool the living space enough when it’s really hot outside.

To determine the size accurately, the HVAC contractor should perform a cooling load calculation for your home using Manual J from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). This calculating method factors in key criterion such as the square footage, attic construction, insulation, the number and size of the windows, and more, to come up with the cooling capacity needed.

Correct Equipment Installation

If the contractor installs new cooling equipment properly, it should bring you years of worry-free service with only annual routine care. If it’s poorly installed, even the most highly-efficient air conditioner won’t deliver what you’re expecting in terms of energy savings and comfort. You’ll get the most from upgrading air conditioning by making sure that the contractor:

  • Installs enough supply and return vents to ensure proper airflow.
  • Leaves ample space around the indoor unit so it can be easily maintained and repaired.
  • Installs a door or panel so the evaporator coil inside can be accessed and cleaned.
  • Implements an effective ductwork design using the ACCA’s Manual D.
  • Installs as much of the ductwork as possible within conditioned areas.
  • Properly seals all ductwork using mastic and fiberglass mesh.
  • Insulates all ductwork that must be installed in unconditioned spaces, such as the crawl space or attic.
  • Leaves enough space around the condensing unit to allow for proper airflow.
  • Installs the thermostat in a location that’s away from windows, supply air vents and other heat sources.
  • Ensures that the condenser is situated so that noise inside your home is kept to a minimum.
  • Verifies that the refrigerant charge and airflow rate meets the manufacturer’s recommendations.

New Component Compatibility

If only one component of your split system needs replacement, you may feel it’s more cost-effective to do a partial upgrade. Any new equipment must be compatible with your existing system, though, and you may have to install a new evaporator coil too. If these issues aren’t addressed, your cooling system may not function properly, and it could fail unexpectedly. In many cases, replacing all of your older equipment at once is the wisest choice, especially if it uses obsolete R-22 refrigerant that will soon be unavailable.

If you’re considering an air conditioner upgrade¬†in your Sarasota, Bradenton or Lakewood area home and need expert advice, contact us today at Climatic Conditioning Co., Inc.

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