A new air conditioning system is an opportunity to improve your home's energy efficiency considerably. Modern air conditioners are much more energy-efficient than older units, but the potential for lower utility bills doesn't end there. By making the right choices, you may be able to see even more significant gains with your home's central air conditioning system.
Before scheduling your new AC installation, follow these three tips to minimize its long-term costs by creating the most highly efficient system that you can.
1. Request a Manual J Calculation
You can roughly estimate the tonnage of your AC system by using the square footage of your home. You can also look at your current air conditioner and buy a similarly sized system, especially if you were happy with your old system's performance. However, neither of these methods will guarantee that you end up with an air conditioner that's a perfect fit for your home.
Both over- and undersized AC units can create problems, resulting in reduced efficiency and more frequent repairs. HVAC technicians use a technique known as a Manual J calculation to determine your home's exact cooling needs based on a range of factors. By requesting this calculation, you'll ensure that you install a system sized to fit your home's unique cooling requirements.
2. Consider Long-Term Savings vs. Installation Costs
The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) should be your first stop when comparing the efficiency of different air conditioning units. You don't need to know the details of SEER calculations since it's a simple linear scale. In other words, a SEER 15 unit will provide 50% greater efficiency than a SEER 10 unit. You can use an online calculator to estimate your savings with a higher SEER unit.
While a higher SEER unit will always provide greater efficiency, you can choose the best unit for your budget by estimating your total energy costs over the air conditioner's lifetime. If the installation costs are much higher than your potential savings, choosing a lower SEER system that costs less to install may make more sense.
3. Improve Your Home's Efficiency
Don't forget to consider aspects of your home that may reduce your system's efficiency, such as large windows, old insulation, or leaky ductwork. Your HVAC installer should be able to point out any areas of particular concern. For example, you may want to consider conducting a duct leakage test if your ductwork is old or you've never tested it before.
Making a few minor changes or repairs can potentially lead to a significant increase in your HVAC efficiency. These changes will help reduce your utility bills year-round, even when you're not using your new air conditioning system.