One of the most significant home improvements any homeowner can make, in terms of comfort for a home’s occupants and the indoor air quality enjoyed, is to upgrade the air conditioning system. The best air conditioners on the market today are so efficient that they use nearly 50% less energy than comparably sized models which were produced in the 1970’s. Even though your cooling system was purchased much more recently than that, its efficiency would probably be dwarfed by the best models sold today, unless it was manufactured within the last few years.
Your household would not be the only beneficiary of an upgrade to your cooling system. Conservation of energy in many homes can quickly add up to a huge nationwide conservation effort. With so much emphasis on saving natural resources and the sustainability of the earth’s assets, this is one way that can allow literally every domestic household to contribute to the cause.
What to Look For
When seeking to upgrade your air conditioning system, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Yes, the newer systems will all be much more energy efficient, but there are several shadings of efficiency out there, and generally speaking, the higher the SEER rating, the greater will be the cost. The SEER rating refers to the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is a number derived by dividing the total seasonal cooling output of the system by the total energy input to it. You should consider cooling systems which have at least a 12 SEER rating for real energy efficiency.
The sizing of the unit you purchase is also very important. If you oversize the cooling system, the indoor air may become cold and clammy because the air conditioner probably will not remove humidity as well as it should. If the unit is undersized, it will be running constantly on the warm days that really tax its capabilities, and when that happens, all energy efficiency gained by design and construction are lost.
For the sake of household occupants, seek out a system that operates quietly and does not contribute to distracting background noise. Further efficiency gains may be obtained through the use of systems equipped with variable-speed air handlers and fan-only switches that allow for nighttime air circulation without actually conditioning the air.
Some units have filter lights that remind you when it’s time to change or replace the filter. While that may sound trivial, a clogged air filter will also seriously downgrade any built-in efficiencies the air conditioning system might have. Another small but important feature to look for is an automatic-delay fan switch, which shuts off the fan within a few minutes of compressor shutdown.
Apart from the air conditioner itself, it is certainly worthwhile to conduct a thorough evaluation of the duct work system in the home to be sure that it is properly sized, has no breaks or leaks, and is routed properly to all the rooms that require conditioned air. Faulty duct work can sabotage all the good work being done by a modern, highly capable air conditioning system if it has become clogged with debris, or if it has any of the other shortcomings mentioned.