If you’re thinking about installing or replacing a central air conditioner, you’re most likely mindful that this is one of the most considerable home enhancements you can make in terms of convenience. On a hot, humid summer season day, few amenities contribute to lifestyle more than central air.
A/c is likewise one of the most pricey enhancements you’re likely to make, so it pays to do your homework and pick wisely.
Types of Central Air Conditioners
This article has to do with whole-house air conditioning, not single-room systems or heatpump. Unlike window, portable, or in-the-wall single room a/c, a central air conditioner distributes conditioned air throughout your home. If you’re uncertain whether to purchase individual space a/c unit or a central air conditioning conditioner, see the short article Choosing Central or Room A/C, which compares the two.
A central air conditioning system consists of a condenser unit, an air-handling system with a blower (such as a forced-air heater) and an evaporator coil, and a system of ductwork for exchanging space air with cooled air.
The condenser typically sits outdoors, and the air handler with the evaporator is usually found in the basement, attic, or garage. The ductwork is routed through the basement or attic and walls throughout the house.
The air conditioning unit uses refrigeration technology to cool the air.
A heatpump is associated with an a/c unit. It is essentially a central air conditioning conditioner that can be reversed in winter to heat a house.
Central Air Conditioner Sizing & Cost
If you’ve chosen that a main A/C system is right for your home, it’s time to dig deeper into the particular size and type of system, along with its energy effectiveness, features, warranty, and more. These concerns are discussed below.
Central Air Conditioner Energy Efficiency
Due to the fact that of today’s high cost of energy, air conditioners are extremely pricey to operate, and they consume more than their share of our valuable energy resources. Since of this, when selecting an ac system, the name of the game is performance– that is, an air conditioner’s capability to transform energy (electrical power) into cooling in the most cost-efficient method. You desire optimal cooling for minimum bucks.
One note about changing an aging system: Be sure to replace both the outdoor condensing unit and the indoor evaporator. If you just replace the condensing system, potential gains of a higher-efficiency unit might be lost.
The SEER Rating
To reduce lost energy, the U.S. Department of Energy developed minimum effectiveness requirements for air conditioning unit. Every Air Conditioner system is provided an effectiveness rating, called a SEER– brief for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The SEER is noted on the yellow Energy Guide ® label published on each unit. It’s very important to take a look at these rankings. The higher the number the more effective the system and the less it will cost to supply cooling.
During the previous years, the minimum SEER rating required of new units has actually continued to rise. Though old a/c unit might have a SEER as low as 6, models made after January, 2006, should have a SEER of a minimum of 13. The most effective designs have SEER scores of 15 to 17. Just so you understand the relative scale, a SEER of 13 is 30% more efficient than a SEER of 10.
To attain especially high SEER scores, a/c may have any number of energy-saving features. Search for:
- Large coils for more effective heat transfer
- A heat rating (EER) greater than 11.6 and a thermal growth valve. When the weather condition is hottest, this equates to high-efficiency operation
- A variable-speed blower to reduce electricity consumption, tailoring the usage to the requirement
- A fan-only switch. This enables you to switch off the cooling but leave the fan going to distribute air for more natural, budget friendly cooling.
- An automatic delay fan switch, which keeps the fan on long enough to make use of recurring cool air that stays after the compressor turns off
- A filter indication light that lets you know when the filter requires changing. This boosts effectiveness by making sure correct maintenance.
Many high-efficiency products integrate numerous of these features and include some of their own. Case in point: The York Stellar Ultra features two compressors that work in tandem when high cooling capacity is required. The remainder of the time, just one of the compressors operates. These, combined with a variable-speed motor, achieve a SEER score of 16.7.
Programmable thermostats likewise help by providing precise control.
What About Ultra-High Efficiency?
Do you require an ultra-high-efficiency a/c unit? Not always. Naturally, for the sake of the environment– from energy usage to greenhouse-gas emissions– the higher the efficiency the much better. But, in terms of dollars, the savings compared with the premium you will pay may not pencil out for you, especially if you live in an environment that needs little cooling during the year or if your home isn’t tightly insulated. On the other hand, where an air conditioning system should run regularly during the year, a highly effective model will spend for itself in energy cost savings over a period of years.
Central Air Conditioning Warranties
Air conditioning guarantees are key to ensuring that A/C systems will last for many years. Prior to buying central air conditioning, request for– and check out– its service warranty and make sure you comprehend the terms and constraints. Cooling warranties can differ significantly from one maker to another. A guarantee may cover most of the system under one set of terms or deal varying protection on different parts of the air conditioner.
For instance, Whirlpool covers all parts of the mechanical and refrigeration systems (other than the air filter) for 5 years, consisting of labor. Carrier covers the air-conditioning system and licensed labor for repair work or replacement for one year. With Carrier, the refrigeration elements, including the compressor, condenser, evaporator, linking tubing, and refrigeration charge– including labor for repair work or replacement–are covered for years two through five under a prolonged guarantee.
With many makers, parts might be covered, however the labor for changing such parts as the motor, solenoid, communicates, changes, and fans may not be covered by guarantee. Read the small print.
And then there is the “Limited Lifetime Warranty.” Amana, for instance, provides this and will cover the compressor of a high-efficiency air conditioning unit or heatpump for as long as you own the house.
The bottom line with central air guarantees is to read them carefully and understand what they do and do not cover.
Be advised that a service warranty will be void if the a/c is worked on by a non-authorized service individual and that it does not cover standard maintenance, cleansing, or damage that is caused by disregarding maintenance.
Understanding A/C Refrigerants
Refrigerants used in many air-conditioning systems produced up until just recently can be very destructive to the Earth’s ozone layer. Equipment that contains and operates using these refrigerants is being phased out globally. When purchasing new air conditioning system, make certain to purchase a present item that utilizes refrigerants that do less damage to the environment.
How do refrigerants pass from Air Conditioner equipment to the atmosphere? All refrigerant gasses are included in an a/c’s sealed system. The issue is that an aging sealed system might develop leakages and permit the refrigerant to get away. The release of these gasses likewise happens during servicing.
A/C Refrigerants Being Phased Out
In 1987, an international contract began an around the world phase-out of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), ultimately stopping production of A/C equipment that uses them in 1996. These were replaced by hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). R-22 (likewise known as HCFC-22 or, more frequently “Freon”) has been the favored refrigerant for domestic air-conditioning and heatpump systems. This is less destructive to the Earth’s ozone layer, but still is an ozone-destroying greenhouse gas and, during its manufacture, produces HFC-23, which contributes significantly to worldwide warming.
This is a problem, so the manufacture and import of R-22 Air Conditioning equipment was phased out by the EPA in 2010 under the Clean Air Act. The producer of the refrigerant R-22 was lowered by 75%, will be further lowered by 90% in 2015, and will be dropped in 2020. As a result, R-22 is ending up being progressively pricey.
If you have to have R-22 charged in existing equipment, be sure to obtain a price quote first and find out whether the quote consists of servicing, which normally costs about $115. Do not be surprised if the gas costs $100 per pound or more. This price is only going to go up. (Equipment typically just has to be charged if it’s leaking– primarily, get the leak fixed!).
Alternatives to R-22 Refrigerant
Today, manufacturers of residential air conditioning systems provide A/C equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants. For servicing existing equipment, R-22 is still available and will continue to be offered for 10 years or more.
The EPA has examined a range of alternative to R-22.
A popular alternative to R-22 is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). It is made and sold under numerous trade names, including Puron ®, Forane ® 410A, GENETRON AZ-20 ®, and SUVA 410A. It does not deplete the ozone layer but, like R-22, its manufacturer does contribute to global warming. R-407C, another appropriate replacement for R-22, is used in some European residential air conditioning unit.