Right here, we have all the answers to your questions on AFUE, including a quick video on Ron’s Story, the five essential questions you should be asked before your job is priced, and US Department of Energy guidelines that will help you along the way. AFUE can be confusing at first, but once you are armed with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision tailored to your specific situation, you will feel empowered.
“The Five Essential Questions Your Service Company Should Ask You Before You Buy Into AFUE” includes –
A Brief Overview of AFUE
When you’re on a quest for information about AFUE you’re most likely in the fact-finding phase of HVAC replacement or repair. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, which not many are aware of, and refers to the heating and cooling industry as a whole. So, let’s discover the meaning of AFUE together and start a discussion on why it’s important to have a clear comprehension of what it is. Additionally, what are the questions you need answers to before you make any decisions about your home heating system? In this blog post, we have the five essential questions your service company should ask you before you buy into AFUE. If they don’t ask you these questions or haven’t asked you them yet, you may want to consider a second opinion on your furnace or boiler diagnosis.
AFUE is a commonly used acronym within the HVAC industry. The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is a percentage that expresses the amount of heat you will benefit from throughout your home versus the amount that will escape through the flue.
Yes, something has to keep the birds warm. (You can insert your smile here.) It is true, the heat escaping through the flue from lower efficiency equipment is a major ouchie for your heating bill. The good news, though, is the higher efficiency level your equipment is, the less fuel you will literally “lose to the birds.” That might mean you pay more money for a furnace up front, but over the lifespan of your system, you’re spending less on fuel.
The heat produced by your furnace in correlation to the level of fuel used is the AFUE. Some older homes have furnaces with extremely low or even unmeasurable levels of AFUE, which means those homeowners are spending much more money on fuel than recommended by US government agencies like the Department of Energy. New Energy Star rated equipment is rated between 80-98% AFUE, as opposed to older homes with no AFUE rating on their equipment at all. Homeowners with much older systems waste a lot of fuel to these lucky (and warm) “birds” we are referring to.
Upgrading to a new system can save you a lot of money on fuel, which means you will be getting more bang for your buck, but how will you know whether its time to replace your furnace or simply repair it??
Before you even get to this decision-making step, there are a few questions your service company should ask you as a homeowner in a time of need.
Here’s a quick tip to keep in the back of your mind throughout the process. As of the year 1992, the US Department of Energy set the standard that all furnaces sold in the US must be minimally 78 AFUE. Other specific types of furnaces have different standards, and as of 2015, even higher levels of AFUE are required between 80-83 AFUE. So, to comply with these standards, when purchasing new equipment should operate at this efficiency level.
If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the meaning of AFUE, there is a plethora of information on the What is AFUE post. Click Here.
Learn more about AFUE and the Five Questions Your Service Company Should Ask You By Watching THIS VIDEO about Ron’s Story.
As some of you can relate, Ron’s story is not uncommon to those with older homes. But like Ron, you, too can take this crash course on heating terminology and get yourself up to speed to make an informed decision. With that in mind, we’ve curated a list from industry experts on the top 5 questions you have to listen for… Your service company should be asking you these 5 questions, and if not, perhaps it’s time to make sure they know your answers.
The 5 Questions
These questions lead to your system diagnosis and a recommendation or repair or replace. Please bear in mind, however, that if your system is 10 years or older, most will advise you to replace.
Many sales people will tell consumers that they’ll save a lot of money by installing a high-efficiency furnace. But if you’re replacing an older furnace that has an AFUE rating between 55-70%, then installing an 80% AFUE furnace will already be a substantial upgrade, and you will immediately see a huge savings on your utility bill.
If you plan on living in your home less than five years, the payback time period may not be enough to justify the additional cost of a high efficiency furnace if you buy from a contractor.
The distribution channel for furnaces consists of a manufacturer, distributor, and then a dealer (the installing company). Each channel adds a markup. The dealer usually adds a 100% markup. Costs vary, but compared to an 80% furnace expect to pay $1,100 dollars or more for a 90% AFUE furnace. A 95-99% AFUE furnace will probably cost you between 150-200% more than an 80% AFUE furnace.
When they ask about your budget, just be honest. What do you expect a new system to cost? What about a repair? The thing you must know here is that the repairs on a more efficient system, or – one with a higher AFUE, will cost more money than they will on a lower AFUE system.
That brings us to the final of the five essential questions your service company should be asking you before you repair or replace. So, here’s a question or two for you to ask yourself. Are you a sharp, smart consumer? Do you pride yourself in seeking knowledge before you invest your money in a large purchase? If yes, then you will be rewarded by arming yourself with information and seeking pricing for HVAC replacement equipment online. This is a great way for you to see a real breakdown of what you should expect to pay for a replacement.
Understanding ENERGY STAR
When you are looking for information on energy efficient equipment to replace your existing system or occupy a new home, you will want to have a concise understanding of government standards. ENERGY STAR certified, guaranteed products are not only good for you and your home, they have beneficial-for-the-environment operational standards. They meet strict criteria in order to carry this label. For detailed information on products that carry the label, you can visit their website (Link to: energystar.gov ).
Here are a few criteria furnaces must meet in order to carry an ENERGY STAR label:
Gas furnaces in the southern United States must be a minimum of 90% AFUE. In the northern parts of the US, gas furnaces need to operate at 95% AFUE (as a minimum efficiency level standard). Oil furnaces must have an 85% or higher AFUE rating. For a specific breakdown of the US states per region, please click here.
As a general rule of thumb, if your equipment was or is heating your home comfortably, it is the proper size you’ll need for a replacement. You can search the model number written on the product tag online to see what type of system you have.
Money conscious consumers who want to avoid paying a retail markup are encouraged to get a bid and compare online at Pricefixer.com. At Pricefixer.com there is never a retail markup, or commissions paid to sales people that drive up the price – just complete transparency and the guaranteed lowest prices on central heating. Search for replacement equipment in the comfort of your own home or office, or from the library, or from Starbucks, or the car! You can access the information you need on your phone or tablet, on-the-go or on your couch. Call or chat if you have questions.
Now that you know the essential questions your service company should be asking you – what are you going to do to resolve your home or office heating woes?
You’ve decided it’s time to update your home’s heating and air conditioning unit to a more energy-efficient system, and you’re excited about all the money you’ll be saving on your utility bills and shrinking your carbon footprint. But, as you start to do your due diligence research on HVAC systems, you discover there’s another energy-efficient cooling system besides the traditional central AC unit that many people are choosing to put in their homes instead: the heat pump. You begin to wonder, “Should I get a heat pump?” “What’s the difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner?” “Which HVAC system is the best one for me?” Luckily, you’ve come to right place. Below are answers to questions you’re probably asking yourself regarding the heat pump vs. air conditioner dilemmayou are currently facing.
I’m really not sure what I need…a heat pump or an air conditioner?
If you’re looking for a cooling system for your home, don’t let the name fool you – heat pumps are great for providing you with cold air during the warmer months. Heat pumps also operate just as efficiently, if not more so, than traditional air conditioners. The main difference between a heat pump and a standard air conditioner is that an air conditioner provides only cool air, while heat pumps provide both cool and warm air. There are air conditioning systems that provide heat also, but they do so by using electricity to create heat, which is not nearly as efficient as a heat pump which moves warm air around rather than generating it.
I want to ask for help but I don’t want to pay a trip and diagnostic fee.
Although it’s always a good idea to consult with a certified HVAC technician, we’ll try to help you out here a little. If you’re trying to determine whether a heat pump is a good choice for your home, the first place to start is to think about your area’s climate. Heat pumps work best in warmer climates with mild to moderate winters. If the temperature in your region frequently drops below freezing, it will be more difficult for a heat pump to draw heat out of the air, which may cause it to run non-stop or switch to an auxiliary heat source driving up its energy consumption and operational costs.
However, advancements in heat pump technology are making them suitable in areas that experience extreme cold weather, as much as 20 degrees below freezing. Newer heat pumps are gaining in popularity in colder climates because they are a good deal more efficient and cost much less to operate than oil-burning systems.
Once you’ve decided which system you’re going to get, it’s very important to have a technician visit your home to perform a load calculation. This will determine the size of the heat pump or air conditioner you need to properly cool and heat your home. Systems which are too small or too big will not be as efficient or will not effectively remove humidity from your home as a properly sized unit would.
Do I need an AC or a heat pump to cool my home?
If your home is already equipped with ducts, then central air conditioners and heat pumps are both good options for cooling your home. In fact, both systems share a number of common components, such as an outdoor unit that houses a compressor, condensing coil, fan, and motor, and an inside unit with an air handler, evaporator coil, and blower. Heat pumps are just as effective at providing chilled air as air conditioners, and they both pretty much work the same when it comes to cooling your home.
Central air conditioning units provide cooling by removing warm air from inside your home and using a refrigerant to the air when it enters the evaporator coil. This chilled air is then distributed throughout your home via a duct system and a blower located in the air handler unit. Heat pumps also remove warm air from your home in the same manner. However, the main difference between the two systems is that heat pumps have a reversing valve which, when switched on, reverses the direction of the refrigerant and transfers heat from the air outside to the inside of your home making it nice and toasty.
The heat pump’s ability to move air around and transfer heat from outside to inside and vice versa, makes it the perfect all-in-one-system that can provide both heating and cooling comfort. Plus, it’s extremely efficient since it’s merely moving hot air around as opposed to generating heat as a traditional HVAC system do.
Do I need an AC or a heat pump to heat my home?
As just mentioned, the great thing about a heat pump is that it both cools and heats. Air conditioners only cool the air unless the system is outfitted with electric heat strips. If you live in a climate where it is cold most months of the year, this type of system is going to use up a lot of energy to run since heat has to be created. This is where the heat pump has an advantage over traditional HVAC systems as it transfers heat from the outdoors to warm your home, which requires very little energy. Switching from an air conditioner with a heating element that generates heat to a more energy-efficient heat pump, which moves hot air around, can reduce your utility bill by up to 40% throughout the winter months.
Can I run the heat in the summer?
It is not recommended to have your heat pump in heat mode when it’s really warm outside as it could damage some of the internal components. If you want to test your heat pump system in the summer to make sure it will work during the winter, just switch it to heat mode for a minute or two to see if warm air comes out. If it does, then the reversing valve is working properly.
Can I have cooling in the winter if I need it?
If you need to have cool air in your home during the winter (perhaps because you set the thermostat to 90 degrees to shake off the chill when you woke up and left your house for the day forgetting to turn it down….. and you can’t open your windows to let the warm air out because they are all sealed shut for some reason) then you just have to switch the reversing valve from heating to cooling and you’ll be all set!
Are heat pumps a good choice in a four-season climate vs. a climate with less variance?
Heat pumps are a great choice for climates that stay mostly warm with little variance, such as Florida, or mostly cold, such as Maine, and everything else in between. They are just as efficient as top-of-the-line air conditioners for cooling your home during the summer and are the best choice efficiency-wise for heating your home in the winter. Heat pumps are an energy-efficient solution for most of your heating and cooling needs.
How do I know if I have a heat pump or an AC?
To find out if whether the system you currently have is an air conditioner or a heat pump, look for the yellow EnergyGuide label located on the outdoor or indoor air unit. Located just below the “ENE” of the “EnergyGuide” title will be a description of your type of system. For example, you might see the words: “Central Air Conditioner – Cooling Only – Split System” or “Heat Pump – Cooling and Heating – Split System.”
If you are unable to see the label on your system, then another way to tell if you have a heat pump or air conditioner is to walk outside to the big metal box unit located next to your house, and take a peek between the slats. If you see a copper-looking device shaped like this….
…then you have a heat pump.
Wait, what about a furnace? What’s the difference?
Furnaces, which are more popular in northern states, generate heat by burning oil or natural gas and blowing the heated air into your home. Heat pumps transfer heat from the air outside into your home to provide warmth. Even if the outside air seems cold to you, a heat pump can still pull the heat from cold air. However, how much heat is transferred into your home depends on the outside temperature. As it gets colder, there is less heat available to extract.
Typically, when temperatures reach around 25-30 degrees, a heat pump will run longer and may even trigger a supplemental heating source, such as a furnace or electric heat strips, to aid in warming the air. When this happens, the heat pump becomes less efficient and consumes more energy to run. If you live in a climate where the temperature frequently drops below 30 degrees, a heat pump may not be the best option for you. Furnaces, on the other hand, can provide heat even in the coldest of cold climates.
Any shocking information about heat pumps?
Probably the most “shocking” thing about heat pumps is the different types of heat pumps that are available! We’ve mostly been talking about “Air Source” heat pumps, which are the most popular, but there are also “Geothermal” heat pumps, and “Absorption” heat pumps. Here’s how they differ:
What’s the Department of Energy say about heat pumps?
Recognizing the energy-savings advantages heat pumps have over other HVAC systems, the Department of Energy (DOE) states that heat pumps can provide equivalent heating and cooling for as little as one quarter the cost of other systems. When used for heating, the heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity used by approximately 50% compared to furnaces and baseboard heaters. The DOE also notes that high-efficiency heat pumps are better at dehumidifying than standard central air conditioners, which result in less energy being used and more cooling comfort during the warmer months.
You can always call us or visit our website for a walk through on AC vs. heat pumps.
If you have additional questions, or still aren’t sure whether an air conditioner or heat pump is the right system for you, then just visit Pricefixer.com or call us at (877) 774-2334 and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions!
Heat pumps are often thought of as being a device which help keeps your home warm during the cooler months, but what is often overlooked is the fact that heat pumps are also one of the most energy-efficient ways to cool your home during the warmer months as well.
Definition of a heat pump
A heat pump is a mechanical system that moves available heat from one area to another. Since heat flows naturally from a higher temperature to a lower temperature in an effort to reach thermal equilibrium, heat pumps use very little energy to push or “pump” warmer air around. During the winter months, a heat pump provides warm air by removing heat out of the air or ground and transferring it into your home. During the summer, the heat from your home is transferred outdoors leaving cooler air behind. Moving heat from place to place instead of generating heat, as a furnace or central air conditioning unit would do, uses significantly less energy providing huge cost savings over other types of HVAC systems.
Brief history of the heat pump
In the 1940s, Robert C. Webber, an American inventor, noticed that the outlet pipe of his freezer became very hot when he lowered its temperature. He soon realized the potential applications for the heat which was being discarded. Running pipes from his freezer to his boilers, Webber captured this displaced heat to provide his family with hot water. Next, he piped hot water into coils and used a fan to blow over the coils sending warm air into his home. Soon after, Webber figured out how get heat from underground and use to warm the air thereby inventing the first ground-source (geo-thermal) heat pump in the late 1940s. Soon after, electrical and gas heat pumps were developed.
It hasn’t been until the past 10-15 years, however, that heat pumps have gained significantly in popularity due to their eco-friendly manner of operation, their ability to both heat and cool, and their cost-savings energy efficiency. Additionally, advancements in heat pump technology are improving their performance even further. Newer, high-efficiency models utilize the heat that is wasted heat when the system is in cooling mode to heat water at two to three more efficiency than an electric water heater would.
Understanding your heat pump
Heat pumps operate via the principle of heat transference. When in heating mode, a heat pump extracts heat from the outside air and moves it into your home. While in cooling mode, the heat pump removes heat from the air inside your home to the outside leaving cooler air behind. Only a small amount of energy in the form of electricity or gas is required to transfer the heat from indoors to outdoors or vice versa.
When the air outside is too cold for extracting heat, the system’s “backup heat” will come on using an alternate form of heat, usually heated coils knows as “strip heat” or “aux heat” to warm the air inside. This backup heat, however, is powered by electricity or gas which consumes a lot more energy to run.
How does a heat pump work?
Heat pumps provide heating and cooling to your home by moving heat around and by employing a reversing valve, which changes the directional flow of the refrigerant depending on whether cooling or heating is required. Heat pumps are similar to split central air conditioning systems in that they have both an indoor and outdoor unit. They also share some of the same major components, which are:
Unlike central air conditioning systems, though, heat pumps are much more efficient at heating your home in the winter because it removes heat from outside air and pumps it indoors, whereas a central AC system must use a great deal more energy in the form of gas or electricity to create heat in your home and raising the amount of your utility bill.
How does a heat pump cool?
Heat pumps can cool your home just as effectively as energy efficient air conditioners can. Warm air is pulled out of your home by a fan while refrigerant is pumped from the exterior condenser coil to the evaporator coil indoors absorbing the heat from the air. The air handler then pushes the cooled air through the ducts into various rooms of your home. This cycle starts again and continues on a repeating loop until the desired interior temperature is reached.
Can a heat pump dehumidify?
Heat pumps are great dehumidifiers due to their typically larger condenser coils which work better at treating and eliminating moisture from the air than regular air conditioners. After the liquid refrigerant is evaporated and turned into a gas, it is then compressed by the condenser unit and turned back into a liquid, releasing heat into the surrounding air as it does so. As the heat cools, the moisture in the air is removed by the condenser coil thereby lowering the humidity levels. Reduced humidity in the air will immediately make you feel a few degrees cooler than it actually is, providing additional energy and money saving benefits.
Advantages/disadvantages of a heat pump
There are a lot of advantages of having a heat pump in your home, not the least of which you can use it all year round as it provides both heating and cooling. Also, as the primary function of a heat pump is to transfer heat from one place to another, it’s a very economical and efficient way to make your living space comfortable.
There are some disadvantages to heat pumps, though. For example, they are not as effective in extremely cold climates where the temperature falls below freezing on a regular basis. There is more heat to transfer from one place to another in more moderate climates than in very cold climates, so if the auxiliary or backup heating system comes on frequently, then it’s not really operating as an energy-efficient system. Also, in colder climates there is still heat available in the outside air which can be pumped indoors, but the heat pump will need to work a lot harder to extract it.
Another possible disadvantage is that the heat produced by a heat pump isn’t quite as hot and intense as the heat produced by gas furnaces or electric HVAC systems. However, as heat pumps move heat around, heated air is more evenly distributed throughout your home with fewer “cold spots” that homes with traditional heating systems can often have.
The biggest advantage to using a heat pump, though, is that is the heat in the outside air, which is free(!), for heating and cooling making it much more efficient than other systems that use inefficient sources of energy such as oil or electricity. Though the upfront costs of purchasing and installing a heat pump may be higher than traditional HVAC systems, the payoff will be more than worth it as you’ll see reduced energy use and lower utility bills over the heat pump’s life span.
Types of heat pumps
There are three types of heat pump systems: air source, which is the most popular, geo-thermal, and absorption. The difference between them is where they get their heat source from.
Clear list of steps to operate the heat pump
Since heat pumps don’t generate heat from scratch, but instead use available natural sources of heat and move it around, there are some factors users should keep in mind when operating their heat pump system.
Also, it goes without saying that just with any HVAC system, proper maintenance is important to maintain efficient operation of your heat pump. Make sure to clean or replace filters on a regular basis (usually monthly), make sure there is no debris, vegetation, or clutter around the exterior unit, check ducts, coils, and registers regularly and clean when needed, and check for refrigerant leaks.
How much does a heat pump cost?
The typical range for installing a new heat pump is between $4,000 and $7,000, depending on the type of heat pump you purchase and the size of your home. Geothermal heat pumps are generally more expensive to install since there are component that require being placed underground. As a heat pump can provide both heating and cooling, it eliminates the need for a furnace and an air conditioner. Though upfront costs may be high, heat pump systems can significantly reduce your energy consumption and keep more money in your pocket making it a worthwhile investment for your home and your budget.
When you’re ready to purchase a new system, be sure to save thousands by shopping online with Pricefixer.com!
What Is a Ductless System?
A ductless air conditioning system is an energy-efficient system that can cool (or heat) rooms and zones of a home without needing ductwork. Ductless systems provide a suitable AC option for homes that don’t have the space for ducts or for homeowners who’d rather not tear up their walls to install ducts.
How Ductless Systems Operate
Similar to ducted, split central air conditioners, ductless systems also consist of an indoor air handling component and an outdoor component housing the compressor and condenser unit. However, instead of just one large air handler unit tucked away inside a closet, crawl space, or attic, ductless systems have multiple air handlers installed in different rooms of the house mounted on the wall. These individual air handlers operate similar to a window unit, where each one can be regulated to a different temperature.
The indoor and outdoor components are linked with copper tubing that passes through a small hole in the wall. Similar to split air conditioners, refrigerant travels through tubing to the indoor air handler(s), where the evaporator coil pulls the heat from the air leaving cool air which is blown into the room. The refrigerant, in vapor form, is then transferred to the condenser coil in the outside unit where it is changed back into liquid form.
Ductless systems were originally developed by a Japanese manufacturer in the 1970s and are predominantly used in Asia and Europe, but they have recently gained in popularity in the U.S. due to their energy-efficient capabilities. The ductless air conditioner was designed to be an improved version of the window unit, where it could provide localized cooling to homes and buildings where a larger, central air-type system was not an option due to building size or financial constraints. Providing greater efficiency than window units, the ductless system offers air comfort variability that can be controlled individually, room-by-room, which enhances its appeal as it gives all family members more control over their own comfort.
Pros and Cons of a Ductless Unit
Ductless System Set-Up
The outdoor component of a ductless air conditioning system can be installed on a concrete slab in a shaded area on the side or back of the house and unobstructed from shrubbery. The exterior unit can also be attached to the outside wall of the house with mounting brackets. With this type of installation, it’s important to have plenty of clearance, at least 4 inches, between the wall and the unit, and at least 20 inches of clearance above the unit.
Interior components of a ductless system are typically mounted high on an interior wall of the room it’s cooling. It should be centrally located in the room for even distribution of the cooled air. For less obtrusive locations inside a room, ductless interior units can also be placed recessed in the ceiling or near the floor. The indoor unit should be installed no more than 50 feet away from the outdoor unit.
Cost of Operating and Maintaining a Ductless System
The upfront cost of your ductless system will depend on the size of your home and how many units it will require – either one, two, or perhaps four or more. The more units required, the more the initial cost will be. There are also other factors which can affect the cost of a ductless system such as brand, the amount of cooling needed, system features and capabilities, integrated technology, and air conditioning support and services.
The high costs of ductless air conditioners can sometimes scare consumers away, but rebates and tax incentives are often available as they are energy-efficient systems. Plus, the initial costs are likely to be recouped before too long since ductless air conditioners, which have SEER ratings up to 26, are one of the most efficient and cost-saving air conditioning systems available. Ductless air conditioners use up to 30% – 50% less energy than central air systems so their overall operational costs are lower. Maintenance costs for ductless systems also tend to be lower than that for other systems, and with proper care and maintenance a ductless system should last for over 20 years.
Is a Ductless Air Conditioning System the Best Choice for Your Climate?
Ductless systems are a great option for most climates as they can provide individual heating and cooling effectively and efficiently. However, for those regions that reach extremely high temperatures and humidity levels in the summer, a ductless air conditioner may have difficulty cooling your home on some of those hotter days. Also, ductless systems are not as good as central air systems at removing moisture from the air so for those who live in a very humid climate, a ducted system may be a better option.
What Is the Difference Between a Ductless System and Other Types of Systems?
Ductless air conditioners resemble window units in that each are designed to cool one room. The similarity pretty much ends there as ductless systems are much more efficient than window units, don’t block the sunlight by taking up space in a window, and don’t pose a security risk as window units can easily be removed. Window units are still the cheapest and easiest air conditioners to install, though.
Compared to ducted air conditioning systems, such as split and packaged AC units, ductless systems work in a similar way to cool the home with the use of a compressor, evaporator coil, condensing coil, refrigerant, and blower. However, the cool air is delivered directly into each room through separate air handler units installed on the walls of each room instead of the cooled air reaching the room through a network of ducts. Not having ducts makes for much easier installation and maintenance for ductless systems, as well as improved efficiency and less dust in the air as there are no ducts on which it can collect.
Ductless systems come with a hand-held remote that controls just that one individual unit. With the remote, you can turn the AC system off and on, choose heat or cool, set the thermostat, and control the air speed. If you have multiple units in your home, then a programmable thermostat will allow you to pre-program your desired temperature settings and start/end times for all of the connected units.
Naturally, with the internet of things (IOT), there are smart thermostats available for ductless systems as well that can preheat or precool your home before you get home, monitor the temperature of your home, even while you’re away, adjust the temperature according to weather systems, and work with other applications for multiple features and benefits.
Ductless air conditioning systems are a great alternative to the ducted options and with their temperature variability control and energy-efficiency, they are an excellent choice for many consumers. However, your AC contractor may still advise you to get a ducted system if you already have ducts installed, are concerned with controlling the humidity, or want better air flow throughout your home, which a network of ducts help provide.
If you’re in a new house without any ducts already installed, then you will have the choice of which type of air conditioning will work best for you and your home. To learn more about the most common types of systems, click here. If you’re ready to shop for your new system and want to save thousands by shopping online, click here.
What Is a Split System?
The most common type of central air conditioning system used in the U.S. is the “split” type of system. It’s called a “split” system because it’s comprised of two main components, one located inside the home and one located outside the home. The interior component, also known as the air handler, has a blower and evaporator coil to distribute cool air through the ducts of the home, and the outside unit houses a compressor and condensing coil which pumps refrigerant into the system.
A split air condition system uses electricity as it power source and utilizes the ducts in a home to distribute cool air and warm air when needed. Using the same network of ducts for both heating and cooling makes the split system one of the most efficient types of air conditioning systems available.
To learn more about other types of systems, click here.
You can also watch this system explainer video which contains a condensed overview:
How a Split Air Conditioning System Operates
The compressor, which is housed in the outdoor metal cabinet, is a motorized unit that pumps a liquid coolant through pipes (also known as “refrigerant lines”) to the interior unit, where it then removes heat and moisture from the home. It does this through a process called phase conversion, where warm air blows over the evaporator coil causing the liquid refrigerant to change from a liquid state to a gaseous state (vapor). When a substance changes from a liquid to a gas, a unique result is the removal of heat from the air. Within the air handler, the cooler air is then blown through the vents into the home while the vapor is transferred back to the outside air conditioning unit where the condenser coil changes it back to a liquid and the process begins all over again.
Air conditioning has come a long way since a young engineer named Willis Carrier invented the first air modern air conditioning unit in 1902. While working for a printing press, Carrier was asked to solve the humidity problem in the plant, which was causing the pages of the magazines wrinkle and curl up at the edges. The system he designed controlled the humidity by sending air over water-cooled coils. Recognizing the usefulness of his invention, he went on to form his own company which focused on developing and improving the air conditioning system.
Today, air conditioning is considered an essential part of modern living allowing us to remain cool in our homes, places of work, restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc. Air conditioning has become an important and integral part of our everyday lives. In fact, Americans consume more energy each year running air conditioners than the rest of the world combined. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States is used by air conditioners, costing homeowners almost $30 billion in annual costs and producing nearly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the air each year.
This is why energy standards have been adapted for manufacturers to produce more energy-efficient appliances and air conditioning units. The air conditioners manufactured today are 50% more efficient than those produced just ten years ago, saving consumers millions of dollars and reducing the amount of harmful pollutants being released into the environment.
Split air conditioning systems are one of the most energy efficient systems you can find. With SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) values ranging in the high 20s, split systems are a great choice for the environmentally and budget-conscious consumer.
The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute also has a number of resources to help homeowners understand their systems here.
Split Air Conditioning Installation
The most important aspect of the split AC system is the installation. If it’s done properly, your system will perform at its optimum level, but if it is not installed properly, then the result could be higher utility bills, frequent maintenance problems, and uneven cooling. Before installing the two parts of a split air conditioning system, first it must be determined where the inside component should be located. Typically, the indoor unit is placed in a closet or cabinet, but if neither of those is available, then another space must be used.
Some interior units of a split system are housed in the attic. There are many contractors, however, who believe installing the air handler in the attic is not the best idea as attics are typically not air conditioned and, therefore, get very hot in the summer. This can affect the efficiency of the indoor unit. Ducts expand and contract with temperature changes and an area with unregulated temperature, such as the attic, could cause leaks and loosening of the duct seals. Additionally, with the indoor unit housed in the attic, one may forget about it and not perform regularly required maintenance, or may not want to if the unit is hard to get to. In older homes where space is limited, there may be no other option than the attic for the location of the indoor unit. In this case, it’s important that the ductwork be properly sealed and insulated and the installation is done by an AC professional.
The garage is a location many people think is ideal for installing the air handler as there is usually plenty of space, it’s not as hot as the attic, and there’s enough room to easily access the unit for repairs. However, there is a case to be made that the garage is probably the worst place for the air handler. Many people use their garages to store items such as pesticides, lawn mowers, paint, and their automobiles that often have the engine running before the garage door opens or closes. This can cause garages to have high levels of carbon monoxide and various other pollutants that contaminate the air, which could be getting sucked into your home through leaks or gaps in the air handler. Poor indoor air quality is a health concern and may result in serious health issues. If the garage is the only place available for your air handler, then it is recommended that it is placed in an insulated and air-sealed closet to reduce contaminants from entering the system. Other actions you should take would be to make sure the duct system is properly sealed and purchase a carbon monoxide monitor for the inside of your home.
Crawl Space Installation
Installing the air handler in a crawl space is a popular option as it keeps the unit “out of the way.” However, many crawl spaces are damp and dark and can get hot and humid during the warmer months. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your crawl space in encapsulated and not vented to the outside as this could cause mold growth and reduce air quality, especially if you live in a more humid climate. Installing a dehumidifier in the crawl space is beneficial as well.
Basements are also a place where air handlers can be installed as it offers an “out of sight” location like attics and crawl spaces, although the basement allows for easier access to the unit.
How Much Does a Split System Cost?
There are several factors which will affect the cost of an AC unit, but the usual range for installing a new split air conditioning system is between $3,700 and $7,200. The size of your home, whether or not ducts need to be installed, repaired, or replaced, and installation rates are the top determining factors affecting the cost of your new AC system. Also, it’s important to make sure you purchase the right-sized air conditioner for your home. This is where a professional AC contractor is key helping you determine the best AC fit for your needs.
First, the contractor will determine how much cooling power your home will need by performing a load calculation. This measurement takes in account a variety of factors affecting the temperature of your home such as square footage, number and types of windows, how much heat loss your home experiences, insulation levels, whether or not your home is located in the shade, etc. This data is then analyzed to determine how much air your air conditioning system is likely to lose and which system is the best one for efficiently cooling your home.
The climate in which you live is also an important factor that will determine the type of AC unit that will be best for your home. If you live in a hot, humid climate, you will want an air conditioning system that effectively cools and dehumidifies your home. You will also likely want a unit with a higher SEER rating for energy savings as an air conditioner in a state like Florida is going to work a lot harder in the summer than one in a state such as Minnesota. If you live in a drier or milder climate, then a lower-rated SEER model should suffice.
It’s important to make sure your HVAC equipment is sized properly for your home as a system that is too small won’t effectively cool the air, and one that is too large won’t properly remove all the humidity in the air, cause uneven cooling, and increased utility bills.
The SEER number you choose for your split system will also affect the price. Higher-rates SEER units will save you more money each month, but the upfront costs are more expensive than lower SEER models. To learn more about SEER, click here. To find out about SEER minimums where you live view this Seer Mimimums Map.
Pros and Cons of Split Air Conditioning Systems
What Is the Difference Between a Split System and a Ductless System?
A ductless air conditioning system is also split into two parts with an indoor and outdoor component, just like the split central air conditioning system, however, a ductless system does not require ducts. Ductless systems are a great option for those homeowners who don’t have a network of ducts already installed in their home, don’t want to tear up their walls installing ducts, or just don’t have the room for them.
Besides no ducts, this type of system differs from split systems in that instead of one air handler in the home, there are multiple “mini” air handlers which are installed in every room, usually high up on the wall. This type of installation allows for the temperature of each room to be individually controlled by the thermostat on the air handler unit. Therefore, if one person prefers a room temperature of 78 while another prefers their room temperature to be 72, then this system offers that type of temperature control variability.
Air Filters & Maintaining Your Split Air Conditioning System
Once you’ve installed your new central AC system, it’s important to perform regular maintenance, service, and repair to extend its life and make sure it operates at maximum efficiency. One of the most important ways to take care of your air conditioner is to replace the filters regularly. The large amount of air traveling through your AC system contains dust, debris, allergens, and pollutants, which is cleaned when pulled through the air filter. If the filter gets dirty and clogged, then the air cannot be cleaned as effectively and air flow is reduced. Clean filters equal clean air, dirty filters… less so. It’s best to check your air filters at least every two weeks and replace them as soon as they look dirty.
If you’re shopping around for a new central air conditioning system, you’ve probably discovered that there are three types of systems from which you can choose: Packaged Units, Split Systems and Ductless. All three systems work equally well and offer energy efficient options and state-of-the-art systems that can help you save money and effectively cool your home. In this article, we’ll discuss the packaged air conditioning system in more depth and whether or not it’s a good option for you. As a rule of thumb, it’s almost always a good idea to stick with the type of system you have – if you have been satisfied with it.
What is a Package System?
A packaged unit is a heating and cooling device that has all of its main components (condenser, compressor, and evaporator) combined together in one single, metal-encased “package.” Packaged air conditioners are a great option for homes that don’t have a lot of space for an indoor component. Not to say that a packed unit can’t adequately cool a large home – because it definitely can. Package units tend to be popular in the southeastern regions of the U.S. where homes don’t typically have basements or crawl spaces, but they can be used in any region.
A packaged unit hooks up to a home’s ductwork to pull warm air out of the house and replace it with cool air. The unit is located outside the home usually on a concrete slab next to the house, or, to save even more space, installed on the roof.
What Is the Difference Between a Split System and a Packaged Unit?
A split system has some of the air conditioning components located outside the home, such as the fan, compressor, and condenser, and the rest of the components located inside the home, such as the evaporator coil, air handler and blower. The advantage of a split system is that the indoor components are kept in a controlled, non-harsh type of environment and therefore have a longer life-span than if they were located outside. Another advantage is that split systems come in higher energy-efficient options with SEER ratings in the twenties, whereas packaged units typically have 14 SEER or 16 SEER options. The advantages of a packaged unit over a split system are:
Types of Package Units
There are several different packaged options to choose from depending on your cooling or heating needs:
Cooling only packaged air conditioner: Electric-power unit with no heating elements for those climates that are typically warm year-round.
Packaged air conditioner with heat: Electric-powered air conditioner that also has a heating element. Electricity heats up the element warming the air that flows over it. This warm air moves through the ducts to raise the temperature inside your home. This type of system is common in warmer climates where the heat is used only occasionally.
Packaged gas/electric systems: This type of system offers high-efficiency electric air conditioning during the warmer months and the efficiency of a gas furnace for heating during the cooler months. These are common in colder regions as gas heat is an energy efficient way of heating a home. Do you have gas or electric? You can learn more by using the instant low price quote tool here.
Packaged heat pumps: A heat pump moves warm air from outside the home to inside the home during cooler months, and then, reversing the cycle, moves warm air from inside the home to outside when cooler temperatures are desired inside. Powered by electricity, heat pumps move warm air around instead of generating heat which makes them particularly energy efficient. Heat pumps work best in moderate to mild climates.
Dual fuel heat pump (heat pump and gas furnace): Utilizing the heat pump to pull heat from the outside air to warm your home, the furnace part of this system doesn’t kick on until it’s around 35 degrees or less outside, making it a very energy efficient system, perfect for cold climates.
Electric furnace and heat pump: Similar to the heat pump plus gas furnace system, the heat pump does the majority of the air cooling and heating here as well, with a backup electric furnace that kicks on only when there is not enough heat in the air for the heat pump to sufficiently warm the home.
What type of air conditioning system is best for your regional climate?
It’s not just whether your climate is mostly warm or mostly cold, but also whether you have more of a dry climate as opposed to a humid climate that will affect the type of air conditioning system that will work best for you.
Packaged air conditioning systems are a great option for cooling your home, however, if you happen to live in a warm, humid climate like Florida, you may discover that split system air conditioners are more common. This is due to several factors: 1) an air conditioner in a hot, humid climate is going to work a lot harder to keep a home cool than one in a milder climate, so having a high energy-efficient unit is important. Split systems come with higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings than packaged units do, making them the preferred system for many due to their higher efficiency options; and, 2) split systems do a better job of dehumidifying a home than packaged units do, and a less humid home is a more comfortable home.
For drier climates, such as Las Vegas, packaged units that combine electric air conditioning with a gas furnace for heating are an excellent option. Also, packaged systems that combine a heat pump with a gas furnace are popular in drier climates as the heat pump is highly energy efficient because it moves warm air around to cool and heat rather than using energy to generate heat.
The heat pump plus gas furnace system is also common in colder climates as using natural gas or propane to heat a home is an energy efficient solution many northern homes employ. Similarly, the electric furnace and heat pump is frequently used in colder climates as well.
System Components of a Packaged Air Conditioner
When purchasing a packaged air conditioner, it’s useful to know the various components within that make it work. This way you’ll be able to “talk shop” with the contractor who is installing it and better understand how to perform maintenance on it.
The main components of a packaged AC unit are:
Maintenance Tips for Your Packaged Unit
Knowing the components of your packaged air conditioning system, how they work, and potential problems they may encounter that could affect your system’s performance will help you stay on top of maintaining your unit, which will go a long way in extending the life of your system. The compressor, for example, is the heart of an air conditioner and if this important (and expensive) component breaks down, you may find yourself opting to just purchase a whole new system.
What does a compressor in a packaged unit do?
The compressor, powered by a motor, compresses refrigerant into a high-pressure gas and forces it into the condenser coil where its heat is released and the refrigerant condenses into a liquid. The liquid refrigerant is then pumped into the evaporator coil where it evaporates into a gas (vapor), and in doing so, removes heat and moisture from the air. As a gas, the refrigerant returns to the compressor where the whole cycle begins again. Common causes of compressor malfunctions are dirty and gummed-up condenser coils, blocked refrigerant lines, contaminants in the system (such as dirt, debris, moisture, leaves, etc.), and inadequate lubricant levels can cause serious problems for the compressor.
Routine maintenance by a licensed professional is key in maintaining an efficiently-running system with a long life ahead of it. Besides routine maintenance, it’s important that you don’t delay when it comes to repairs. If you hear an unusual knocking, rattling, grinding, or rumbling sound, call your repairman immediately before even more damage is done. Finally, don’t forget to replace the filters regularly, especially during the summer months when your air conditioner is working overtime.
Since your air conditioner plays such an important part of keeping you comfortable in your home and considering it’s one of the largest expenditures on your utility bill, purchasing a new AC system should be thoroughly researched so you can make the best decision for your home and budget. Understanding the benefits of a packaged air conditioning system, how it works to cool (or heat) your home, and how to take care of it will help you have a long and enjoyable experience with your packaged air conditioning system.
To learn more about the heating and cooling options available to you, click here.
When you’re in the market for a new air-conditioning or heating system and trying to determine which of the heating and cooling systems is the best for your home, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of different options, types of systems and selections available. If only there was one place that easily explained the main types. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we are going to provide an overview of the three main categories of heating and cooling systems and discuss in detail the differences and benefits of each in order to help you make the best decision for your home, your budget, and your lifestyle.
Overview of the three main types of air conditioning systems
The three most common types of air conditioning systems are split systems, package systems, and ductless systems. Split systems are the most popular type of air conditioners found in U.S. homes. Just as its name implies, this system is “split” into two main components with one part located inside the home and the other housed outside the home in a metal container. The indoor component is connected to a network of ducts and uses a blower to circulate cooled air throughout the various rooms of the home. The outside component contains a condenser coil and a compressor, which pumps the refrigerant into the system.
A packaged unit works just as a split system does by moving cooled air through a network of ducts, however, instead of an indoor and outdoor unit, the evaporator coil, condenser, and compressor are all housed together in one metal-encased “package” that’s usually located outside the home.
Ductless systems, also known as “split ductless” systems, provide cooling similar to central air conditioning systems only without the use of ducts. These types of systems have an outside component with a condenser that circulates refrigerant via tubing to indoor blower units located in separate rooms. This type of system is particularly useful for homes that don’t or can’t install ducts.
Each of these air conditioning systems are effective in cooling homes during the warmer months of the years, but looking a little more closely at each will help you determine which system is the best one for your home.
Click here to watch the PriceFixer explainer video of the three types of heating and cooling systems. It can be super helpful to see a visual description of each!
What is a Split System?
A split system has an outdoor component with a compressor that pumps a liquid refrigerant through copper pipes (refrigeration lines) to the indoor component. The indoor component, usually located in a closet, crawl space, or attic, contains an evaporator coil that absorbs heat from the air, thereby cooling and dehumidifying it. Using a blower, also known as an air handler, this cooled air is then pushed into multiple areas of the home via a system of ducts and vents effectively lowering the interior air temperature. Simultaneously, warm air is being drawn out of the rooms through return air ducts.
The heat that was absorbed by the evaporator coil is then pumped back out (as a vapor) to the exterior unit that houses the compressor and condensing unit where it is it condensed into a liquid state so the cooling cycle can start all over again.
Split System Pros:
Split System Cons:
What is a Packaged System?
With all of the main air conditioning components conveniently housed together in a single casing, a packaged unit operates in the exact same way as a split unit does, with the transference of a refrigerant between the evaporator coil and condensing coil, delivering cooled air via ducts throughout the home. Typically located outside next to the house on a concrete slab, or on the roof of a house, packaged units are much smaller than split systems and are an excellent option for space-challenged or smaller abodes.
Split systems and packaged units are what’s known as “central” air conditioning systems because they use a network of ducts, typically hidden behind walls, under floors, or above the ceilings, to circulate cool air throughout the home. The ducts are made of sheet metal and conveniently work with furnaces and heaters to distribute warm air throughout the home as well.
Packaged Unit Pros:
Packaged Unit Cons:
What is a Ductless System?
A ductless air conditioning system cools your home in a similar fashion as a ducted, central air conditioning system, only without the ducts. It does this by having an outdoor unit pull heat from inside your home while indoor air handlers, typically mounted high on the wall of a room, blow cool air into each individual room. Just like a split, central air conditioning system, a ductless system has an outdoor component that contains a condenser, compressor, and evaporator. Unlike the split, central AC system, however, instead of one air handler tucked away in a closet, smaller, individual air handlers are installed in individual rooms and the air temperature of each room is controlled by the air handler unit in that room. Connected to the outside component by cables and refrigerant lines that only require a small hole in the wall to pass through, the air handlers are able to effectively distribute cooled air without the need for ducts. Ductless systems are also capable of distributing warm air.
Ductless systems are growing in popularity and are a great option for homes that don’t have ducts already installed and the idea of tearing up the walls to install them is undesirable, or if a home simply doesn’t have the space to install them. A great benefit of ductless systems is that they avoid the energy loss typically associated with ducted systems. More than 30% of energy can be lost due to ducts, especially if they are in an unconditioned area, like the attic. Ductless systems also have the added benefit of individualized air control for each room; if one person prefers a room temperature of 78 while another person prefers their room temperature to be 72, then this system offers that type of flexibility. Ductless systems do tend to be more expensive than central air conditioning systems, but avoiding the cost of installing ductwork would lighten the expense.
Ductless system pros:
Ductless system cons:
Check out the video overview of three types of systems.
Now that you know what they are, where can they be located within your home or business?
Of course, a certified professional contractor can help you determine the best location for your new air conditioning system, but listed below are the common locations for each type of system.
Common locations of Split Systems
To avoid extra long ducting, which could reduce efficiency, it’s best to install the indoor unit in a central location within the home. Some common places include utility closets or an enclosed space within the garage. Putting the air handler in the attic is not ideal as that area is prone to extreme heat and reaching the system for repairs or to change the filter may be difficult. For the outside component, it’s best to place it in an area that avoids direct sunlight and has plenty of clearance on all sides, with two to three feet of space on all sides and five feet or more of unobstructed space above the unit.
There are 5 areas within the home where the unit could be oriented.
Common locations of Package Units
Just like the outdoor component of split systems, packaged units should be installed outside the home in an area with plenty of clearance on all sides. Common locations include placing the unit on a concrete slab near the foundation of the house, or, if space is really limited, packaged units can be installed on some roof types, freeing up more yard space.
Common locations of Ductless System
The air handlers placed indoors are compact and sleek looking and their design can be aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, they can be mounted in a variety of locations such as on the wall just above eye level, in the ceiling, and near the floor.
Extreme weather conditions will of course affect the life span and operational efficiency of any type of air conditioning system, as well a lack of proper maintenance, but under typical U.S. weather conditions and routine maintenance, the lifespan of a packaged unit is around 12-15 years. The life span of a split system is around 15 years, a bit longer than that of a packaged unit due to half of the system being located indoors in a controlled environment. The average life span for a ductless system is 20 years, as the lack of ducts also means a lack of dust, dirt and debris collecting within them that could potentially damage important system components.
Clear signs it’s time to replace your air conditioner
Now that you’re more educated about the different types of heating and cooling systems available, you can make a smart decision about the best option for your home when it comes time for you to replace your current system. How will you know when it’s the right time to replace your old AC unit? There are several key indicators you should be on the lookout for that will let you know when it’s time to throw in the towel and get yourself a new air conditioner. Remember, if you keep putting money into repairing an older unit, you will be losing out on the cost saving features that today’s newer, more energy efficient models provide.
So, you’ve decided to purchase a new HVAC system – aren’t you glad you read this article? You are now well-informed about the options available to you that will help you choose the perfect system for your home. Let’s review:
The three main types of air conditioning systems are:
Split systems and packaged units are both known as central air conditioning systems because they force air through a network of ducts to distribute cooled air evenly, and “centrally,” throughout the home. The difference between a split system and a packaged unit is the split system is much larger and has an indoor component and an outdoor component. Packaged units take up less space as the main components are combined into one convenient “package” located outdoors.
A ductless system provides cooling for the home with multiple air handler units installed in individual rooms and does not require the use of ducts.
Ductless systems and central air conditioning systems are both excellent choices for cooling a home. Not sure which type of system is right for you? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of a “forced-air” system (central air) and a ductless system:
Central air conditioning pros:
Central air conditioning cons:
Ductless systems pros:
Ductless systems cons:
When choosing an air conditioning system for your home, look at the space you have available inside and outside your home, review your budget, decide the energy efficiency standard you’d like to have, and shop online to get the lowest prices for all your cooling and heating needs and local installation. If you’re looking for the best possible quote for a new system and installation, visit Pricefixer.com! Better Warranties. Lower Prices. Guaranteed.
It’s easy to take your air conditioner for granted. You likely never give it a moment’s thought as it hums quietly in the background cooling your home to the perfect temperature on those sweltering hot days… until suddenly it doesn’t. Next thing you know you’re on the phone with an AC company who asks you what type of system you have, and all you know is it’s an “air conditioner” – you have no idea what kind of unit it is. Well, if you’re in the market for replacing your old air conditioner, then it’s time to educate yourself about an important component of your home that’s integral to your comfort, well-being and wallet.
Let’s cover the basic parts of a central air conditioning system, how it functions to cool the air, the ever-important SEER energy rating every new AC unit has, and how to find the perfect AC system for your home.
Central air conditioning systems come in three types: split systems, packaged units and ductless systems. Let’s just look at split and packaged for now. Split systems have two separate parts; one part located outside the home that contains the condensing unit and compressor, and one part located inside the home containing an evaporator coil. A packaged unit has the condenser, compressor and evaporator coil located in one single unit that typically sits outside the home on the roof or on a slab next to the foundation.
Split System vs Packaged Unit
Split and packaged systems both work the same way, however, there are some differences. For example, split systems are much larger than packaged units, are typically cheaper to repair and maintain, and come with higher energy-efficiency SEER ratings. Packaged units are typically cheaper to install because there’s just one piece, but exposure to the outside elements could cause damage or a shortened life span, and they have lower energy-efficiency SEER ratings.
The deciding factor as to whether a split system or a package unit is the best one for you is largely dependent on the layout and size of your home. A good rule of thumb, though, is to stay consistent with what you already have and replace a split system with a split system and a packaged unit with a packaged unit, especially if you have been generally satisfied with the level of comfort your system provides.
To discover more about the different types of systems, click here to watch a video explainer designed just for you.
How Air Conditioners Work
Air conditioners use refrigerants to cool indoor air by drawing the warm air out of your home through ducts, and supplying cool air through the registers and vents in the ceilings or floors. Besides cooling the indoor air, air conditioners also regulate the ambient temperature of the home via a thermostat. Additionally, they act as dehumidifiers, because reducing the temperature of humid air reduces its moisture content, and air filtration systems as they remove airborne particles from the circulating air through the use of filters. That’s quite a lot going on for one air conditioner!
What’s even more impressive is how the components of an air conditioner, the coils, condenser, compressor, fans, and blower, replicate the physical law of when a liquid converts to a gas, it absorbs heat (known as phase conversion) in order to generate cooling. Warm air moves over refrigerant-filled coils, causing the refrigerant to evaporate from a liquid to a gaseous state – absorbing heat as it does so – and then it is compressed and condensed back into a liquid state for the process to begin all over again. The chilled air is then circulated throughout your house by blowers located in the air handling unit.
Some useful terms are included on the Cooling Cheat Sheet below.
New Air Conditioning Systems Can Save You Money
Air conditioners certainly have come a long way since the first system was developed by Willis Carrier in 1902. The device he created blew air across chilled pipes to lower the temperature and humidity levels. Today’s air conditioning systems effectively and efficiently cool your home by using state-of-the-art equipment that uses a lot less energy than the models produced just a few years ago do.
In fact, there’s a good number of energy-efficient AC models to choose from now, ranging from 13 SEER all the way to 26 SEER, with higher-rated models being manufactured every year. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and indicates the energy-efficiency of a particular air conditioning system. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient it is, which means increased savings on your utility bill over the life of the air conditioner. Although more expensive than base models, you can usually recoup the extra cost of purchasing a high SEER unit over several years by the lower monthly utility bills you’ll receive. Most commonly, people gravitate toward the 14-18 SEER range when purchasing equipment for their home.
If your current air conditioner has been around awhile and showing signs of needing repair, such as not cooling your home like it should on hot, summer days, skyrocketing utility bills, or clanking, banging, or rattling sounds, then it’s probably time to start shopping for a replacement. The good news is that depending on the SEER rating of your current system, newer SEER models can save you a lot of money on your energy bill! If your current air conditioner is pretty ancient, then it could be an 8 SEER. Replacing it with a 16 SEER unit would save you nearly 50% on energy costs and significantly reduce your utility bill.
How to Find Your AC Unit’s SEER Rating
To find out the SEER rating of your current split system unit, look for the yellow and black tag stuck to the side of the condenser. You will see the words “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio” and the number underneath is the SEER number. If you can’t find it there, look for a performance information sheet stuck to the front of the air handler on the indoor part of the unit. Most packaged units have the SEER rating listed on the black and yellow “hang tag” located on the outside of the unit. If you’ve looked everywhere and still can’t find your SEER rating, then the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute has a handy directory look up on their website here, where you can put in the make and model of your AC system to find the SEER rating.
Now that you know your current system’s SEER number, you can calculate how much more energy efficient your new air conditioner will be. Chances are, your old unit has a SEER rating that is no longer made or allowed to be made by law. In 2015, the Department of Energy (DOE) mandated that all new air conditioners manufactured in the U.S. be a minimum of 13 SEER for northern states and minimum of 14 SEER for southeastern and southwestern states.
Use the link below to see the SEER Minimums map and discover the government requirements for your state.
Why Having an Energy Efficient Air Conditioner Is Important
The U.S. Department of Energy implemented energy conservation standards for air conditioners, and other appliances we typically use on a daily basis, to help save consumers billions of dollars each year and to reduce harmful effects on the environment caused by our energy consumption. According to the DOE’s website, three-quarters of all homes in the U.S. have air conditioners which use close to 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, costing homeowners $29 billion annually. As a result, about 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year.
This is a serious concern because carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that traps heat within the Earth’s atmosphere (for decades, if not centuries!) and contributes more to global warming and climate change than any other green house gas. More and more extreme weather events are being linked to climate change, and the effects of climate change are far-reaching: from rising temperatures causing a shift in precipitation patterns that change the growing patterns of plants threatening wildlife dependent on this source of food, to rising sea levels eroding shorelines and destroying ecosystems, to farms and crops producing lower yields resulting in significant economic losses.
So, limiting CO2 emissions is imperative for protecting the environment and minimizing climate change. Do your part to reduce your carbon footprint by minimizing the amount of energy you waste as much as possible. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs, walk or ride your bike instead of driving a car, take shorter showers, and install an energy-efficient air conditioning system with a high SEER rating.
Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Your New Air Conditioning System
Now that you’ve determined you’re upgrading your current air conditioning system with a more energy-efficient one, and you’ve educated yourself about the different types of central air conditioning systems, there are some important questions you should ask your contractor before your new unit is installed, such as:
With a little bit of AC knowledge and asking the right questions, you will be able to make the best choice in air conditioning systems for your home.
Why SEER Matters
You’ve determined it’s time to replace your air conditioning system and as you begin researching the best new options available, you’re presented with a dizzying array of choices. Terms such as tonnage, SEER, and load capacity are discussed, and you don’t understand any of it, so, you’re just going to trust that the local AC repairman you called is going to sell you the best unit for your home. Hold on…purchasing a new air conditioning system is a huge investment!
Depending on where you live, the lifespan of an AC unit could last 10-15 years. Besides the upfront cost of a new unit and installation, the type of system you purchase will affect your monthly utility bills over the course of that unit’s lifetime. That’s 10 to 15 years’ worth of utility bills coming out of your wallet. The decision to purchase a new AC system is not one to be taken lightly, nor handed over to someone who may not have your best interests at heart.
Doing your due diligence to research the different types of air conditioning units is not only your responsibility as a conscientious consumer, but it’s also not that difficult. Here at Pricefixer.com, we believe in educating consumers, so they can make the best purchasing decisions for their home and their budget. Continue reading to discover the top five SEER rated AC units.
Where to begin
When shopping for a new air conditioner, you’re going to want to pay attention to the SEER number. SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” which is a measurement of how energy efficient a particular AC system is. The higher the SEER, the greater its energy efficiency. The SEER number is important because it’s not only regulated and monitored by the U.S. Department of Energy, with minimum SEER ratings enforced across the nation, but also because the SEER number affects the cost of the unit. The higher the SEER rating, the more expensive the system. However, the higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is and, therefore, the more money you’ll save on utility bills over the lifespan of the unit. But, is the higher upfront cost really worth it? How much does a 16 SEER save over a 13 SEER or a 22 SEER over an 18 SEER?
In order to determine accurate cost savings across various SEER rated units, we simply need to do a little math. When trying to determine the best SEER rating for your home and budget, you’ll need to divide an AC unit’s rated BTUs by its SEER number to figure out how many watts per hour it consumes. It sounds more complicated than it actually is.
First, let’s get some basic definitions out of the way. BTU stands for “British Thermal Unit” and is used to measure heat energy. One BTU is approximately equal to the energy released by burning one match. As it relates to air conditioning, it’s a measurement of how much heat is removed from the air or, in other words, the “cooling power” of an AC unit. A 1-ton AC unit can remove 12,000 BTUs per hour; a 2-ton unit can remove 24,000 BTUs per hour, 3-ton, 36,000 BTUs per hour. Kilowatt is a measurement of energy typically used by large appliances to measure how much energy they use.
So, back to our formula:
If you’re looking at a 3-ton (36,000 BTUs) AC unit with a 16 SEER rating, divide the number of BTUs by the SEER rating:
36,000 BTUs / 16 = 2,250 watts
Since utility companies bill in increments of 1,000 watts, known as Kilowatt hours (kWh), to get the hourly wattage consumption number from the annual number of hours, we just need to divide 2,400 by 1,000, which equals 2.25 kWh.
36,000 BTUs / 16 = 2,250 (÷1,000) = 2.25 kWh
To determine your annual operating costs with a 16 SEER, you’ll need to know approximately how many hours your AC system is going to operate over the course of a year based on your geographical region. For example, the state of Florida uses an average of 2,800 hours of AC operation a year. Northern states, of course, will have a much lower average.
The next part of the math equation is to take the number of hours of operation and multiply it by the number of kWh consumed per hour (2.25 kWh) to get the annual consumption in Kilowatt hours.
2,800 x 2.25 kWh = 6,300 kWh in annual consumption
Now, it’s just a matter of converting these numbers to dollars to get an idea of the annual cost. If you look at your utility bill, you will be able to determine the total cost per kWh. For Florida residents, the average cost is 11.6 cents per kWh, which we’ll put into our formula as .116.
6,300 kWh x .116 cents = $730.80
The approximate annual cost of a 3-ton 16 SEER unit in Florida is $730.80.
Applying this same formula to the other SEER ratings results in the following costs:
13 SEER = $896.45
14 SEER = $834.74
15 SEER = $779.52
18 SEER = $649.60
22 SEER = $519.68
These saving look impressive and you may want to run out and purchase a 22 SEER, but, remember, the higher the SEER rating, the more expensive the unit. You will have to determine if the initial upfront cost of a more expensive unit will be worth it for you over its lifetime.
Some things to consider would be, do you plan to stay in your home for the next 10-15 years? What is your budget? Do you prefer to pay more now to save more later each month? Is it important to you to have energy efficient appliances to help benefit the environment?
If you only intend to stay in your current home for five years, then comparing prices of different SEER units with the annual operation costs figured out above can help you determine if it’s worth it to have a higher SEER unit. For example, if the total cost including installation fees of a 13 SEER unit is $4,200 and a 14 SEER unit is $5,000, then that’s a difference of $800. When comparing the annual operational costs of the two SEER numbers calculated above, the 14 SEER unit has an annual savings of $61.71 more than a 13 SEER ($896.45 – $834.74). However, if you plan to only be in your home for five years, then the total savings of having a 14 SEER over a 13 SEER is $308.55, meaning you haven’t even recouped half of the increased cost of the 14 SEER yet. However, after 13 years, the extra cost will be recouped.
Higher SEER Rated Units, Are They Right for You?
The minimum standard SEER number for the northern states is 13 and for southern states is 14. Some SEER ratings, however, go as high as 26. Typically, higher SEER units are the best option for those who live in a climate that is hot and humid for most of the year and cutting energy costs is a priority, or for those who are dedicated to helping the environment by reducing carbon emissions with energy efficient appliances. As technology continues to improve, there will no doubt be more efficient models for consumers to choose from.
In fact, according to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which was adopted by the United States in 2009, a framework of upgrades has been laid out that will continue until 2030 requiring manufacturers and installers to use progressively more efficient units. These changes will drive down costs and reduce environmental damage, which benefits everyone.
Therefore, the minimum SEER value will continue to increase, with the next one likely to go into effect in 2023, where northern states must have a minimum of SEER 14 and southern states a minimum of SEER 15.
The Impact of Standardized SEER Ratings
The mandatory upgrade from a SEER 12 to a SEER 13 that took place in 2006 represented a 30% increase in minimum energy efficiency for air conditioners. What does this mean in terms of reduced energy consumption? According to the DOE, 4.2 quadrillion BTUs will be saved between 2006 and 2030 by using a SEER 13 instead of SEER 12. This equates to the amount of annual energy used by 26 million U.S. households, resulting in savings to the consumer of over $1 billion by 2020! Also, the SEER 13 standard has significantly reduced fossil fuel consumption and limited air pollution. Fewer power plants needed to be built due to a SEER 13 standard, which means nitrous oxides emissions and greenhouse gas emissions were significantly reduces. As the minimum standard SEER rating increases, even more savings to the environment and consumers’ wallets will occur.
History of SEER Ratings – We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
Before 1980 ———-SEER 6 or less
1980 to 1985 ———SEER 7 or less
1986 to 1991———-SEER 8 or less
1992 to 2005 ———-SEER 10 – SEER 12
2006 to present ——SEER 13 or higher
That’s a lot of energy saved!
Breakdown of SEER
The SEER rating on an air conditioning unit is one of the most important factors you should take into account when purchasing a new unit for your home. SEER, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a number that indicates the maximum energy efficiency of a central air conditioning (AC) unit while it operates over a typical “cooling season.” The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is, but also the more expensive up front. Yes, a more energy-efficient system will save you money on your monthly utility bills, and a less-than-honest sales person may convince you the savings are well worth it, but there are a few other things you need to consider in determining your ideal SEER number, in addition to that.
First, it will be useful to understand how a SEER rating is calculated. The total amount of energy output (measured in BTUs) used over the cooling season is divided by the total amount of electrical energy input (measured in watts) that is used. In other words, the amount of energy produced to cool a room to a specific indoor temperature is measured against the amount of energy consumed by the AC unit to create this cooling. This measurement is done under a variety of outdoor temperatures ranging from the 60s to the 100s, with variable humidity levels, while maintaining an indoor temperature of 80°F. The resulting average number is what determines the SEER rating.
Every AC system is tested by the manufacturer according to guidelines stipulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. The whole point of performing a test over time like this, with varying temperature conditions, is to try and gauge how much energy an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) unit consumes when used during a typical summer season in the U.S. However, not all climates are similar across the nation, and a 13 SEER in an arid, hot climate may not be as efficient as a 13 SEER in a milder, moderately warm climate. Similarly, an AC unit’s efficiency will fluctuate based on different weather conditions; how efficiently it runs when it’s 101F outside will differ from how efficiently it runs when it’s 85°F outside. The SEER number is not a constant—rather, it’s the maximum amount of energy efficiency an AC unit can achieve, which means a 16 SEER can reach a maximum operational efficiency of 16 but will sometimes operate at a lower efficiency as well, depending on varying weather conditions.
It’s important to remember that the SEER rating is not a constant value but changes often, much like the MPG of your car changes based on how you drive it. Keep this in mind when you come across a SEER energy savings chart, or one of the many SEER savings calculators you’ll find online. These tools use the maximum SEER number to show you how much energy is being saved, as if an AC unit is going to work at its maximum efficiency 100% of the time, which just isn’t accurate. Also, many of these charts and calculators base their savings percentages on an 8 SEER or a 10 SEER, when you may have a 12 SEER. So, if you see a chart with 50% savings listed above a 16 SEER, then that means a 16 SEER is 50% (at the most)more efficient than an 8 SEER only. If you have a 12 SEER and upgrade to a 16 SEER, you’ll see closer to 25% in energy savings, which is still pretty good.
Determining what is best for your home and budget
Higher SEER units cost more than lower SEER units, but perhaps you like the fact that higher SEER units will not only save you money on your utility bills, but will also reduce energy consumption all around, which is good for the environment, and a higher energy efficient model will reduce your own personal carbon footprint. Now you need to determine the best SEER for your home, your budget, and your lifestyle.
In order to do this, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:
5 simple steps to determine your ideal SEER
Common questions/FAQs about SEER