Shopping for a new central air conditioning system for your home is no picnic, but you can make the task a lot simpler — and easier on your pocketbook in the long run — if you take advantage of air conditioner ratings that show how efficiently an A/C converts electricity into cooling.
The main efficiency rating for central A/Cs is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER number, ranging up to 21, is what you get if you divide electrical input into cooling output (though it's a bit more complicated than that). In the United States, manufacturers are barred from selling any split-system central air conditioner with a SEER of less than 13 (and less than 14 for air-source heat pumps).
The federal government's Energy Star program, which awards the coveted blue logo to products and systems that meet stringent energy-efficiency requirements, maintains a SEER 15 minimum for both central A/Cs and heat pumps.
In recent years, air conditioner cooling efficiency has improved by leaps and bounds. Consider that the old central A/C chugging away in your basement likely has a sub-SEER 6 rating. Upgrading to an Energy Star qualified central A/C can mean a 20-40 percent reduction in energy bills.
The main design improvement that paved the way for high-efficiency cooling systems is variable-speed and multi-stage technology. A variable-speed air handler motor operating with a two-stage compressor means your central air conditioner is not running at top speed all the time, including the majority of the time when that's not necessary for effective cooling and humidity control.
Higher air conditioner ratings do carry a higher cost, however. The different in cost between a SEER 13 and SEER 20 central cooling system can be substantial. Discuss your options with a trusted A/C contractor. He likely will tell you that in the Fort Wayne area climate, you don't necessarily need the highest SEER air conditioner for your home.
To discuss how air conditioner ratings should play into the decision to upgrade your Fort Wayne-area home's cooling system, please contact us at Hartman Brothers Heating & Air Conditioning.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in New Haven, Indiana and surrounding Fort Wayne area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about air conditioner ratings and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 260-376-2961.
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