Schedule an Appointment

Send Message

Subscribe to our RSS Feed Articles & Tips

Thinking About a New Air Conditioner? 4 Key Considerations

Air conditioners are sturdy, reliable pieces of HVAC equipment designed to provide years of service. There comes a time, however, when replacement is necessary, and a new air conditioner is your best or only choice. After deciding whether or not to replace your cooling system, there are four key considerations to keep in mind for your new air conditioner. Here's a summary of those considerations, along with some information to help you decide if replacing your air conditioner is the best choice.

Why Replace the Air Conditioner?

The search for a new air conditioner is usually brought on by one or both of two reasons: either the air conditioner you have isn't working properly or you want to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the cooling system. There are several factors that should be evaluated before moving forward with an air conditioner replacement.

  • System age: Central air conditioning systems can usually be expected to last as long as 15 years, sometimes longer if the equipment has received regular preventive maintenance. If your air conditioner is still in good condition, you'll probably get at least another season's service out of it. However, if the overall condition is poor, or if an older system shows some of the other problems mentioned below, consider replacement as soon as possible.
  • Reduced efficiency: Efficient air conditioning systems provide the best level of indoor comfort at the least possible price. If you've noticed energy bills going up with no corresponding increase in A/C use, the system is probably losing efficiency. It will continue to cost you more money than necessary for indoor cooling.
  • Reduced cooling capacity: Air conditioners nearing the replacement stage will often lose cooling capacity. They won't be able to keep up with temperature demands in your home and will work harder to provide even a minimal level of cooling. Recharging the refrigerant may help, but if not, the equipment should be replaced.
  • Need for frequent repairs: During an air conditioner's functional life span, it's normal that the system should require a limited number of repairs. However, if you've noticed that your cooling equipment needs more frequent repairs to keep it going, it may be time for a new air conditioner. Keep in mind that cooling systems break down more often in the two-year period before they fail for good.
  • Reduced dehumidification and air filtration: Air conditioners provide a level of dehumidification to remove moisture from the air in your home. They also filter the air of particulates and contaminants such as dust, pollen, mold, hair and fibers. If you've noticed higher humidity in your home or if your indoor air quality seems worse, an air conditioner replacement may be needed.

Efficiency When Buying a New A/C

In terms of A/C systems, efficiency refers to how well the air conditioner will use energy to produce the cooling you need. Higher-efficiency systems will be able to use less energy to generate cooling, which means they will cost less to operate while still producing plenty of cooling. They also use less energy in general, which makes them a better environmental choice.

When looking for an efficient air conditioner, consult the system's seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER. The air conditioner's SEER is a numerical indicator of the equipment's efficiency. SEER ratings are applied to both central air conditioners and to the cooling functions of heat pumps.

The higher the SEER rating, the higher the equipment's efficiency. Older systems may have SEER numbers of 10 or lower. Government standards require that residential A/C systems manufactured since Jan. 26, 2006 have a minimum SEER rating of 13. Air conditioners with a SEER of 16 or higher are considered high-efficiency systems. More commonly, high-efficiency A/Cs will have a SEER around 18. For those who want even better efficiency, air conditioner systems are available with SEER numbers in the mid-20s.

The benefit of high-efficiency systems will be immediately seen in your monthly cooling bills. The monthly savings on electricity usage can often pay for the investment in high-efficiency systems by about the halfway point of the A/C's expected life span. In a hot climate like that of West Texas, the payoff will come sooner, since your savings are spread out over a longer period each year.

Features Available in New Cooling Systems

Modern air conditioners can include many installed features and independent components that improve system operation, boost efficiency and increase convenience.

  • Programmable thermostats: These electronic thermostats give you a high level of control over the operation of your air conditioner. You can use programmed set points to automatically increase or decrease cooling based on individual needs. If you and your family will be out of the house during the day, for example, a programmable thermostat can be used to turn down cooling for that period, then automatically increase cooling before everyone returns home.
  • Fan-only switch: This type of switch lets you turn the A/C's compressor off and use the system for ventilation and air circulation only. With the compressor off, the equipment uses less energy. Fan-only operation is appropriate when seasonal temperatures have dropped and you don't need the A/C's total cooling capacity.
  • Variable-speed air handler: The air handler, sometimes called the blower, is the fan system that moves cool air from the equipment, into the ductwork and into your home. Older style air handlers operated at a single high speed. Variable-speed models have the ability to work at a lower level that saves money when less cooling is needed. Most of the time, they run at a slower, continuous speed that's better for air distribution, humidity control and air filtration.
  • Thermal expansion valve and high-temperature rating above 11.6: These features allow the cooling system to operate at its best level when outdoor temperatures are at their highest.
  • Filter check light: A filter check light provides a visual indication of when it's time to change the air filter in the cooling system. Clean filters and regular filter changes are important to system function and efficiency, but they can be easy to forget about. A check light automatically lets you know when filters should be evaluated for changing.

Sizing a New Air Conditioner

A new air conditioner must be properly sized to produce the amount of cooling you need in your home. Size in this case doesn't mean the actual physical dimensions of the air conditioning equipment. Instead, if refers to the system's capacity to produce cooling. Sizing is the process of determining how much cooling a particular building needs and then choosing an air conditioning system that can best supply it.

If your new air conditioner is too small, meaning it has too little cooling capacity, it won't be able to keep your indoor spaces at the temperature you prefer. The equipment will run harder and more often, which will increase cooling costs and lead to early breakdowns from excess wear. Cooling patterns will be inconsistent. It's likely that some indoor areas will be cooler than others. If your A/C is too large, it will produce more cooling than needed and will waste both energy and money. It will also be less capable of dehumidifying your indoor areas.

Proper sizing of a new air conditioner should include a cooling load calculation for your home. A cooling load calculation allows a professional HVAC technician to evaluate relevant factors and characteristics of the building to determine exactly how much cooling is needed. It will take into consideration elements such as building size, directional orientation, number of windows, local climate and energy-efficiency features. The data collected is entered into a software program that accurately calculates the cooling load and provides details on the systems that can meet that cooling load.

When a cooling load calculation is performed, make sure your HVAC expert uses industry-standard techniques such as those described in the Air Conditioning Contractors of America's (ACCA) Manual J "Residential Load Calculations."

Installation of a New Air Conditioner

It's best to leave the installation of an air conditioning system to the professionals. A properly installed air conditioner will work at its peak level of efficiency, with the greatest possible reliability, effectiveness and safety.

Your HVAC professional should take into account installation factors such as:

  • Proper calibration of controls and components. Thermostats, internal controls and components should be tested and calibrated to ensure proper operation.
  • Correct charge of refrigerant. Your HVAC technician can ensure the system is properly charged -- that is, it contains the manufacturer's specified amount of refrigerant. Low levels of refrigerant reduce the system's cooling ability.
  • Correct placement of condensing unit and equipment to avoid excess noise, energy loss and other problems.
  • Proper duct sizing and installation to ensure the most efficient and effective distribution of cool air. Installation may require a revision or replacement of ductwork to meet the requirements of sources such as the ACCA's Manual D "Residential Duct Systems."

Need help with replacing your air conditioner? Contact us today for help finding a West Texas HVAC contractor near you.

Back to Articles