Air conditioners are something that many of us take for granted. Our a/c units toil away faithfully on our behalf, humming and buzzing in the background on hot days. They make our lives bearable when the weather gets hot and humid, but otherwise we generally think little about them.
That is, until the energy bill comes in the mail! When we see our energy costs spike mid-summer, that is usually when our air conditioning units emerge into our awareness. High energy bills can motivate us to find ways to have a more energy-efficient air conditioner.
If you are shopping for air conditioning units, recommendations for better efficiency can help get you on the right track:
1. If you are using room air conditioners, consider switching to a central air conditioner:
If you are currently using room air conditioners as your primary source of cooling, consider switching to a more energy-efficient central air conditioner. Efficiency in air conditioning is important for reduced energy bills and for preserving the environment. For example, in an average air-conditioned home, air conditioning uses more than 2000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. This results in power plants to emitting over 3500 pounds of carbon dioxide!
2. If you already have central air, consider switching to a high-efficiency unit:
Many older homes today, such as those built prior to the 1980s, are equipped with older central air conditioning units. These units generally are 30% to 50% less efficient than are today's high-efficiency units. Even replacing a/c units that are less than a decade old could save you 20% to 30% or more on your cooling costs.
3. Pay attention to the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER):
Each a/c unit is marked with its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy required to provide a certain level of cooling. Most older systems have a SEER of 6 or less. Nowadays, it is the law that a system must have a SEER of at least 13. But take note: many high-efficiency units have a SEER far greater than 13, so be sure to find one within your budget that has as high a SEER as possible.
4. Fan features worth having:
Your new air conditioner will consistent of four main components: condenser, compressor, evaporator and fan. Each of these has an important part to play in determining the SEER of the air conditioner you choose to have installed. While the fan may seem like the least technically-important of all of these components, there are some important fan features worth looking for. When looking at new units:
a. find a variable speed air handler to accommodate new ventilation systems
b. select a unit with a fan that operates quietly
c. make sure it comes equipped with a fan-only switch; this will allow you to use run your unit at night with the air conditioning function switched off but in a way that allows for ventilation of your home
d. an auto-delay fan switch; this will cause the unit to wait a few minutes to turn off the fan once the compressor has gone off
5. Install dehumidifying pipe:
If you live in a very humid climate, you may be tempted to install a dehumidifier to reduce overall air humidity in your home. However, this is not recommended because doing so will actually increase your energy consumption (and bills). Instead, install a dehumidifying heat pipe. This can be retrofit most existing a/c systems.
Follow these 5 tips to find an air conditioning unit that affords you greater efficiency.