Energy Saving Air Conditioners Energy Saving Air Conditioners
Do you cringe each time you get the electric bill in the mail? Does it feel like between the excessive heating bill in the winter and the incredible electric bill in the summer, there’s no off season for your wallet?
It could be that your old window air conditioning unit or central air conditioner is in need of replacing. If you have central air and both your heating and cooling bills are high, that is definitely a sign that the unit may not be working as efficiently as it should.
But before you take on the extra added cost of replacing your furnace and central air unit, do some preventative maintenance around your home. Look for places cool air can leak out. Poor window seals, gaps in the walls, and missing outlet plates are all places cool or warm air can escape your home. Get a detailed list of things to check and repair for do-it-yourself home energy audit.
Once you’ve checked all the usual suspects, it may come down to replacing your air conditioning unit or furnace.
Replacing an old, inefficient window unit air conditioner isn’t hard, but you have to know what to look for in terms of a replacement. For instance, every window unit air conditioner has a yellow tag attached to it. That tag has the unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) listed on it. The SEER is the seasonal output, measured by calculating the BTUs divided by the watt hours used during an averaged climate temperature. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the air conditioner will be. Although you can expect a unit with a higher SEER to be more expensive than a lower rated model, the savings you’ll receive over the next few years will greatly outweigh the initial cost increase.
When shopping for a window unit, don’t get the SEER confused with the air conditioner’s BTUs. The BTUs are a measurement to calculate how much hot air the unit can remove from the room in an hour’s time. That’s why the calculation is in BTUs/hr.
Central air conditioners also have a SEER, but it’s usually listed on the unit’s fact sheet rather than on a tag. In many areas, you can get a substantial refund from the electric or gas company when you upgrade to an energy efficient furnace-- sometimes up to $500. Call your utility companies for more information.
Depending on when your house was built, the central air conditioning that was installed may actually be oversized. It was common at one time to install units that were 10 to 50% larger than necessary. But more recent studies show that you will get more comfortable conditions at a better efficiency if the unit is sized 10% less than what the home calls for. A good contractor will match your home with the properly sized central air conditioner/furnace.
When replacing an interior furnace, the outside condensing coils should be replaced as well. This will provide the best efficiency for the unit. You also want to ensure that the compressor is located on the north side of the house. If that’s not possible, place it in a well-shaded area. Too much direct sunlight hitting the compressor can diminish the efficiency of the unit. Likewise, keep the area around the compressor clean from debris, weeds, and high grass, as they can all decrease the unit’s efficiency.
Lastly, with a new central air conditioning unit installed, you should initially set the temperature controlled thermostat to somewhere around 76 degrees. Test it and see if you feel comfortable, then adjust it to your desired temperature. For each degree you lower your temperature in the summer, your energy consumption rises about 4 percent.
Replacing your old window unit with an energy efficient model, while slightly more expensive up front, can save you quite a bit over the upcoming months. With a new central air/furnace, you can expect a noticeable difference in your utility bills every month of the year! You’ll save money, be more comfortable than before and make the planet a healthier place to live.
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