The sweltering Texas summers mean investing in a replacement air conditioner takes some planning. A big part of that is assessing the total lifetime costs of a new air conditioner, not just the upfront purchase price.
With the right system, you’ll enjoy not only better climate control and lower energy bills, but also a longer system life span. Overall, it means greater comfort for a lot less money.
You probably realize choosing the cheapest model you find isn’t a great idea, but an air conditioner’s purchase price isn’t the only indication of how much it will cost you to own and operate. When evaluating the total cost your new system, there are several factors to consider. These include component quality and durability, maintenance requirements and energy efficiency.
While a well-made air conditioner costs more to buy than a cheaply made model, it will require fewer component repairs and replacements, as well as use less energy. What you invest in the higher purchase price will come back to you in the form of lower maintenance costs and lower energy bills. A higher priced system can actually cost less in the long run.
Greater Quality Means Better Performance and Less Maintenance
When you’re shopping around for a new air conditioner, start by looking at the brands that have a reputation for using quality components. Every component in the system plays into the lifetime costs of a new air conditioner. That corrosion-resistant all-aluminum evaporator coil doesn’t matter much if the compressor isn’t well made. These days, most well-made air conditioners include a two-stage compressor, which runs more efficiently, lasts longer and causes less frequent on-and-off cycling.
The durability of the components is another factor to look into. If the components are cheaply made or the system is poorly designed, the components are likely to wear out fast. Any money you saved buying a cheaper system goes out the window for replacement parts.
The warranty gives you a basic indication of how long the components should last. At the very least, the manufacturer should offer a 10-year limited warranty on internal components. A well-made air conditioner can perform efficiently for 15 to 20 years, but because cooling technology is constantly advancing, after 10 years, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a newer, better performing model.
Most of the things that can go wrong with an air conditioner don’t require completely replacing a component, but they still require attention from an air conditioning technician. In less reliable systems, copper tubing can leak refrigerant, the condenser fan can come out of balance, wires can work loose, and electrical terminals can corrode. The money you spend to have a technician come out and repair these issues increases the lifetime costs of a new air conditioner.
Greater Energy Efficiency Means Lower Cooling Bills
The less electricity your system uses, the less it costs you to operate. That makes energy efficiency one of the greatest influences on the lifetime costs of a new air conditioner. To determine an air conditioner’s efficiency, check its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER is a ratio of the system’s cooling output during an average season divided by the amount of electricity it uses to provide that cooling. A higher SEER means a more efficient system.
The minimum SEER legally allowed for newly manufactured air conditioners is 13, but to meet Energy Star standards, a split-system air conditioner must have a SEER of 14.5.
Given Texas’ high summer temperatures, though, these SEERs aren’t ideal. To stay cool efficiently in our climate, look for an air conditioner with a SEER of 16 or above. Today’s high-efficiency systems offer SEERs as high as 21. These are a smart choice if you live in an area such as San Antonio, where temperatures reach into the 90s and above for three or four months of the year.
SEER isn’t the only indication a system will run efficiently. The type of components used can also tell you a lot about how efficient a system will be. Look for features such as a thermal expansion valve (TXV), variable-speed compressor, fan-only switch and variable-speed blower motor.
Learn more about the lifetime costs of a new air conditioner, as well as Conditioned Air’s cooling solutions, or give us a call at (281) 561-6911 to make an appointment!
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