Not As Cool As You Used To Be? Check Your Air Conditioner

How old is your air conditioner? With the advancements in technology and the recent green movement, your air conditioner may be behind the times. When, or if, a significant repair is needed and your A/C is more than eight years old, it may be more efficient to replace rather than repair.

Recent technology and eco-friendly advancements made mandatory by the industry, such as replacing ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon, have created more efficient, and ultimately cheaper, units. Replacing an old, inefficient unit can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars over its life span in cheaper electricity bills.

In 2006, federal law changed the minimum SEER standard from 10 to 13. (The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is the amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output.) Each SEER point above 10 represents a decrease in utility bills of 10 percent, meaning a jump from a 10 SEER unit to a 16 SEER unit equates to a 60 percent drop in bills.

Older air conditioners, those eight to ten years old, may be using double the energy that a new unit would. Even a cheaper, newer unit will use less energy than an older, inefficient, more expensive unit. While a new unit will cost a few thousand dollars up front, the price doesn’t seem so steep when you consider other factors such as tax breaks and lower electricity bills that accompany the purchase.

According to Ellis Guiles of TAG Mechanical in Syracuse, New York, “Your installer can run the numbers for you to see whether it’s worth the additional cost. If you’re south of the Mason Dixon line, certainly, you can make up those dollars pretty quickly.”

However, your current A/C unit may be just fine. It could be your home’s insulation and ductwork to blame for the inefficiencies. Hire a contractor to inspect the ductwork and insulation of your home for maximum efficiency. This inspection may find that your current unit can hold up for more time.

According to Pacific Gas & Electric, on average, 10-30 percent of air leaks through the ductwork before it reaches your living space. To test your system to see if a repair is necessary, have your technician run a duct-leakage test. If inefficiencies are found, you can make repairs for around $35 per vent or completely replace vents for around $100 each. These options may still be cheaper than entirely replacing your A/C unit.

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