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If you're tired of paying a lot for cooling system maintenance, invest in a high-efficiency air conditioner. New models often are twice as efficient as 10-year-old models. Look for an air conditioner with a high SEER rating, a measure for efficiency.
To help regulate the climate in your home, look for new models of air conditioners that offer two-stage cooling. Two-stage cooling is not only quieter and more comfortable, it can save energy and money, compared to conventional, single-stage units.
Upgrade to a new cooling system if your current equipment is more than 12 years old. Older models often are oversized, noisier and inefficient.
Central air conditioners, like any appliance, sometimes need regular maintenance to perform at peak efficiently. The system may need to be tweaked or cleaned, and not require major repairs. You can do some of the simple maintenance yourself. Keep your owner's manual handy, and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Here are a few simple steps to remember for optimum performance:
- To clean your central air conditioner, you need to turn off power to the unit. There should be a switch outdoors next to the compressor.
- Next, vacuum or use a soft brush to rid the outdoor coil of dirt, debris and grass clippings.
- Inspect the filters on your air handler, or furnace. If they look dirty, you will need to replace or clean them, based on the manufacturer's instructions. The air handler moves heated or cooled air through the ductwork of your home.
- Clean and oil the indoor furnace fan, or air handler fan. Also clean the fan on the outdoor unit. Again, check the manufacturer's instructions in your owner's manual.
- Keep furniture and rugs away from the vents to get proper airflow. If airflow is blocked, it can damage the compressor.
It makes sense to know how a cooling system works. Understanding basic functions of central air conditioners help you make better choices when purchasing and maintaining them. They cool, clean and circulate the air.
Central air conditioners remove heat and dehumidify, or take away moisture from the air. They also have air filters for removing dust and other particles. Warm indoor air passes over a very cold coil that removes the heat and moisture. Lowering the humidity level makes the air temperature more comfortable. Moisture removed from the air collects in a pan underneath the indoor coil, and is sent to a house drain. The unit's blower circulates the air, while refrigerant inside the coil cools it, and the outdoor compressor transfers heat from inside the home to the outside.
If you have an older central air conditioner that does not cool well, it may be time to replace it. Central air conditioners generally last about 15 years, though newer ones may have a longer service life. The costs for cooling system maintenance can add up, especially with older models. Here are questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to invest in a new central air conditioner:
1.) Is the air conditioner requiring frequent repairs, making it less cost-efficient?
2.) Do you need to replace costly major components, such as the compressor?
3.) Will it be more affordable in the long run to replace your old system with a more efficient unit that will lower your monthly electricity costs?
4.) Is your warranty still good? Ask the manufacturer. Warranties generally vary from one year for parts and labor to five years for compressor replacement. But some manufacturers now offer 10-year warranties.
How much it costs to install your new central air conditioner is determined after an inspection of your home. As a consumer, it makes sense to know the factors that influence installation and operating costs.
- The installer first will need to check your furnace to see if the ductwork has to be upgraded or modified.
- The installer also will look at your home's electric service to ensure it can handle the increased load of the central air conditioner.
- If you are replacing an existing air conditioner, ask for a new indoor coil that matches the new outdoor unit. If the existing coil is not replaced, your unit will be less efficient and your electricity costs will be higher.
You are buying a central air conditioner to stay cool. The air conditioner unit also needs to stay cool to function properly.
- Make sure your contractor installs the outside compressor in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight.
- Keep the outdoor unit away from shrubs, so that it can emit "waste" heat. If anything blocks the unit, it cannot dissipate heat effectively, forcing the unit to work harder.
- The outdoor unit makes noise when it runs, so place it away from bedroom windows and away from neighboring homes, where its operating sounds can't be heard.
Do you need to wear a sweater in your air-conditioned home? The central air conditioner may feel great on very hot days, but chilly and uncomfortable on mild days. An innovation in central air conditioning alleviates the problem. Two-stage cooling provides two levels of output for better temperature control and indoor air quality. The outdoor unit, or compressor, handles the two-stage cooling, running at a low setting most of the time, which should be enough to meet routine household demands.
Size matters when choosing a central air conditioner. The system's size determines how well it will cool your square footage. You will need to work with the dealer or service contractor to choose an air conditioner size to meet the cooling demands of your home.
If you buy a central air conditioner that is too large, it will drive up the purchase cost, cycle on and off too frequently, and decrease efficiency. An undersized air conditioner will not cool adequately, especially on very hot days.
Before your new cooling system is installed, the service contractor will do a thorough analysis of the cooling capacity needs of your home. Make sure that a recognized sizing method is used to calculate your home's "cooling load capacity," and not just a hunch or estimation.
Invest in a central air conditioner that uses nonpolluting R410A refrigerant. The new refrigerant replaces chlorine-based Freon that the EPA is phasing out, because it depletes the earth's ozone. Buying an AC that handles the EPA-approved refrigerant will save you on operating costs down the road when chlorine-based refrigerants are pulled off the market.
Innovations in compressors and refrigerant flow result in high-efficiency air conditioners that save money and provide a more comfortable indoor climate.