Buying a new air conditioner, either for installation in a new home or as an upgrade to an existing cooling system, can seem like a significant investment. Before making a purchase of a new HVAC system that you’ll be relying on for years to come, it’s important to understand what you’re buying and what you can expect from the system over time.
Evaluating the initial investment and the lifetime costs of an HVAC upgrade can help you understand what you’re paying for, how the investment will pay for itself, and what you can expect in terms of costs over the lifetime of the equipment.
Initial HVAC Installation
First costs are those expenditures associated with your initial investment in an air conditioning system. These costs are necessary to purchase the equipment, get it installed, and ensure it works properly. First costs can vary significantly depending on factors such as the following:
Equipment quality – Lower-quality equipment will normally cost less than comparable higher-quality equipment. However, if you buy a low-quality home cooling system, you can expect that it won’t work as well or last as long as a high-quality model. Low-quality equipment will need more frequent repairs, as it’s likely to break down more often. It’s also more likely that you’ll have to replace a low-quality system sooner than a high-quality one. In most cases, the reliability and longevity of the system justifies the investment in high-quality equipment.
Energy efficiency – Energy efficiency affects how much energy your A/C uses to produce cooling and, as a consequence, how much it costs each month to keep your home at the temperature you prefer. Air conditioners with higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings will cost less to run and will produce excellent levels of indoor cooling. A/C systems with SEER numbers of 18 or higher are generally considered high-efficiency models.
Brand name – A brand-name cooling system will often cost more than one with a lesser-known brand. Often brand-name equipment is backed up by a company’s reputation for quality, reliability and service. On the other hand, equipment from lesser-known companies can be just as good as equipment from well-known manufacturers. Consult with your local trusted air conditioning contractor on this issue.
Installation quality – Air conditioning equipment must be installed properly to ensure that the system works properly and safely. Air conditioning systems require attention to factors such as the amount of refrigerant they contain and the orientation of the equipment. In many cases, installation is included in the purchase price of the equipment. If not, it’s often a good idea to pay for a professional installation.
The lifetime costs of an HVAC upgrade are those costs associated with keeping the system running properly, reliably, and at the expected level of efficiency. They include anything you have to spend on the cooling system from the moment it’s first turned on to the time it’s replaced with another system. You can expect lifetime costs to include the following:
Monthly operating expenses – An air conditioning system needs electrical energy to run, so you can expect a certain monthly cost to keep your cooling equipment functioning. High-efficiency HVACs will normally cost much less to operate on a month-to-month basis than lower-efficiency units. Operating costs can also be affected by the cost of energy in your area of the country.
Preventive maintenance –Preventive maintenance is necessary to keep the HVAC working properly and to prevent costly breakdowns. Cooling systems should receive professional maintenance at least once per year. Maintenance should include a full system inspection, necessary adjustments and minor repairs. Maintenance costs can be offset in some cases by purchasing a maintenance plan from your local HVAC services provider.
Repair – Any HVAC system will eventually break down and need repair. It’s important to consider the possibility of repairs while evaluating lifetime costs of an HVAC upgrade.
Supplies – Some supplies will be necessary to keep your HVAC running properly. These include air filters, refrigerant and small system components that can be easily replaced. Air filters should be replaced when they get dirty, which could mean frequent replacements depending on the air quality inside your home.
Learn more about lifetime costs of an HVAC upgrade, as well as Air Specialty’s air conditioning solutions, or give us a call at 251-545-3337.
A heat pump is an excellent option for home comfort management in the Mobile area. Because winters are mild, a heat pump can provide safe and effective heating during the winter and cooling during the summer. As you begin to look at new systems, read through the following five features in order to help you assess your needs and options.
1. Efficiency Ratings
A heat pump is rated for both heating and cooling efficiency. You will find that high-performance units take today’s efficiency levels to new heights. Cooling efficiency is identified as SEER, the seasonal energy efficiency ratio. In 2006, this was raised from 10 to 13 as a minimum requirement in newly manufactured equipment. Effective in January 2015, the minimum SEER in new systems for areas other than the northern region of the country was raised to 14. Similarly, the minimum HSPF, heating seasonal performance factor, has increased from 7.7 to 8.2. Budget-friendly units are available at the lower end of this rating spectrum. However, high-performance pump systems offer more than 20 SEER and 13 HSPF. As you make a decision about your next system, you will want to balance your desire for energy efficiency with your budget for new equipment.
2. Compatibility for Hybrid Heating
Natural gas is used for heating nearly one-third of Alabama homes. Although average lows are in the 40s during the winter, record lows have dropped to sub-zero levels. On these rare occasions, an air-source pump system may struggle to efficiently heat. Combing the pump system with a compatible furnace can be ideal for ensuring the most efficient heating source based on the outside conditions. If you have a furnace, you may want to consider heat pump installation as part of a hybrid heating configuration.
3. Indoor Air Quality
Living near the Gulf Coast, you may struggle with humidity levels inside your home. Even during the winter months, outside humidity levels exceed 60 percent. Recommended indoor humidity is between 30 and 50 percent, but a moist climate makes it difficult to mitigate high levels. Humid air will make you feel warmer and more uncomfortable. You’ll also find that a humid home can create problems with mold and mildew. Health and your quality of life can be affected by poor indoor air quality because of excessive moisture.
Your cooling system provides dehumidification activity, important for drawing moisture from your indoor air supply. Unfortunately, it is impractical to operate your cooling equipment when temperatures are mild. As you research new pump systems, you will want to investigate those options that include enhanced dehumidification solutions. Systems like the Infinity 20 from Carrier provide optimum dehumidification, using lower speeds to minimize cooling activity while maximizing the removal of moisture from the indoor environment. This allows you to gain greater control over your home’s air quality.
4. Adaptive Technology
Older systems tend to operate at set output levels, making it difficult to achieve the ideal comfort level in a home. Temperature levels are registered at the thermostat, and hot or cold air is distributed until this level is reached. In many cases, portions of a home will experience major temperature changes between system cycling. However, pump systems with adaptive technology can adjust based on indoor conditions, adjusting fan and compressor speeds to ensure that output is only as much as needed. The Infinity 20 system, for example, can range from 40 to 100 percent, providing only as much heating or cooling as needed. Not only does this ensure optimum comfort, but it also allows for more efficient use of energy. Further, you may experience fewer heat pump repairs because of less intense equipment activity.
5. Life Expectancy of a System
As you think about a new heat pump installation, you may want to compare the remaining life of your existing equipment to the potential benefits of a new unit. You can expect a new unit to last for nearly 15 years, especially if the unit has been carefully maintained. If you are experiencing more frequent heat pump repair needs in spite of good maintenance, a new unit may save you from expensive future repairs.
If you considering a heat pump or want to find out how a heat pump would work in your home, call Air-Specialty.