The major driver behind the price you pay for an air conditioning and heating system is based on efficiency Energy efficiency is measured by SEER ratings (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The higher the SEER, the more efficient the system, with SEER ratings higher than 16 being considered high efficiency.
What are your available options today?
1. Room air conditioners or window units – These give you cool air and are relatively inexpensive to purchase; however, they tend to have higher total costs of ownership over the life of the system because they are the least efficient choice resulting in higher energy bills. Similarly, they are not subject to the minimum energy standards that central air conditioning units must abide. This means they end up being less environmentally friendly.
2. Repairing existing <16 SEER system – Depending on the age and condition of your existing system it might be most economical to simply invest in minor repairs rather than replace the whole thing. Repairing will give you the same basic cooling you were experiencing before at the same energy cost.
3. Ductless mini-splits –These are good, energy efficient options for add-on rooms or small spaces that do not have duct work. If you have existing ductwork, going to a ductless system will mean you have to abandon all your old ductwork and install new refrigerant lines to some new in-room systems. This can add considerable cost and when attempting to use ductless systems throughout an entire home can create other potential issues.
4. High efficiency (>16 SEER) system – High efficiency systems will feature variable capacity cooling options which will not only save you money on energy costs, but can make your home more comfortable as well. They have a higher upfront cost, but can have a lower total cost of ownership over the life of the system. Talk to a contractor for a detailed recommendation.
5. Geothermal Systems – Geothermal systems provide the best energy efficiency and savings on the market today. These systems use the earth’s constant temperature to heat and cool your home instead of having to transfer hot or cold air using the variable outdoor temperatures. Because the ground under your space is at a constant temperature year-round it can be more quickly and easily transferred to your home regardless of the season. The initial cost involved is higher because you have to install a heat exchanger deep in the ground around your home. This added investment can really pay off if you plan to stay in the home for more than five years and want consistent energy costs. Because it uses so little energy it is also the most environmentally friendly solution.
Behind the Scenes: How Your Air Conditioner Works