Air Conditioning Overview
When the mercury’s maxing out and the humidity leaves you wringing wet, that’s when you really appreciate being able to walk into a cool, comfortable, air-conditioned room.
And finding an air conditioning system that’s right for your home… that will cool the rooms evenly and quietly… that will provide the highest efficiency for your space… and that will pay back your investment with energy savings over time…
Well, that’s going to take a little more than walking into an appliance store and perusing brands.
Whether you’re replacing an older air conditioner, or purchasing a central air conditioning system for a newly-constructed home, you’ll want to begin by looking at both size and efficiency ratings when comparing models.
There are several other factors to consider as well, such as ducting, the square footage to be covered, sun exposure, ceiling height and more. So before making a purchase its best to consult a knowledgeable, certified technician to make sure you get exactly what you need in an air-conditioning system – no more, no less.
For now, let’s look at how to judge the SEER efficiency of any unit you may be considering.
What is SEER?
This rating denotes the difference between an air-conditioner's size and its efficiency rating. For instance, a 3-ton air conditioner with an SEER rating of 8 will cool at roughly the same rate as a 3-ton air conditioner with an SEER rating of 12. However, the 12-SEER unit will use less energy to do the same amount of work.
To put it another way, the SEER rating on an air conditioning system is similar to the MPG rating on a car, while the size of the air conditioner is similar to the amount of horsepower the car produces.
Why is the SEER rating important?
The higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently your air conditioning unit will use energy to do its job, which, over the life of the system can amount to substantial savings.
Below are descriptions of air conditioners of various SEER levels, including their advantages and disadvantages. Any brand you choose will fall into one of these categories:
20-SEER air conditioners and heat pumps
Advantages: When you want the greatest energy savings, and even cooling throughout your home (especially if you have a larger home) 20-SEER air-conditioners and heat pumps provide "5-star" service all the way.
These units offer the highest level of efficiency and comfort –saving you up 60% on your cooling energy usage over a standard air conditioning system. The 20-SEER has a two-stage cooling system which operates on low stage (at 50% of capacity) on most days, and automatically shifts to high stage (at 100% capacity) on hot days.
Along with the two stage system, 20-SEER air conditioners and heat pumps have a variable-speed fan motor, which contributes to their high efficiency. An additional important feature is the charge assist. This component takes the human error out of the service process because of the computer data gathered and retrieved from the charge assist. These units are known for providing quiet, reliable and durable service for up to 15 years or more.
Disadvantages: 20 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps are large and heavy and highly technical. Anyone other than a certified technician should not work on these units. For highest efficiency these units should be paired with a communicating, variable speed furnace and matching coil.
16-SEER air conditioners and heat pumps
Advantages: 16 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps also provide two-stage operation, making them more efficient that most single-stage systems (up to 56% higher). These units have a double spin fin, which transfers the air twice as fast, and in return allows the units to run efficiently over a longer time. These air conditioning systems operates at 70% capacity on the lower stage, and shift to 100% capacity on hot days.
Like the 20-SEER, you’ll receive quiet, reliable cooling for years -- with slightly less efficiency and a smaller price tag.
Because of the high efficiency and lower up-front costs, 16 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps are our most requested models.
Disadvantages: These units are also large and heavy, and should not be worked on by anyone other than certified technician. For highest efficiency these units should be paired with a variable speed furnace and matching coil.
15 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps
Advantages: When you want good efficiency at lower cost, look to 15 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps. In fact, they have the lowest cost of operation among single-stage units. These models offer up to 50% higher efficiency than a standard air conditioner, and provide the quietest operation of any single-stage unit on the market today. Because of their price (only slightly higher than a standard air conditioner), and added efficiency, 15 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps are also very popular units, running a close second to the 16 SEER units. Disadvantages: 15 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps are single-stage systems, which are not as efficient as two-stage units.
14 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps
Advantages: If you’re looking for an air conditioner that’s affordable, but more efficient than your basic air conditioner, 14 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps just may be the ticket. Like the 15 SEER, these units provide added efficiency at an affordable price (up to 47% higher), and long-lasting durability. Disadvantages: 14 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps are also single-stage units, so they’re not as efficient as the higher SEER units. They are slightly higher to operate than a standard air conditioner. As the federal government changes mandates for minimal efficiency for home appliances, this level of efficiency may be eliminated.
13 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps
Advantages: When budget is a consideration, 13 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps will provide long-lasting reliability and peace of mind. As our most economical models, these units excel in affordability and simplicity. Disadvantages: 13 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps are single-stage units which is not as efficient as higher SEER models. Federal tax credits available for higher SEER models are not available for this model. This fact alone may make a higher SEER model a better purchase in the long run. As the federal government changes mandates for minimal efficiency for home appliances, this level of efficiency will almost certainly be eliminated.
Again, we stress that before making a decision on which air conditioning system to purchase, consult a reputable air conditioning company. They can help you arrive at a final value after taking tax credits, savings on monthly fuel bills, equipment longevity and other considerations into account.
Call us at 816-224-3434 for a no-cost, no-obligation home inspection and air conditioning consultation to make sure you get the right system for your needs.
Available only from All Right Heating & Cooling LLC, preferred contractorof Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) and Missouri Gas Energy (MGE).
*Potential energy savings comparing an 16-SEER system. Actual energy savings will vary.