About three-quarters of all homes in the US have air conditioners, accounting for 6% of…
If you’re facing an A/C replacement, you have a lot to think about. You may be worried about the cost of a new air conditioner. On the other hand, today’s highly efficient air conditioners deliver greater comfort while consuming less energy than in the past. Many technological innovations in air conditioning have been introduced over the past decade, so you may be unsure which way to go. One way is to compare the upfront cost of the air conditioner with lifetime costs.
When you think of lifetime costs, you might think in terms of a car. How much will it cost you in gas to run the car for all the years you drive it? How often will it break down? How much will parts and repairs cost? These are lifetime costs, and when you’re investing in an air conditioner, there are similar factors to consider. How much gas or electricity will it take to run it so your home is comfortable? Is it a reputable brand with a good record for longevity and ease of maintenance and repair? Are parts and supplies likely to remain available at a reasonable price?
As with any equipment you buy, a low price point shouldn’t be the only factor you consider. That deal you thought you were getting by paying less upfront may not be such a great thing down the road when the system starts to break down or doesn’t do the job you hoped it would do.
The old adage, “you get what you pay for” can certainly be true when it comes to air conditioners. Generally, the more you pay, the better the equipment, and the higher its efficiency and the lower your bills and maintenance costs during the lifetime of the equipment. It’s also true that the less you pay, the less efficiency you can expect and the higher the utility bills. This equipment is also more likely to break down and need more repairs than better quality equipment. A few years after you purchase that deal, you may be wondering where your so-called savings went.
Your HVAC consultant can provide the numbers for you on projected lifetime costs for an A/C replacement. Then you can calculate the estimated return on investment (ROI) by comparing the cost of the equipment installation to lifetime costs.
The factors your consultant will use to determine lifetime costs include:
- Quality manufacturing and parts – An A/C usually cost more if it’s manufactured according to higher standards and its components are better. A good quality air conditioner will include features such as a two-stage compressor, which ensures lower energy use, less cycling on and off and durability.
- Maintenance – Although some maintenance will always be necessary no matter how good the system is, you’ll need a lot less with a quality system. More efficient systems cycle less, so there’s less wear on parts and therefore fewer replacements. The parts are made to be more durable, so they’ll hold up longer.
- Energy savings – Air conditioners are rated by their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The SEERs of today’s air conditioners are significantly higher than just a decade ago. A homeowner replacing a 10-year-old A/C with a new, efficient model may realize energy savings of 30 to 50 percent. That’s because today’s cooling system parts are designed to be more efficient.
Bear in mind that one important factor in both upfront costs, as well as lifetime costs, will be the size of the A/C replacement. Size should be determined by industry software, not guesswork. Too small of a system will run continuously and struggle to cool, while an oversized system will cycle on and off, wearing out equipment and not cooling properly.