Replacing an air conditioner is one of the biggest investments you'll make in your home, beyond the original purchase of the house. Since it's an investment you're likely to live with for 20 years or more, it's important that you carefully consider which A/C equipment will give you the best overall value for your money. A good way to evaluate a potential purchase is to consider the lifetime costs of the equipment.
What Are Lifetime Costs?
The lifetime costs of an air conditioner include not only the price that you pay to buy and install the equipment, but also the costs to run the system once it's in place. These include the cost of energy to run the air conditioner, routine maintenance expenses, and major repair costs when components fail and need to be replaced. While it may be tempting to buy the equipment with the lowest price tag, you may end up spending more for that system over the next 20 years than you would if you invested in a more expensive, higher quality system at the start.
The quality of equipment you buy when replacing an air conditioner is often reflected in the upfront cost of the system. As you consider different air conditioners, you'll find that the cost goes up as the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) goes up. In general, more efficient units are built with more expensive materials and components than less efficient cooling systems. Higher quality engineering and manufacturing practices require higher retail prices for the equipment, but that extra cost is often returned many times over in lower lifetime operating costs.
A more expensive air conditioner built to higher specifications than a cheaper unit will require fewer expensive repairs over its lifetime. By spending more money upfront for long-term reliability, your family won't have to endure as many equipment failures on hot summer days and your budget won't be broken by unexpected repair or replacement of major components.
Many more expensive high-efficiency air conditioners have features like two-speed compressors and variable-speed air handlers that provide effective cooling while putting less strain on the equipment. Equipment that runs for longer intervals at slower speeds puts less strain on moving parts, consumes less energy and provides more even home comfort than less expensive models that use older, less sophisticated technology with frequent on/off cycles.
Routine maintenance costs of more expensive equipment tend to be lower than maintenance costs of cheaper models. When you're replacing an air conditioner, talk with your HVAC technician about his experience with various manufacturers and A/C models. A quality cooling system should require little more than a routine annual maintenance check and regular air filter changes to keep it running smoothly for many years.
Replacing an air conditioner with a new model with a high SEER rating will result in far lower lifetime energy costs than a lower efficiency unit. Better coils, variable-speed motors and two-speed compressors all contribute to higher energy efficiency, but they come with a higher upfront cost than lower SEER rating models.
Even though we're in a period of relatively stable energy prices, the difference in energy costs between a highly efficient A/C system and a lower-efficiency system are enough to more than pay back the difference in initial cost over the life of the equipment. If energy prices rise over the next couple of decades, the lifetime cost advantage of higher efficiency equipment will become even more apparent.
One thing to consider while you're replacing an air conditioner is investing some time and money in making your house more energy efficient than it is today. By spending a little money on sealing air leaks, repairing ductwork and upgrading insulation, you may be able to reduce your home's cooling load enough to buy a smaller air conditioner to keep your home comfortable, which would reduce lifetime cooling costs even more.
If you're considering replacing an air conditioner, learn more about McWilliams & Son Heating and Air Conditioning's cooling services, or contact us today at 936-465-9191 to schedule a visit to your Lufkin area home.