When you think about your HVAC system, do you only think about how cool (or toasty) it keeps you when you need it? Or do you also think about its declining health, inevitable death, and the effect it has on the environment? The average HVAC system lasts anywhere between 10–30 years, and that depends on many things: the climate you live in, how cool you like it in the summers (68º and 72º are farther apart than you’d think), how well your system has been maintained, and so much more.
The standard is to replace your central air conditioner or furnace whenever one of them dies. And it’s no wonder: buying and installing a new furnace or air conditioner is extremely expensive.
But there’s another option: replace your whole system every 15 or so years. In today’s article, we’ll talk more about why that’s not as crazy of an idea as it sounds.
Note that we’re going to focus on air conditioners in this article, but the same information applies to furnaces. We are also only going to talk about central, ducted HVAC systems.
A Note on A/C Efficiency Over Time
Efficiency is probably the number-one factor you should consider when looking at air conditioners. High-efficiency air conditioners will do a great job of cooling while remaining affordable to run. Low-efficiency units, on the other hand, don’t make use of some of the energy that’s used to power them, effectively wasting it.
The efficiency of an A/C unit is measured by its SEER rating, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. To put it simply, SEER is a ratio of how much a unit cools over a year divided by how much energy it takes to power that cooling. The higher the SEER ratio, the more efficient the unit.
There are both federally and EPA-mandated SEER minimums. The federal minimums must be met by manufacturers. The EPA minimums are not required, but qualifying machinery receives an Energy Star certification, which marks it as roughly 25% more efficient than the current federal minimum.
According to Wikipedia, the federal SEER minimum in 1992 was 10. In 2016, the minimum rose to 13. It rose again to 14 in 2015. It is this gradual growth in minimum that’s the basis for our article today.
You’ll Save a Lot of Money
There is a considerable opportunity to save money by upgrading to an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating. If, in 2006 when the federal SEER minimum rose to 13, you upgraded your 10-SEER unit to a 13-SEER one, you would have saved a lot of money over the course of 15 years. That’s using data from Lexington, KY, where electricity costs $0.1028 kw/h on average, and where air conditioners only run about 1080 hours a year. The more you run your HVAC system, the more you save.
Air conditioners are getting more efficient fast, and if you make a significant upgrade, say, from a 10-SEER unit to the Trane XV18 Variable Speed unit that’s featured on our website (which has a SEER rating of 18), you would save around over half of the cost of the average A/C installation!
But if you went even further and upgraded to a 22-SEER unit like the SV20i TruComfort™ Variable Speed, you would save even more over 15 years.
There are also rebates available for installing energy-efficient HVAC systems, saving you even more money.
When you consider that new advances are constantly made in the HVAC world, it makes sense why you’d consider upgrading every 15 years. But that’s not the only reason.
You’ll Avoid Emergency Replacement
One of the best things you get from upgrading your HVAC system on a schedule is peace of mind. Though it’s possible your A/C unit will die after 10-15 years, with proper maintenance it will almost certainly make it to 15. After that, though, it will be at constant risk of failing, even with regular maintenance and upkeep. By not waiting until it breaks, you’ll get to replace it on your own time. You won’t have to pay a premium for emergency service, and you won’t have to sit in a sweltering house while you sort out the details. It’s much easier to arrange a stay at grandma’s when you can give a few days of notice.
You’ll Help the Environment
If you care at all about the environment, you should look into a high-SEER air conditioning unit. Not only does a good SEER rating save you money, it also cuts way back on your carbon footprint.
Put simply, the less electricity you use to cool your home, the less energy power plants have to generate to cool your home, and the less pollution is created.
Call Steve’s Heating for Your Next High-SEER Installation
If you’re in the market for a higher-SEER air conditioner, give Steve’s Heating a call. Our experts will work with you to find an HVAC system that’s perfect for your home and family.