How Do I Know It’s Time to Replace My AC System?
It’s that time of year again. Snow disappears, the days get longer, and the first signs of spring start to appear. If you are a homeowner in San Antonio, you know the hot summer is just around the corner. You may be starting to think about replacing an older air conditioning system or, at the very least, considering getting your current system checked out.
Our team at AiRCO Heating & Cooling understands that a new air conditioning system is a significant investment and wants to help you make the best decision for you and your family. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you make this choice.
Do I Really Need a New Air Conditioner?
It’s always a wise idea to think carefully about a major purchase like an air conditioning system. The answer to this question will depend on your tolerance for heat, the age of your current system, and your other financial obligations.
Most air conditioners have a life span of 10 to 15 years when well maintained, and if your system is in this age range and you are beginning to experience problems, it may be a good time to invest in a new air conditioner. Remember that you will recoup some of your investment through lower energy bills and the elimination, or at least minimization, of repairs with a new system.
Have My Cooling Needs Changed?
If you are planning on replacing your air conditioning system, be sure to think about whether your cooling capacity needs have changed since your old air conditioner was installed.
An improperly sized system will introduce long-term problems. If you choose an air conditioner that’s too small for your space, it will be continually running and unable to keep up with your cooling needs on the hottest days.
On the other hand, if your air conditioner is too large, your system will cycle on and off too frequently. This will increase the wear-and-tear of your whole system, and you will waste a fair amount of energy.
Although simple formulas are available for calculating your air conditioning needs, a professional calculation process like the ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) Manual J calculation performed by a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional will provide you with very specific and accurate sizing. Manual J takes into account things like vaulted ceilings, window and door placement, unique building materials, and occupation patterns.
What Are Other Alternatives?
While nothing cools down your house quite as quickly as a new, properly sized air conditioning system, there are many things you can do to help keep the heat out. These steps can be taken to help you save energy while your air conditioning system is running—or to simply cope with moderately warm days.
Remember to do basic things like block the sunlight on your east-facing windows in the morning and on your west-facing windows in the afternoon. If nighttime temperatures are low, you can keep your windows open and use fans to draw the cool night air into your home. Then before the day heats up, close those windows to keep all that cool air trapped inside.
You can also consider boosting your insulation, planting shade trees near your home, installing a whole-house fan, or even simply getting by with a window air conditioner in your main living space.
Should I Replace My Furnace at the Same Time?
In some cases, you may want to replace your furnace and air conditioning equipment at the same time. This usually makes the most sense if your HVAC system is installed in such a way that requires you to move your furnace to access your air conditioner, and if your furnace is more than 15 years old. Remember that a furnace typically lasts longer than an air conditioner.
If you are considering buying a high-efficiency air conditioning system, it may also make sense to replace your furnace at the same time. When you purchase a high-efficiency system, you will experience efficiency savings, according to ENERGY STAR®, which can be upwards of 20 percent. This can be attributed to the variable-speed motor in your high-efficiency furnace that’s used for both your furnace and air conditioning.
In homes where the furnace is less than 15 years old or easily accessible, it probably makes more sense to wait until the next time you need to replace your air conditioner.