Saving a Buck or Two

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June Gloom is just a fading memory, and summer has finally arrived. Have you received your latest electric bill? I hope you were sitting down.

As electric rates continue to climb, what can you do to keep your bill from increasing? One sure way is to replace your old air conditioning system with a new, high-efficiency system. Please note the use of the term “system” as there will be a quiz at the end.

Like other appliances that use electricity, air conditioning systems are categorized by how much electricity they use. The rating used to determine the efficiency of an air conditioning unit is known as the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating.

A unit with a higher SEER rating will use less electricity than a unit with a lower rating, when matched with proper components. This roughly translates into a saving of about $10 per month of use for an increase in each SEER point.

Let’s say that you now own an 8-SEER system that was installed in the 1980s. A new 10-SEER system will cost about $20 less per month to operate than your old 8-SEER system. A new 13-SEER system will cost approximately $50 less per month, and a 15-SEER unit will cost about $70 less …. for every month of use.

Currently, the minimum rating that can be installed is 10 SEER. However, beginning January 23, 2006, new federal regulations will require a minimum rating of 13 SEER. It will be acceptable to install equipment that is less than 13 SEER as long as it was manufactured before the deadline. But why would you even consider doing that?

Now, let’s get back to the term “system.” A system simply means matched components. Installing a new, high-efficiency air conditioning condenser alone, without replacing the other components such as the cooling coil and the furnace, will not guarantee the efficiency rating of the new condenser and will probably eliminate the possibility of getting a rebate from the utility companies.

I hope this information will prevent you from being fooled into thinking that installing a new, high-efficiency condenser alone will save you the money that you had hoped.

Jim Berry was a heating and air conditioning service technician prior to becoming a Sales Consultant for Kahn Air Conditioning. Kahn hosts free monthly workshops to help homeowners learn more about heating and cooling systems.
For questions regarding heating or air conditioning, send an e-mail to Jim at jberry@kahnair.com.