Are Newer AC Units More Energy Efficient?

picture of a newer energy efficient outdoor ac unit

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Holding onto your old air conditioner could cost you money every time you pay your energy bill.

We get it. Letting go of a faithful household appliance is tough sometimes. But older isn’t always better—and when talking about AC systems, older often equates to inefficient energy usage.

Are newer AC units more energy efficient? That’s the question we’re answering in this article.

Take a moment to learn more about what an energy-efficient unit could do for you and why you might want to consider installing a new AC system this year.

How the HVAC Industry Measures AC Efficiency

When buying a new AC unit, a homeowner’s most significant concerns are typically two things—installation costs and energy consumption. How well does a particular model work when cooling your home?

If you’ve done any research recently, you’ve likely noticed an array of brands offering a wide range of air conditioning systems. Choosing the right AC for your home can feel overwhelming. For starters, take a close look at efficiency ratings.

Energy Efficiency Ratings

Manufacturers rate AC unit efficiency by the number of British Thermal Units (BTU) the unit can remove for each watt of power it uses. All air conditioners receive a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER), and window AC units are assigned an EER rating.

To calculate SEER, you divide the amount of heat removed from a conditioned space during a period by the amount of electricity the unit consumes during a specific time frame.

Manufacturers put every model through various tests measuring how the unit performs in multiple temperatures to determine energy efficiency.

What Is an Acceptable SEER Rating?

Current Department of Energy (DOE) regulations require a minimum SEER of 13 for air conditioners manufactured in the US. Most HVAC systems today have a SEER rating between 13 and 21.

The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner. Most mini-split and central air conditioners have a SEER rating between 13 and 21. To qualify for the ENERGY STAR rating, AC units must have a SEER rating of 14.5.

If you buy a new AC after January 1, 2023, the minimum SEER increases by one point. In Southern California, minimum SEER ratings for all new AC units will increase from 14 to 15.

Despite the importance of SEER ratings, other variables impact efficiency when you buy a new AC. The size of your home, pre-existing ductwork, and humidity levels also affect AC efficiency.

Why Are Newer AC Units More Energy Efficient?

Modern air conditioning technology gives manufacturers an edge in designing AC systems that work more efficiently. Here are a few of the reasons why:

  • Better compressor design
  • Condenser and evaporator coils transfer more heat
  • Less blower motor maintenance
  • Less condenser fan motor maintenance
  • Improved programmable thermostats

Today’s compressors have fewer moving parts, and their parts aren’t as readily exposed to dirt and moisture. A better design doesn’t mean failproof, but fewer moving parts result in less energy use.

Larger coils complete the heat transfer process faster than the smaller ones found in older units. These two coils are the AC components that remove heat from your home.

Blower motors in newer AC units come with an improved housing design, which allows for more even airflow.

When you optimize airflow, the motor runs, which means the AC shouldn’t need to overwork to maintain comfortable temperatures. If the AC unit uses a digital ECM blower motor, the motor will run on DC voltage, resulting in better efficiency.

In the past, HVAC technicians physically added oil to AC motors. Newer AC units have sealed bearings and don’t require as much preventative maintenance.

Programmable thermostats have been around for many years, but the newer models are much more intuitive.

If you rush out of the house in the morning and remember later that you forgot to turn down the thermostat, don’t panic. With a Wi-Fi connection and a smart thermostat, you can simultaneously adjust the thermostat from anywhere and save energy.

Multi-Stage vs. Single-Stage AC Systems and Efficiency

You’ll have conversations about stages when you shop for a new AC unit involving single-stage, two-stage, multi-stage, and variable-speed AC systems.

Which one is more efficient? Let’s explore this further.

Single-Stage

Single-stage systems give you 100% power every time they turn on, which doesn’t help them operate as efficiently. That said, today’s minimum SEER standards still help single-stage systems run more efficiently than ones manufactured with SEER ratings between 8 and 10.

Two-Stage

Two-stage systems operate at roughly 70% capacity during the first stage, and in the second stage, they run at 100% capacity. Most of the time, the two-stage AC systems run in the first stage.

A two-stage system works well in a multi-level home with two thermostats or zoned cooling.

You set the first stage up to operate only when one floor needs heating and cooling. Then, you program the more energy-hungry second stage to turn on only if both zones need cool air.

Other Multi-Stage Options

You may notice some brands offer three- and five-stage systems. Like two-stage AC systems, these multi-stage options focus on preventing broad temperature swings. They may also dehumidify your space more efficiently.

Fully Variable Stage Systems

Variable-speed systems adjust their cooling capacity levels from 25% to 100% in 1% intervals. Fully variable speed AC systems not only keep temperature swings to a minimum but also do a fantastic job of dehumidification.

Precision is a leading feature of variable-stage AC systems. The fully variable systems can maintain indoor temperatures within half a degree of your desired temperature.

New AC Installation Cost

Most homeowners look at a new AC purchase as a significant investment. While it’s terrific if you can budget over time for a new system, planning is not always realistic, especially when you have a system breakdown in the middle of the summer.

Factors we’ve already mentioned determine cost. The size of the air conditioner your home requires, the SEER rating, and the price of additional ductwork (if needed) all drive costs. Due to various factors, it isn’t easy to pinpoint a generalized cost for new AC installation. Your HVAC technician considers all these factors and your budget when helping you choose a new AC.

Contact Home Comfort USA for Your New AC

If it’s time to say goodbye to an older AC unit, you can feel confident that while your older system was built strong, a new AC unit comes with a more innovative design. Are newer AC units the most efficient systems? We think so!

Newer AC systems help you keep your home comfortable and save money on energy costs.

The experts here at Home Comfort USA can help you choose the AC unit that runs most efficiently and saves you time and money on maintenance and repair.

Reach out today, and let’s get you back on the road to comfort.

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