It’s hard to think positively when you’re sweltering in 100-degree temperatures and your air conditioner suddenly and unexpectedly crashes. Before calling a contractor and replacing your broken unit with just “any old AC,” be sure to make a wise choice.
Up your efficiency and get credit
Replacing an old, inefficient AC unit will offer you some perks, according to ENERGY STAR®, especially if your old air conditioning unit was more than 12 years old. Because ENERGY STAR models are about 14 percent more efficient than other models, you will cut your cooling costs by about 30 percent by choosing an ENERGY STAR model. In addition, you can qualify for a $300 federal tax credit and possibly qualify for a rebate from your electric cooperative (check before purchasing to be sure the unit you are considering qualifies).
Don’t automatically replace with the same size
Consumer Reports cautions that you need to consider changes you’ve made to your home since you installed your last air conditioning unit. If you’ve insulated or upgraded your windows and doors, for example, you may need a smaller unit because your home is more energy efficient. If you’ve remodeled and added a room, you may need a larger unit to cool the enlarged area.
The only way to tell is to have a knowledgeable contractor do a Manual J calculation. Your contractor should also evaluate your ductwork at the same time to determine if ducts need to be sealed, insulated, added on to, or even replaced.
Take the next step
According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), your indoor and outdoor units must match. The refrigerant controls for new condenser units are incompatible with pre-2006 indoor units. Connecting the two can lead to low efficiency and premature failure of the new compressor. Because the blower for your central air unit is on your furnace, ENERGY STAR recommends that if your furnace is 15+ years old, that you replace the furnace and air conditioner at the same time.
As you look at new units, consider going to a heat pump, either air source or ground source. There are additional tax credits on your federal and state income taxes, and rebates from your electric cooperative when you purchase and install heat pumps.