Replacing Your Air Conditioner? Don’t Sweat It!

Monday, October 14, 2019 - 4:31pm
Replacing Your Air Conditioner?  Don’t Sweat It!
This post was written with the expertise of Superior HVAC, a company that provides Commercial HVAC in Houston, Texas.

It is 101 degrees in the shade and even hotter inside your home.  The serviceman just gave you bad news, your air conditioner is dead and cannot be resurrected, an unfortunate yet common issue explains Superior HVAC, a provider of HVAC in Houston.  Closing the front door and walking into the kitchen feels like a death sentence.  Sipping ice water and sweating bullets you wonder, what is this going to cost me? 


A Quick Look at Prices

A quick search on the Internet will present vastly different estimates to replace your air conditioner.  According to Home Advisor, the price will range between $1,500 and $4,000 which is not very useful if you want to budget or get a loan.  Modernize places these figures even higher. 

Another resource you will find online is the cost calculator.  Cost calculators are extremely helpful and the more you know about the air conditioner you want and need, the more accurate the resulting figure will be. 


What You Need to Know

The cost calculator at Modernize is great because you can estimate by four different A/C (air conditioning) characteristics you should be familiar with: 

  • Square footage of the area to be cooled
  • The tons of the A/C unit
  • SEER ratings
  • Air conditioner brand

The most perplexing items on the list are “tons” and “SEER ratings”. 

A ton has nothing to do with the weight of an A/C unit.  A ton is equal to 12,000 Btu (British thermal units) per hour. This measures the capacity of an air conditioning system.

One ton is commonly known as the amount of heat required to melt one ton of ice in 24 hours.  This means an air conditioner that is one ton will be rated at 12,000 Btu per hour. 

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio.  Replacing an air conditioner has a good side and a bad side.  You’ve met the bad, now meet the good. 

Your new A/C unit will be higher efficiency which means it has the ability to cool better using less energy.  You can save money and reduce your carbon emissions at the same time.  According to the Department of Energy, SEER ratings for older systems were around 6. 

They recommend buying a unit with a high SEER.  The minimum SEER rating you can buy today is 13 or 14 and is determined by geographical region.  SEER ratings are rising to 21+ as technology advances.  The average 3-bedroom home usually needs a SEER rating between 14-16. 


More is Not Necessarily Better

Many variables control the need for a high capacity, energy-efficient unit, like the type of building insulation, room layout, square footage, the temperature you set the thermostat, and the energy efficiency of the windows and their placement to sunshine. Higher SEER and tons do not always mean you’ll be cooler. 

Systems with a higher SEER have smaller compressors and when it’s sweltering outside, the smaller compressors lose cooling power faster.  You could find yourself sweating bullets again!  To get a good idea of the size unit you need, The Spruce says to multiply the square footage of the area to be cooled times 25 Btu.  This should get you fairly close to the correct ballpark.


Hidden Costs Could Surprise You

Modernize mentions cost factors that can be overlooked since they are not always included in the initial estimate you received from a contractor.  The hidden fees associated with installation can easily exceed the cost of a new A/C unit.  Some of the fees are obvious, and others are not. 

No one likes to be surprised by hidden costs.  Some of them might be:

  • Building and inspection permits
  • Asbestos or lead removal
  • Adding to forced air heat
  • Replacement of ductwork
  • Replacement of insulation
  • Building modification for the A/C unit
  • Plumbing and electrical work
  • Moving the new A/C unit to a different location
  • Removal of the old A/C system
  • Installation of the new A/C unit


A/C Add-ons and Conveniences to Consider

Here is a list of conveniences that will make life with your new A/C more pleasurable.  They may or may not be add-ons that cost extra, you’ll need to check for these features:

  • A thermal expansion valve and a high-temperature energy efficiency rating (EER) greater than 11.6, for high-efficiency operation, when the weather is at its hottest
  • A variable speed air handler for new ventilation systems
  • A unit that operates quietly
  • A fan-only switch, used for nighttime ventilation to substantially reduce air conditioning costs
  • A filter check light to remind you the filter has run a predetermined number of operating hours
  • An automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off.


Stay Cool While Making a Decision

Here is an informative video that can help you select your air conditioner. 

Now that you’ve become more familiar with the process of replacing your air conditioning system, you can better use the online calculators to get a good idea of the cost.  However, it will take a professional contractor to discuss the unit you choose, set a price, and perform the installation.

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