How can I make my Air Conditioner cooler? What are SEER ratings?

Summary: Air conditioning and utility costs are rising.   The prices of air conditioners are rising because of new Department of Energy Requirements.  A new air conditioner may be the solution to saving money on your cooling bill.

The weather outside is heating up and maybe you’re finding that your central air conditioning just isn’t cutting it this year. Sure, it’s cooling things down, but it’s not doing so very well or very efficiently and it seems that your electric bill is taking a beating. But replacing it seems so expensive, maybe you’re thinking about making do until next year. Well, maybe you want to think again.

Beginning in January 2006 the price of central air conditioning systems will increase up to 50% due to the Department of Energy’s new seasonal energy efficiency ratio – or SEER 13. While these new units will be 30% more energy efficient, they will cost more as components will have to be redesigned, major parts will have to be made larger requiring more materials, manufacturing costs will increase, and more warehouse space will be necessary to store the larger components. And all of this adds up to an increase in price to the consumer.


Now, the plus side to all of this is that the savings will show up on your electric bill, the downside
is that unless you live somewhere where air conditioning is used for the majority of the year it could take a very long time for you to see your money come back. However, keeping your old clunker definitely isn’t the answer.

I’ve got an old 24,000 btu in window air conditioner with a SEER 6 rating – 30-40% less efficient that the SEER 10s sold off the shelves today. It cools the entire first floor of my house like nobody’s business, but costs a serious fortune to run. While when it’s 102 degrees outside that fact never seems to bother me, it seems that my electric bill always arrives on a breezy summer afternoon when turning on the a/c couldn’t be farther from my mind and an over-inflated electric bill seems like a cruel joke.

So how do you know whether to buy now and get the cheaper, less efficient central air units or go ahead with the new SEER 13 units hitting the shelves in January? Well, like I said, it depends a lot on where you live. If you live in the South, be it humid like Florida or dry like Arizona, you’ll likely need your a/c a good portion of the year. In this case, it’s a no-brainer: go for the new, more efficient SEER 13 unit. If you live in the northern part of the country it gets a little trickier.

Obviously, getting a SEER 13 unit makes you a more environmentally friendly person than if you rushed out today to buy a SEER 10 while the gettin’s good, but you may not see a return on that extra cash you lay out for a few years, so I suppose the questions you need to ask yourself are, “How much disposable money can I spare?” and “Will I still be a good person if I get the less efficient unit?” When you answer these questions remember: no one is going to die because you bought a SEER 10 central air conditioning unit.

Another thing to remember: Regardless of where you live, if you’re building a house you must install a SEER 13 unit if you do so after January 2006.

Author: Chuck Eglinton

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