New federal regulations have raised the minimum efficiency of residential air conditioners that manufacturers produce by 30%. The new standard took effect after the end of 2005
In this Answer Guide, we offer a brief explanation of air conditioner efficiency, the new regulations, and how it affects you.
What is SEER?
SEER is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is a measure of an air conditioner’s efficiency over the entire cooling season. A higher SEER denotes higher efficiency.
What was the minimum SEER prior to 2005?
The minimum air conditioner efficiency was 10 SEER. As recently as the 1980s, 10 SEER was considered “high efficiency.”
What is the new minimum SEER?
The new minimum air conditioner efficiency is 13 SEER, which is considered “high efficiency” today. This represents a 30% efficiency boost.
When did the change take effect?
The new regulations took effect after the end of 2005. Manufacturers are already working on retooling their factories for 13 SEER. This process is expected to last through much of 2005, with the potential for temporary supply disruptions as lines are retooled to 13 SEER.
Will air conditioners will cost more?
It is still uncertain how all manufacturers will achieve 13 SEER performance levels. Most produce a 13 SEER system today, but they cost significantly more than 10 SEER. Air conditioning manufacturers are creative and they will be able to reduce costs when they begin to produce 13 SEER in volume and work out the inevitable new design glitches. However, it is unlikely that manufacturers will be able to achieve the higher efficiency standards without increasing indoor (evaporator) and outdoor (condensing) coil sizes, changes in compressors, adding more expensive components, such as expansion valves and/or variable speed fans. In short, air conditioners will cost more, possibly significantly more.
How else will I be affected?
It will be essential to replace your evaporator, or indoor coil with a certified and rated match to the condensing unit located outside. This will ensure proper performance, energy savings, and prevent a host of potential comfort problems. If the new designs require a larger evaporator coil, space requirements may necessitate replacing your furnace with a more compact model. Due to the need to ensure proper dehumidification of the indoor coil and maintain overall cooling capacities, a full engineering load calculation is mandatory. You might need a different size unit and/or a variable speed fan.
Should I wait to replace my air conditioner?
If your air conditioner is less than 10 years old, it might be wise to wait until after 2005 to replace it. You will pay more than you would for a 10 SEER system today, but you will receive an even higher efficiency product, saving more energy and reducing the environmental impact. On the other hand, if your air conditioner is 10 years old or older, it’s a gamble to wait on a replacement. If your system suffers a major breakdown, it is often foolish to throw money away on expensive repairs for an old air conditioner when you can invest a little more for a new air conditioner, enjoy greater comfort and lower your utilities. No one knows what kinds of supply disruptions might occur during 2005 and there have already been some indications of product shortages in 2004. You will spend less money replacing now and have a better selection to choose from. Certainly if you’re facing an expensive repair, it is better to replace now than wait.
© 2004 Service Roundtable