The Central Air Conditioning Unit and AC Energy Efficiency Measures
An energy efficient central air conditioning unit can save on energy costs and improve overall comfort in the home. The average household spends around $2,200 a year on energy bills and about half of these costs go to heating and cooling. There may be some ENERGY STAR central air conditioning unit rebates available in your state.
The ENERGY STAR Rebates program is a United States government program that helps us all save money and protect our environment with energy-efficient products and practices.
Central Air Conditioning Unit Energy Savings Measures
There are several things that should be considered before buying a new air conditioner system or even a solar power system to save energy and associated costs. Some or all of the following things should done first:
Seal your heating and central air conditioning unit duct system
Leaky air ducts going to and from the forced air furnace, central air conditioner and heat pump can be really big wasters of energy. A leaky duct system can loose up to 20-40% of the air going through them into unconditioned spaces (attic, crawl space, basements, garages, etc) of the home. These losses can add significantly to energy costs.
It is important leaky ducts be sealed to prevent loss of conditioned air. These leaks can be sealed with metal-backed foil tape and duct sealant (mastic) at joints, seams and connections of ducts. After the ducts have been sealed, they should be insulated to keep them from getting hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
Even though there are tape products on the market that are made of a cloth fabric and typically gray in color, these are not good to use for sealing ducts. The glue on these tapes will soon dry out and will no longer adhere to the duct. Consequently, the ducts will soon begin to leak again. Sorry, we can’t mention any brand names here.
On a monthly basis it is important to change air filers to heating and cooling equipment. This is especially true during those when heating and cooling equipment is being used a lot. A dirty air filter will cause heaters and air conditioners to work harder to maintain the temperatures within the home. This wastes energy. Additionally, by changing the filter regularly, it will help prevent dirt from building up in the system. Cleaning the dirt out of a heating and cooling system can lead to some really expensive maintenance/repair costs.
Annual Heating and Cooling Equipment Tune Ups
The heating and cooling equipment in the home needs to have regular maintenance to ensure proper performance. As part of this maintenance, this equipment needs to have a periodic tune up.
Here are some things the homeowner can do to ensure proper performance of heating and cooling equipment:
- Maintain the systems to prevent problems and unwanted repair costs.
- Have the system tuned-up annually.
- Check thermostat settings to ensure the heating and cooling equipment keeps the house comfortable.
- Make sure to have all moving parts such as motors, pulleys, etc. lubricated.
- Make sure the condensate drain line in the AC system is clear. A clogged drain can cause significant water damage inside the home.
- Inspect the controls to the heating and cooling system to help ensure their proper operation. Make sure the equipment starts, operates and shuts off properly.
For Air Conditioning
- The coils to the air conditioning systems need to be kept clean. The evaporator coil (the one inside the house located at the air handler) needs to be checked annually for any dirt build up. The condenser coil (the coil in the outdoor unit) also needs to be cleaned from time to time. By cleaning both the evaporator and condensing coils, it helps maintain the proper operation of the cooling system and transfer of heat from inside the house to the outdoors.
- Have the refrigerant level of the air conditioning system checked. The charge of the refrigerant needs to be optimized to ensure proper operation of the system. If the refrigerant level (charge) is too high, it will cause the system to work harder than necessary. If the refrigerant level is too low, then the system may not cool adequately.
- Make sure the AC blower components in the system have the necessary air flow to ensure comfort. Improper air flow will cause the AC system to operate less efficiently.
- Have all gas or oil line connections checked to make sure there are not any leaks and potential fire hazards.
- Have the gas pressure checked. This will ensure an adequate supply exists.
- Have the burner checked for proper combustion of gas / oil fuels.
- Have the heat exchanger inspected for cracks to ensure safe operation and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and deadly gas.
Things you can do yourself
To help ensure proper air conditioner, heat pump system and furnace operation, inspect, clean or change filters at least once a month. A dirty filter can cause the cooling and heating system to operate less efficiently. If not familiar with changing a filter, ask a contractor to show how this is done. It is usually a very simple thing to do and can prevent early equipment failure.
Using an programmable thermostat
Consider installing a programmable thermostat to control your heating and cooling equipment. These devices are are great for those homeowners who are away from the home during scheduled periods of time throughout the week and can save a lot of money in annual energy costs; about $180 every year.
ENERGY STAR Central Air Conditioning Unit
The typical residential central air conditioning units are called split systems because there are two components: the out door component is the condenser and compressor, the indoor component is the evaporator coil. When replacing an air conditioning system, it is important both of thee components be replaced at the same to to ensure system efficiency.
An ENERGY STAR central air conditioning unit has a higher efficiency than today’s standard models. This efficiency is indicated by the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio. The most typically used efficiency is SEER in the measurement of efficiency for an air conditioner. This efficiency measures how efficiently an air conditioner system will operate over the entire cooling season. The EER is a measures of how efficiently a cooling system operates when the outdoor temperature is at a specific level (95 degrees F).
When replacing an air conditioning system, it also needs a blower which is part of the furnace and blows cool air through the distribution (duct) system. In order to ensure that a new air conditioning system performs at its rated efficiency, replacement of the heating system would be necessary at the same time. Connecting a new energy efficient air conditioner to an old system will not allow the new unit to perform at its rated efficiency.
Heat pumps are systems that provide both heating and cooling and are combined into one system. The electric Air Source Heat Pump is typically used in moderate climates. These heat pumps use the difference between outdoor and indoor air temperature to heat and cool. The ENERGY STAR central air conditioning unit rebate program has qualified Air Source Heat Pump that have higher SEER and EER ratings than conventional models. These units also have a Heating and Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). This is a rating that measures the heating efficiency of the heat pump.
The Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHPs)are like Air Source Heat Pumps. The difference between these heat pumps is that instead of using air to provide cooling and heating, they use the ground’s heat to provide the heating and cooling of a home. Many times water heating is also achieved through GHPs. Because the ground several feet below the surface remains at a constant temperature, GHPs are some of the most efficient and comfortable heating technologies available on the market. However, these systems are expensive in their initial cost, but can achieve significant savings on energy bills. Usually these systems are installed in new homes with ducted air systems.
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