Adding Up The Costs and Benefits of High-Efficiency Air Conditioners
Buying any appliance or electronic device that uses new, cutting-edge technology comes with a price tag. However, when it comes to top-of-the-line air conditioners, the higher price tag is usually accompanied by energy savings – often substantial energy savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, making the switch to a high-efficiency air conditioner and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning by 20 to 50 percent. That adds up to savings you can notice on your bills!
However, some day that “new” unit will age, and when it comes time to fix it, will it cost more to repair than its lower priced counterpart? For the breakdown of that answer we turned to our resident expert, Keith Hill, manager, technical support, from Minnesota Air.
Price Breakdown: Parts
As you can guess, a more efficient unit will make use of higher quality parts: motors, fans, electronic controls, computers, sensors, etc.
Keith says a higher-priced, energy-efficient AC will have a higher efficiency compressor and fan motor – some of the more critical parts that make an AC run well – so in the case of a major repair, the replacement parts will cost more.
VERDICT: More expensive.
Price Breakdown: Labor
When it comes time to call a repairman to come fix your AC, Keith says the amount of labor needed to diagnose and repair will be the same. That means when you add in labor costs to the parts cost, the price to repair won’t be significantly higher, but it will be more.
“Minor repair costs will be about the same as a standard efficiency unit,” he says.
VERDICT: About the same, maybe slightly higher.
Price Breakdown: Maintenance/ Running Costs
Here is your payoff when it comes to buying a more expensive AC – your running costs and maintenance costs will be much lower.
“The good news is that higher priced units are generally easier to maintain. They have features that make them easier to clean – easy open top grilles and panels for example,” says Keith. “In many cases they also have electronic monitoring which adds a degree of protection against some common external conditions such as brown outs and voltage spikes, and many have built-in diagnostics, so when a problem does occurs it saves on overall repair time.”
Add in the money saved on energy by operating a more efficient unit and you’ll notice a difference in your energy budget.
VERDICT: Less expensive.
Price Breakdown: Longevity
Do you buy cheap, knowing you have to replace it more frequently – or buy the best, with a super energy-efficient model? If you look at what the government recommends, buying a more energy efficient AC is the better choice for longevity. Air conditioners get SEER ratings – or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio ratings -- to show what products have better efficiency. The higher the number of the SEER rating, the more efficient it is. By law, new air conditioning systems have to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. Older models have SEER ratings at 10 or below. Systems with the best efficiency have SEER ratings in the 20s.
Newer two-stage compressors help the most efficient units last longer by only operating at full power on the hottest days. That means less wear and tear on mild heat days and less energy use overall.
VERDICT: Less expensive, made to last longer.
For more energy saving and home comfort tips, visit StayComfyMinnesota.com! Stay Comfy, Minnesota is your Minnesota resource for air conditioning repair, furnace repair and HVAC tips and advice.