Choosing the right system for your home

In Florida, the best time to replace an old inefficient air conditioner system is in November & December. We recently replaced an air conditioning system in Mount Dora, FL with an 18 SEER high efficiency Tane system. The homeowner told us, he researched for weeks to determine what best would suite his needs. We decided to help everyone by putting together some good tools that would help you make an educate decision. The investment in a new comfort system is one that will affect your family’s comfort for many years and should not be taken lightly.

What type of system do you need? In Florida, the most common are Conventional Air Conditioner, Heat Pump, & Gas Furnace Systems. All three systems provide cooling through the refrigeration process. What makes them different is the source of heating a home. Natural gas heating is one of the most effective ways to heat a home, but not all homes receive natural gas service from the local utility companies. The second source of heat is from heat pump systems. Heat pump systems provide heating through the refrigeration process. Several components are added to a conventional air conditioner allowing it to reverse its refrigerant cycle. Reversing the cycle causes the evaporator coil (inside coil) to provide heat instead of cooling your home. A conventional air conditioner provides heat through electric heater coils located in the air handler.

Now you know the main three types of systems in most Florida homes. Which one is right for you? A gas furnace is very robust & can provide many years of worry free heating. Most major gas furnace manufactures offer a 20 yrs. warranty on all major components of a gas furnace. If you have a gas furnace system, your best option is to consider replacing it with the same type of system. A gas furnace is one of the most affordable ways to keep a home warm in the winter.

For those of us without natural gas service, would a heat pump or a conventional system meet your family’s needs? The most commonly used system in Florida is a Heat Pump system. Here are the pros & cons to both systems.

Heat Pump vs. Conventional Air Conditioner

Heat Pump System Conventional A/C
Upfront Cost Due to less components, upfront cost is less
Reliability On average 20% less failures due to less,mechanical/electrical parts
Efficiency in Cooling Both will consume the same amount
of energy
Both will consume the same amount of energy
Efficiency in Heating Will consume less energy in
Heating Mode
Equipment Life Span Typical lifespan is 15-17 yrs. Typical lifespan is 17-20 yrs.

 

Now you have decided on the type of system your home needs based on your families heating demands & concerns. So, what efficiency rating or brand should you choose? A reliable brand will allow you to enjoy a comfortable home without worries of costly repairs. Most major manufactures offer a minimum 10 yrs. warranty on all major components of an air conditioner or heat pump by simply registering the equipment after it has been installed. Labor is typically not included but can be added at an additional cost. Which manufacture provides the most reliable equipment with minimal failures? Below are 3 charts of equipment performance based on recent studies from Consumer Reports. The charts are for the different types of equipment: Gas Furnace, Conventional Air Conditioner, & Heat Pump.

CAC1 cac2 cac3

 

What size system does your home need? Air conditioners are sized by cooling capacity. 1 Ton = 12,000 BTU’s (British Thermal Unit). A BTU is the amount of work needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Residential equipment is available from 1.5 to 5 tons. Most homeowners simply replace their existing system with the same size or larger capacity system. Bigger is not always better. A system should be properly sized for a home. Properly sizing a system is a topic in and of itself. I will provide detailed information in another blog post. We recommend having a heat-load calculation done which typically cost .15 to .18 cents per square foot. This method will calculate the correct size for your home, allowing the system to cool/heat & dehumidify a properly. Maximizing your family’s comfort & system’s efficiency. An oversized system will have many issues effecting its performance as well as its longevity. Yes, an oversized system will have a higher failure rate which will be discussed in the next blog post “Importance of properly sizing a central air conditioning system”.

The next question: What level of efficiency do I need? SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is the efficiency rating given to air conditioning system. In Florida, the minimum SEER requirement a central air conditioner system installed after June 31st, 2016 is 14 SEER. Most manufactures offer from 14-20 SEER efficiency. The higher the SEER rating will result in a higher upfront cost & a lower energy consumption of the system. FPL has provided information that translates SEER to actual dollars saved in energy cost.

savings

When considering high efficiency systems, one key component is calculating the simple payback. The “simple payback” is how long will it take to recover the cost difference of a high efficiency system. Efforts to educate consumers, & help them make an informed decision, the Department of Energy has put some tools together. They provided a calculator that will let you take the cost difference compared to the energy savings of a system, to calculate your simple payback period. Most of our customers have a 3-7 yrs. simple payback & a savings of $3500-$5000 with a high efficiency systems, over the lifespan of the equipment.

For a heat pump system use: Calc_HP.xls

For a conventional air conditioner use:Calc_AC.xls

You should now have a better understanding of Tonnage vs SEER. You should also understand the difference between a heat pump vs. conventional a/c system. Hopefully all the information above will assist in the decision process. Choosing the right equipment is just as important as choosing the right contract. Make sure you choose a reputable contractor.