Did you know that your air conditioner is the biggest consumer of electricity in your home? During the summer and winter, your A/C usage can be as much as 50-70% of your total energy bill. Studies have shown that A/C energy use can be lowered by 10% to 30% in most homes without extreme effort. In older homes that number can be much higher. Here are some ways you can make your air conditioning system more efficient and ultimately save you money year round.
Upgrade Your Older, Inefficient System
If your A/C unit was installed 10 or more years ago, it is highly likely that a new unit will lower your electric bill. High efficiency units, improved duct work and better attic insulation can dramatically reduce the energy used to keep your home cool and comfortable. In some cases, a smaller unit, using less electricity, can do a better job than an older, less efficient model.
We regularly have customers who were accustomed to keeping their thermostat around 72-74 degrees to stay comfortable, but found 78 degrees to be adequate after the installation of their new system. This is largely due to advances in technology and the better handling of the humidity in your home which allows you to feel comfortable at higher temperatures. All of this translates into less energy use and lower energy bills.
You typically want to make sure you upgrade the entire system. Data shows that a 13 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) condensing unit matched with an old air handler can decrease the SEER rating down to 9.2, resulting in a 30% loss of efficiency. Over time, the wasted energy will cost more than a new air handler.
Evaluate Your Duct Work
Studies also show that the average home's duct work leaks 25-40% of cold air into the attic. This can be due to incorrectly sized duct work or ducts that have fallen apart and allow cool air to leak into your attic space. This can dramatically reduce the SEER rating of the equipment connected to them.
As a side note, problematic duct work has also been known to sweat. Sweating ducts can cause damage to your home and promote mold which can lead to serious health problems.
Upgrade Your Attic Insulation
Recent studies have shown that 90% of homes are under insulated. Insulation values are measured by an R-Value which is based on the amount of insulation installed. The average R-Value of attic insulation installed in homes in the San Antonio area is around R-11. The recommended R-Value for homes in our climate is R-49. Adding insulation to your attic can dramatically reduce the amount of heat that enters your home in the summer and the amount of heat that leaves your home in the winter.
Generally, if you can look in your attic and see the roof rafters, your attic is under insulated. Your A/C contractor should be able to evaluate your attic to determine if this is a problem with your home and how much additional insulation will be needed to achieve an R-49 rating.
Properly Ventilate Your Attic
It is important to ventilate hot air from your attic before it has a chance to increase your home's temperature. Installing a solar powered attic ventilator will help draw out hot air in the summer and remove moisture in the winter. These solar powered devices are easy to install, run all day long and do not cost anything to operate.
Locate Air Leaks
In addition to leaking ducts, other areas of your home could be allowing conditioned air to escape or unconditioned air to enter, thus increasing the load on your equipment. Inefficient windows and ineffectively sealed joints can be a problem. Your A/C contractor should be able to detect these problem areas by determining the amount of air that is escaping your home. Advances in thermal imaging also make it possible to detect such leaks. Installing high efficiency Low-E windows can dramatically improve your home's efficiency over older single pane windows.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Over time, the efficiency of a unit that is not properly maintained can be degraded by as much as 50% which means it's using twice the energy that it needs to. Regular maintenance keeps your equipment performing as efficiently as possible and can help detect small problems before they become big problems. Poor airflow, clogged or dirty coils, undercharged or overcharged refrigerant and leaks are among the items that can be detected during a routine checkup. You should consider having your unit checked in the spring and again around the end of the fall. This helps detect any problems before dramatic temperature changes occur.
Change Your Filter Regularly
Although the easiest thing for a home owner to do themselves, changing the filter is often not done as often as it should be. When the filter is clogged, air is restricted which causes the unit to work harder and leads to poor air circulation. Neglecting to use a filter at all will lead to the coil being clogged which requires a service call to resolve.
As a side note, you may want to consider an advanced filtration solution for your home if you suffer from allergies or have elderly living in the home. UV solutions do a great job of reducing airborne contaminants (including mold and pollens) from your home making it a more healthy place to live.
Jon Wayne Is Here to Help
Having your home evaluated by an expert is the best place to start. Jon Wayne Heating and Air Conditioning will be happy to send out one of our highly skilled team members to perform a FREE comprehensive evaluation of your home and show you which options will have the greatest impact on your home's energy efficiency.
About the Author: Don Rackler is the owner of Jon Wayne Heating and Air and has been proudly serving the residential A/C needs of San Antonio for over 35 years. Jon Wayne is the largest residential service and replacement company in Bexar and surrounding counties. Jon Wayne serves San Antonio and neighboring cities including Boerne, Bulverde, Spring Branch, Canyon Lake, New Braunfels, Seguin, Stockdale, La Vernia, Floresville, Pleasanton, Lytle, Devine, Castroville and Hondo.