Not all air-conditioning systems are created equal. At one end of the spectrum are systems that are cheaper to buy, but require more electricity and therefore result in higher utility bills each month. At the other end are highly efficient systems which save on electricity costs, but generally cost more. Saving energy is a good idea, but is it worth the higher initial cost?
Luckily, you don’t have to guess. There are some handy, free online tools you can use to quickly determine if a high-efficiency air conditioner can save you money over the long run.
One simple-to-use tool is this chart, which lists the annual energy costs for a range of air conditioning systems with different SEER ratings. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system is. You can use the chart to see how your costs would change with increased SEER ratings, then compare that to the differences in purchase price.
A much more detailed, specific calculation can be found by downloading the Energy Star cost calculator (a free Excel spreadsheet) and plugging in your electric rate, along with the SEER rating and size of the air conditioner units you are comparing. The spreadsheet instantly and automatically calculates the price for each system, the annual utility costs, and how long it will take for the energy savings to pay for the higher efficiency system. For example, an average home in Fort Myers with a 3-ton A/C unit and an electric rate of $0.12 per Kilowatt-hour would save an estimated $737 by purchasing a higher-efficiency 15 SEER system, compared to a 13 SEER system. The energy savings more than make up for the difference in purchase price.
However, the benefits go beyond simple dollars and cents. The bottom of the spreadsheet lists some environmental benefits. In the Fort Myers home in the example, carbon dioxide pollution would be reduced by almost 22,000 pounds, which is the equivalent of saving two acres of forest. When you consider those factors as well, a compelling argument can be made for a high-efficiency air conditioner.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about high efficiency air conditioners and other HVAC topics, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.