Choosing and operating an air conditioner means balancing air-cooling needs and operational cost. The standards got tougher in 2015, when the Department of Energy required new efficiency standards for residential split system and packaged central air conditioners.
As of January 1, 2015, split-system and single-package units in Arizona now must have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of at least 14. These units Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER), rated for a 95°F dry bulb outdoor temperature, for systems with less than 45,000 Btu/hr. capacities, must be at least 12.2. Those A/C units larger than 45,000 Btu/hr. capacities must have an EER of 11.7 or higher. Single-package units must be at least 11. The air conditioning standards (according to Berkeley Lab) for Arizona and other Southwest states are higher than elsewhere, where minimum SEER ratings now stand at 13.
OK, that got technical fast. What does all this mean to the average A/C customer and how does it help increase air-cooling efficiency? High efficiency air-cooling standards are among the factors to consider when selecting an air conditioner system. In addition to comfort, getting a respected brand name appliance is crucial. For example, Isley has partnered with air conditioning leader Trane, and through this partnership, we can offer some of the top split and packaged systems on the market.
Most people don’t know how to reduce indoor pollution, which can alleviate allergy attacks and asthma. So we spend a lot of time helping our customers understand more about air quality. Did you know, for instance, that a high efficiency A/C system will help combat polluted indoor air that contains allergens like pollen, dust, dust mites, pet hair and dander, lint, fungus, tobacco smoke, and bacteria?
The Trane CleanEffects system removes up to 99.98% of particles you can’t even see. It can also eliminate more than 50% of accumulated dust in the home. Whole-house air cleaners are among Trane’s top recommendations for removing tiny airborne particles and allergens.
Purchasing new equipment, however, is not the only strategy for controlling indoor air pollution. Dust mites can be controlled using special covers and by washing sheets once a week in hot water. Trane also recommends avoiding secondhand smoke and smoky rooms, fixing leaky pipes, cleaning bathroom grout, eliminating mold, and keeping windows and doors closed.
High Efficiency = Higher Initial Cost
It’s true, there’s no getting around it. Air-cooling efficiency can help Arizona homeowners save money and cool their homes while saving money. The new standards, however, may require residents to purchase brand new systems to comply with the new regulations. Higher efficiency equipment and materials costs are expected to be high, at least initially, until production volume brings prices down. Also, customers must be sure their regional contractors are familiar with the regulatory changes.
If a person tries to sell their home without upgrading, they’ll get dinged and the sale will be delayed.
The challenge is that many contractors don’t even know of the changes. A 2014 Emerson Climate Technologies survey revealed 74% were not aware of these standards and didn’t know how to get prepared. The factors go beyond regional climate. Systems must match the size and demands of each home while high-efficiency motors, cost increases, and regulatory penalties will impact a contractor’s bottom line. This may force them to raise prices.
Another challenge is matching components. High efficiency motors, blower and coil combinations, outdoor condensing units, and other components need to be properly matched. For example, if one part is rated 14 SEER, that doesn’t necessarily mean the entire system will be.
Distributors do have an 18-month grace period to sell remaining inventory in the previously accepted SEER categories. Some of their costs may be offset as a result. This still doesn’t mean homeowners won’t have to spend thousands of dollars on newer, regulatory-compliant systems.