Here in Beckley, WV, the average homeowner pays around 11.57¢ per kilowatt hour for their electricity. And as the summer heat starts arriving here, that means air conditioning use is about to make residential electrical bills skyrocket. But it doesn’t have to. Homeowners can instead opt to install a new air conditioning system to help curb their summer electricity bills. If you’d like to do this, however, you’ll need to understand a bit more about the various energy-efficient air conditioning options now available on the market. To help you, the experts here at Childers Air Plumbing & Electric prepared the following guide to explain your options.

The Basics of AC Energy Efficiency

Before you set out to find the right energy-efficient AC system for your home, there’s something you need to know first. It’s how to tell how efficient a given cooling system you’re considering is. That means understanding seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings. A SEER rating is a simple numerical efficiency value meant to help consumers compare and contrast the efficiency of various AC options.

SEER ratings are the result of a formula designed to calculate the amount of electricity an AC unit would use during an average cooling season. The formula assumes you won’t need to keep your air conditioner running at 100% capacity all summer long and sets the following values to come up with a unit’s seasonal energy usage:

  • Use at 100% load for 1% of the time
  • Use at 75% load for 42% of the time
  • Use at 50% load for 45% of the time
  • Use at 25% load for 12% of the time

To arrive at a SEER rating, all you need to do is plug in a given AC unit’s power usage under the above conditions. When you go shopping for an air conditioner, you’ll find a SEER rating listed on a yellow EnergyGuide label. To compare different units, all you need to know is that the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the AC unit you’re looking at is.

You should also know that as of 2023, 14 is the minimum SEER rating you’ll find on AC units for sale here in Beckley. That’s because the US Department of Energy sets minimum efficiency standards for all new air conditioners, which periodically increase to encourage energy savings. Let’s move on to the major types of efficient AC systems you’ll have to choose from.

Packaged and Split Central Air Conditioning

If your home already has an air conditioning system, there’s a good chance that it’s either a packaged or split central AC system. They’re the most common type of residential air conditioning system here in Beckley as well as in the rest of the United States. That’s because packaged and split central AC systems were, for many years, the most efficient type of cooling system you could buy for your house.

Their efficiency depends on the idea that a single, large cooling system consumes less energy than multiple smaller ones. This is because the larger fans used to move air through central air conditioning systems have larger blades and move bigger volumes of air more efficiently. A single central AC system will always consume less electricity than several window units that add up to the same cooling power.

Right now, the average SEER rating you’ll find on most packaged and split central AC systems is between 14 and 20. They’ll also give you between 15 and 20 years of reliable operation as long as you keep them well-maintained throughout. That combination of efficiency and longevity is what made central AC systems so popular and kept them popular since they first made their way into homes in the 1960s.

Unless your house is pre-1960s, it likely already has a central AC or at least the in-wall ductwork necessary to support a central AC system. However, there’s something you should know about ducted AC systems. It’s that they may waste between 25% and 40% of the electricity they consume via energy losses in your ductwork. So, even a highly efficient central AC system may lose its efficiency edge depending on the condition of your home’s ductwork.

Ducted Heat Pump Systems

There’s another cooling option that shares a form factor with split central AC systems. It’s called a ducted heat pump, and it comes with two major advantages over conventional central AC systems. The first advantage is that ducted heat pumps tend to operate at higher efficiencies than conventional AC. Today, you’ll find that most ducted heat pump systems have a SEER rating of between 16 and 23, making them a more efficient option than comparable central AC systems.

The other advantage heat pumps enjoy is that they also serve as a heat source for your home in the winter. So, if you’re looking for an efficient AC solution for your house, a ducted heat pump will give you that as well as replace your home’s existing heating system. You’ll need to spend a little more up front for a heat pump compared to a central AC, but you’ll also get more out of it, making it an excellent option for efficiency-conscious homeowners.

Ductless Mini-Split Systems

The final — and possibly best — efficient AC option on the market today is a ductless mini-split AC system. These systems are unique because, unlike the other options on this list, they don’t rely on in-wall ductwork to function. Instead, they use a single outdoor condenser unit and multiple indoor air handlers installed in each room of your house.

This means mini-splits aren’t subject to the same kinds of ductwork-related energy losses as the other systems covered above. That alone makes them a far more efficient AC option than other centralized systems. However, it’s also true that ductless mini-splits tend to have higher SEER ratings than those systems.

Today, most ductless mini-splits have SEER ratings of at least 20, but many are far higher than that. Some manufacturers make mini-splits with SEER ratings as high as 42, placing them head and shoulders above all other AC options in terms of efficiency. There are even mini-splits that rely on heat pump technology, which allows them to double as a heat source in the winter.

You should know, though, that buying and installing a mini-split may cost significantly more than a central AC or ducted heat pump. The cost depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the system your house needs and how much work your installer has to do to set it up in your home. Therefore, some of your efficiency savings will get eaten up by your upfront costs.

Your Go-To AC Experts

Since 1951, Childers Air Plumbing & Electric has offered quality HVAC services, including installation, repair, and maintenance, to homeowners in and around Beckley. We also provide plumbing and electrical services to round out our residential service offerings. Plus, we handle commercial HVAC work, should your local business need it. The key to our longevity is that we’ve built our business on the strength of our customer service and superior workmanship. So, if you’re interested in installing a new, efficient AC system to cut down on your power bills, give the experts at Childers Air Plumbing & Electric a call today.

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