Keeping Your Air Conditioning Working All Summer Long

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Tips For Choosing An Energy Efficient Air Conditioning Unit

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Selecting a new air conditioner for your home can be difficult for a number of reasons. You may not know how much cooling power your new unit must have, what type of model to purchase, or even the amount of money you can expect to pay from using a new unit during the summertime. To learn how to select an ideal air conditioner for your home, consider these tips:

Calculate Your Home's BTU Requirement

BTUs, or British thermal units, are the units of measurement used to determine the cooling capabilities of air conditioning units. One BTU equals the amount of energy that's required to change the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

If you select a unit that doesn't produce enough BTUs, then your unit will have to remain active for a long time before you notice a change in temperature. If you select a unit that produces too many BTUs, then you'll be wasting a costly amount of energy. Determining the number of BTUs that will be required to efficiently cool your home will require some basic math.

To begin, you'll need to measure the square footage of the area of your home that will receive air conditioning. For a general estimate, multiply the square footage by 20 to determine your minimum BTU requirement. However, this general formula should only be used as a starting point for your calculations. These additional factors will either increase or decrease your BTU requirement:

  • Sunlight

    • If you have several large windows that allow a significant amount of sunlight penetration into your home, then you'll need to increase your BTU estimate anywhere between 5-10% to account for the thermal energy from the sun.

  • Insulation

    • Your home's insulation will significantly affect the efficiency of your new air conditioner. If your home is relatively old, then its insulation may not be up to par with modern homes. However, you won't know how well your home is insulated unless you tear into your walls. To avoid having to do so, hire a home energy technician to perform an energy audit.

  • Kitchen

    • If your new unit will provide cooling to your kitchen, you'll need to significantly increase your BTU calculation to account for your cooking appliances. Depending on how powerful your appliances are, you may need to increase your BTU calculations by as much as 4,000 BTUs.

  • Household Members

    • If you've ever been in a packed concert hall, then you've experienced firsthand just how much heat people can produce. Although you may not have hundreds of people in your home, the other members of your household (including your pets) will still increase the temperature of your home. Counteract this issue by increasing your BTU calculations by about 400 BTUs per member.

Once you've carefully calculated the number of BTUs that your new unit must produce to efficiently cool your home, you're able to significantly narrow your search to units that provide only a suitable number of BTUs.

A High EER Means A Lower Energy Bill

You've seen that every new unit you've considered purchasing has something called an EER rating. EER, or energy efficiency rating, is determined by dividing the unit's BTU output by it wattage consumption.

To avoid buying a unit that consumes a significant amount of power, consider purchasing a unit with an EER rating of 8.5 or greater.

For example, a 10,000 BTU air conditioner with an EER of 8.5 will require about 1,175 watts per hour—which is already a small amount of energy for such a powerful unit. However, a 10,000 BTU unit with an EER of 10 will consume only 1,000 watts per hour—or about 15% less energy than the unit with an 8.5 EER rating.

By calculating the BTU requirements for your home and selecting an air conditioning unit with an EER of 8.5 or greater, you can keep your unit active all summer long without worrying about your utility bill. However, your unit will only operate efficiently if it's installed correctly. For this reason, it's best to leave the task of installing your new unit to a professional HVAC technician.