While it’s natural to focus on the upfront cost when shopping around for new HVAC equipment, it’s important not to overlook the lifetime cost. With proper care, the air conditioning system in a Winter Haven home should last a minimum of 12 years and up to 20. That is a lot of time to rack up expenses if you pick the wrong system.
A lot of air conditioning systems that are lower priced also are lower quality. While they might save money in the short term, the cheaper systems could end up draining your wallet even more in the long run through maintenance repairs. Therefore, it’s often better to spend money up front on a higher-priced, higher-quality system that is more durable and requires less maintenance.
It’s not the only factor to consider, but an air conditioning system’s energy efficiency is an important indicator of a unit’s lifetime cost. The best way to judge a system’s efficiency is by its SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio), which measures the amount of cooling it provides against the electricity it uses to provide that energy. The higher the SEER is, the more expensive the unit. The minimum SEER in A/C units is 13, but the better ones have SEERs of 20 or more.
The higher the SEER, the less maintenance and repair a system will have over its lifetime. While it might cost you more out the door, those costs will be made up by the lack of maintenance and the overall quality of the product.
A typical air conditioning system requires an annual maintenance check to make sure everything is running smoothly and correctly. Not only does a technician use these check-ups to make sure the unit is working at its optimal efficiency, these check-ups allow technicians to catch minor problems early before they turn into major ones.
The amount of maintenance necessary is dependent on the type of system being examined. Systems with older technology and lower-quality parts cost less out the door initially but require more maintenance and hands-on care through the life of the unit. These more frequent service calls, which are caused by issues such as a coil freezing up, costs the unit’s owner more money down the road than they would have spent if they had gone with a higher-quality system. While that high-quality system might have a high initial price, the less maintenance calls and the less work done during those calls make up for it down the road.
The components of a system affect their lifetime costs no matter the quality of the system. Lower-cost systems tend to have easy-to-find PSC (permanent-split capacitor) motors that are affordable to replace, but these motors tend to be inefficient in equalizing cooling and will wear out faster than higher priced motors, meaning that a customer might have to purchase several in their lifetime.
The higher-end systems have an ECM (electronically commutated motor). These motors are more expensive to replace, but they are more efficient and need to be replaced less than PSC motors, making ECMs more cost-effective in the long run.
This same relationship is seen when comparing compressors. Lower-end units have reciprocating compressors, which contain a lot more moving parts than the scroll compressors found in newer systems. With less moving parts needed to keep the operation going, scroll compressors can work more efficiently and need less day-to-day supervision than the reciprocating ones. That makes scroll compressors, though more expensive initially, an economical choice over time.
All of the above factors contribute to less repair costs. The more efficient the system runs and the higher quality the parts, the less one has to spend on repairs. Is it better to pay a little now and a lot down the road in repairs, or more now and less down the road? For most people, the extra initial cost is worth it to save the headaches (and cost) of repair and maintenance down the road.
The design of an air conditioning unit is important in how it runs, but how a customer uses the unit is important as well. For the most accurate estimate of how much a system will cost over its life span, consult a contractor and let him or her know how many hours a day and how many days a year you are planning to use the system.
For expert guidance on choosing an air conditioner and estimating lifetime costs, contact us at Winter Haven Air Conditioning. Open since 1977, Winter Haven Air Conditioning has provided the Winter Haven/Lakeland/Haines City area with reliable HVAC services.