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AC Unit Spewing Lots of Cash

17 Sep 2021

Author: Jeff O'Hara

Here we are on the brink of yet another hot, humid summer season in Houston, TX, when the air conditioner becomes the most essential appliance in your home. An air conditioner is not merely a luxury in South Texas; it’s an absolute necessity, so much so that many southern US states didn’t see an increase in population until after air conditioning was available in homes. Just about every new home built today is equipped with a central HVAC system to provide indoor comfort regardless of the weather. 

Installing a new HVAC system is an expensive project that every homeowner is doomed to experience every 10 – 15 years. The final cost of any air conditioner installation will hang on many variables that can significantly increase or decrease those costs. The object of this blog is to make the homeowner more aware of what these variables are and how much they can add to your final HVAC system total.

How Long Should My HVAC System Last?

Even though modern heating and air conditioning systems have a 10 – 15-year life expectancy, they will only achieve that goal when adequately maintained. Most homeowners unintentionally shorten that lifespan by neglecting regular HVAC system maintenance, causing system breakdowns that can add up in both cost and frustration. Air filters need to be changed, refrigeration levels must be checked and corrected, and motors in fans and compressors require periodic lubrication and adjustments to ensure your HVAC system operates at peak performance and efficiency. 

HVAC systems that have not been adequately maintained can start exhibiting poor efficiency and lowered performance in as little as two years. Dirty air filters make it difficult to draw warm air into the system to be cooled, causing the air conditioner to work harder for more extended periods. Low refrigerant levels will keep your air conditioner from ever reaching the desired temperature, thus never shutting off, raising electric bills and frustration levels. 

How Do I Know It’s Time to Replace My HVAC System?

The best indicator for when to consider heating and air conditioning replacement is going to be the age of the system and how well it’s been maintained. A 7-year-old air conditioner that’s never had its filters changed or the refrigerant level checked is already going to be showing wear and tear, evidenced by not cooling correctly, making strange sounds, and raising energy bills. A good rule of thumb to follow is if the repairs of an HVAC system account for more than 50% of the cost to replace it, it’s a good time to replace it.

Newer HVAC systems are much more efficient than ones installed just five years ago, and many have integrated smart technology and apps to allow you to control your heat and AC from your phone or tablet. 

What Costs Are Involved in AC Installation?

It can be a lot for the homeowner to bear, getting an estimate for installing a new HVAC system. Thanks to recent technological advances, home comfort has never been more affordable, more efficient, or more interactive. Here’s an overview of some popular AC installation options and a range of prices. Keep in mind that the AC unit’s size and its SEER efficiency rating will influence the cost of the overall job, and the prices listed are only for informational purposes.

Standard HVAC System Cost:

 $3,750 – $8,995

Install the Right Size Air Conditioner

British Thermal Unit:

A unit of measurement is used to describe the amount of energy required to heat (or cool) 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. 

To properly size a system for your home, the HVAC technician needs to take measurements of each room in the house to determine the amount of square footage.

These measurements are taken into a secret lab* where complex mathematical equations account for the number of people who live in the home, how many levels (stories) the house has, and the height of the ceilings. The number that comes out at the end is the number of British Thermal Units required to cool the home.

*There’s not really a secret lab…the tech does the math in his truck.

Increased Size = Increased Cost

Here’s something to completely confuse you. The size of an air conditioner is measured in tons, which has nothing to do with how much the unit weighs. 

As it applies to AC, Tonnage is used to illustrate the amount of air the system can cool in an hour. For example, a 3-ton air conditioner can produce 36,000 BTUs of cooling energy, making it perfect for installation in a 2,500 – 3,000 square foot home. Installing a 3-ton system is too small of a home (1,200 sq. feet) will cause the unit to chill the room before the humidity can be removed from the air in the evaporator coil. 

Need to Install New or Replace Existing Ductwork?

Older homes that have never been outfitted for central air conditioning will require the installation of ductwork and air vents in the walls. Installing or replacing new ductwork is a pricey endeavor, running an average of $35 – $50 for every linear foot of ducting, with the average home requiring between 40 and 80 linear feet of ducts. 

Can I Just Replace My Air Conditioner?

Let’s assume that only the components related to your air conditioner are worn out, but your furnace still works perfectly. In our climate, furnaces see a lot less action, and as such, there is much less wear and tear on the heating side of your HVAC system, so why replace something that isn’t broken? If the new AC unit and your existing furnace are capable of working together, you can certainly save a few dollars and keep the existing furnace. 

Don’t Forget to Maintain Your New HVAC System.

According to most manufacturer’s guidelines, failing to maintain your HVAC system will void your warranty, leaving you unprotected from costly repairs or replacement. Make sure to sign up for Nick’s Air Conditioning’s VIP Service Plan, which includes yearly maintenance, inspections, and filter replacements; visit Nicks Maintenance Plan to learn more. 

If your home is already starting to feel hot and muggy this early in the summer, give Nick’s Air Conditioning a call today. Please schedule an appointment for one of our licensed, experienced HVAC technicians to perform an HVAC assessment of your home.

Call us today. We’re on the Way.

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