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Thinking About Your A/C?

As the heat of summer cranks up, so do the central air conditioners and heat pumps across Nebraska. In fact, approximately 90% of homes in our state have one of these central cooling systems. The vast majority have a compressor unit that buzzes outside as the system removes heat from inside. But what if that buzzing stopped on the hottest of days?

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America states that about 85% – 90% of residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) replacements are performed on an emergency basis. This is to be expected since those days stress HVAC systems the most.

Proper maintenance of your cooling system helps ensure a longer, more energy efficient life, and your local electric utility can provide an incentive when you have a professional HVAC technician perform a cooling system tune up. But inevitably, the day will come when you ask yourself, “Should I have it repaired again or replace it?”

Rather than waiting until sweltering heat brings your unit down, start thinking today about the following:

System age
Most HVAC equipment manufacturers will say outdoor central air conditioning and air-source heat pump units should last around 15 to 20 years if properly maintained. Other factors influencing longevity include correct sizing, proper installation, temperature setting preferences, environmental exposure and geographical location. If your outdoor unit is more than 10 years old, start familiarizing yourself with replacement options and costs.

Frequency of repairs
Look back at your unit’s history to gain some insight of its future. Does it seem like your system has needed to undergo repair work in addition to maintenance year after year? Have a number of unforeseen problems popped up the past few years? If your cooling system has had a difficult life, it’s not likely to suddenly get easier as time goes on.

The $5,000 rule
Some repairs can easily cost more than $1,000. Try using the “$5,000 rule” when considering whether to replace the unit. Simply multiply the age of the outdoor unit with the estimated repair cost. If that amount is more than $5,000, it might be time to replace the unit.

R-22 refrigerant
Older air conditioners generally require R-22 refrigerant, which is known to cause damage to the environment. Also, the price for R-22 has increased astronomically! By January 1, 2010, the U.S. banned the production and importation of R-22. As a result, manufacturers of heat pump and air conditioning equipment redesigned their systems to accommodate R-410A, a chlorine-free refrigerant. Since 2015, R-410A has become the standard for residential air conditioning.

Energy efficiency
The U.S. Department of Energy began enforcing minimum efficiency standards for HVAC equipment in 1992. For cooling, residential heat pumps and central air-conditioners were required to have a minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of 10. By 2006, that minimum efficiency level was increased to a SEER rating of 13. Just recently, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 2 (SEER2) testing procedure was developed to better reflect current field conditions. Effective January 1, 2023, new central air conditioners and heat pumps are required to meet or exceed a 13.4 SEER2 rating. Today, some units exceed a SEER2 rating of 27. In general, the higher the SEER2 rating, the better the efficiency.

Your local utility recognizes the importance of keeping your home cool this summer. To help with those associated costs, they offer the EnergyWiseSM Cooling System Tune-Up and High Efficiency Heat Pump Incentive Programs. For further details, contact your local utility for more information.

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