Assessing the Lifetime Cost of a New Air Conditioning System
Your A/C just gave out. If you want to survive the summer, you’ll have to get a new one. The problem is, you don’t have a lot of money, so you need to find an A/C replacement with the lowest cost possible. You scan a list of possible models and mentally cross a few off that are higher priced. But are they really? There are two types of A/C replacement costs — first costs and lifetime costs — and sometimes, trying to save on the first can lead to a lot more of the second.
First Costs vs. Lifetime Costs
The first cost of an A/C replacement is everything that’s included in the initial price tag. But an air conditioner isn’t going to stop costing you money once you get it home. There are also a number of operating costs to consider, called lifetime costs, that accrue over the lifetime of the system.
Typically, an air conditioner with a lower first cost will end up with a higher lifetime cost, and vice versa. When money is a factor, it’s tempting just to go for the cheapest model on the market. But if you really want to save, it might be a better idea to invest in a slightly better system, that will cost a less in the long run.
Factors to Consider Before Replacing Your Air Conditioner
But how can you tell which AC replacement option has the lowest total lifetime cost? Here are a few factors to look at:
- Quality – The most expensive air conditioners aren’t automatically the best ones, but as a general rule, the higher you go the price scale, the better quality you can expect. You can get a feel for the quality of a system and its subsequent lifetime costs by checking out the features it offers. Advanced features like a two-stage compressor or a variable-speed air handler are worth paying a bit extra for, as they help you better regulate both airflow and temperature based on your cooling needs on any particular day, and thus cost significantly less money to operate.
- Durability – How long will this model last? How often will you need to call in an HVAC technician for repairs during the system’s lifetime? Once you purchase this A/C replacement, will you spend the rest of the cooling season trying to get it fixed?
Unfortunately, you can’t really determine an air conditioner’s durability by looking at it. What you can do, however, is check to see what others thought of it. Look up the model online and find some customer reviews. What do they have to say about how well it works or how often it needs repairs? You can’t rely entirely on user-submitted reviews, but it’s often a good place to start, to get an idea of what to expect.
- Maintenance – This relates to durability, but it’s a little easier to get a feel for before you buy an HVAC replacement. What kind of parts was the system made with? If it uses high quality, durable parts, then the system can likely last for years with little more than just the standard annual HVAC maintenance visit. However, if it was built with lower quality components, then you can expect more necessary maintenance over the lifetime of your system, which will ultimately cost you more.
- Energy – Of these four factors, an air conditioner’s energy usage is probably the easiest to gauge before making your purchase. Look at the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER rating, which measures the amount of cooling an HVAC is able to produce for the amount of energy it uses over the course of a given cooling season. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system.
You should also look for Energy Star certified air conditioners. If a system bears the blue Energy Star logo, it’s been proven to save money and energy over non-certified models, without sacrificing performance or features.
No matter what model air conditioner you end up getting, it’s important to get a proper, high quality installation. Many HVAC systems don’t get installed properly, which leads to a loss of energy efficiency, as well as damage and frequent repairs. One of the best ways to keep your lifetime costs down is to get a qualified HVAC contractor to install your system correctly from the beginning.
Learn more about Wood Air Conditioning, Inc.’s HVAC replacement options, or give us a call today at 903-285-6550 to schedule an appointment!
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