Choosing An AC System For Max Energy Savings When Renovating

A living room with white furniture and hardwood floors featuring an AC system.

The past couple of years have been tough for those looking to buy a new home. Markets have heated to a fever pitch, making it hard to secure your dream home. That’s why many current homeowners have started to renovate their homes instead of buying a new one. Smart homeowners have learned that maximizing the energy efficiency of their home can help recoup the costs of the renovation and then some. 

New innovations in the world of air conditioning have slashed the levels of energy required to cool homes today. From smart thermostats to tapping into the earth’s steady natural temperature, there are systems that can help you save energy. Let’s discover the ways upgrading to a new AC system when renovating can deliver max energy savings.

What Type of AC Units Are Common In A Residential Home?

To start understanding how you can maximize your energy savings when renovating, it’s key to know which systems are out there. Here are the most common systems for residential homes.

Window AC Units

Older homes often have window AC units to keep the home cool in the summer. Usually, this is because installing vents throughout the home is costly. Larger homes need multiple units to keep the entire home cool, which uses considerable energy when it’s super hot outside. With that in mind, however, multiple units enable owners to leave areas off when not in use to save energy.

Wall AC Units

Wall AC Units are versions of packaged terminal air conditioners that have all of their equipment in one box. These systems look similar to window AC units, but instead fit through a cutout in the wall, which can ensure a better seal for greater energy-efficiency. Because these AC units only have a single vent, multiple units are needed for larger square footage homes.

Mini-Split AC Units

Mini-split AC units also only have one vent to disperse cold air, called a diffuser. These systems, however, have a second piece of equipment called a condenser that’s placed outside. The multi-piece configuration adds to the initial cost of these systems. Because of the higher upfront cost and single vent, these systems are best for medium-sized spaces with open areas when energy efficiency is the primary consideration.

Central AC Units with Condenser

Most people are familiar with central AC units that have an outdoor condenser to exchange the heat. When designed for efficiency and combined with newer technology, these can be some of the most energy-efficient systems available for home renovators. The drawback, of course, is that these systems can get quite expensive when more advanced equipment is chosen.

Central AC Units with Geothermal

Similar to traditional central air systems, geothermal systems still blow cold air throughout the house using ductwork. The big difference is that these systems tap deep into the earth to draw from its naturally-regulated temperature instead of piping refrigerant to an outdoor condenser with a compressor and large fan (which all use a ton of energy to run). That means the main energy draw required for geothermal systems is just the blower fan that circulates air in the home, drastically reducing energy use.

Factors That Affect AC Unit Energy Efficiency

Understanding which AC unit will give you the best return on your renovating dollars hinges on four key factors. These factors affect how energy efficient the system will be, so carefully weigh your options using these criteria.

Factor #1 – Quality Of Insulation In The Home

Regardless of the type of AC system you choose, the quality of insulation in your home has a major impact on how energy efficient your air conditioning will be. Before shopping for an HVAC system, it’s essential to address this factor.

Factor #2 – Temperature Sensing System

The type of thermostat control system of the AC unit is another key factor. The more accurate the room temperature reading, the more optimal the run cycles, so less energy is wasted on unnecessary cooling.

Factor #3 – Ventilation In Relation To Floor Plan

Next on the list of factors is how accurately the ventilation of the AC system delivers cool air. If the system only has a single air duct and your home has numerous rooms, it will have to do more work to evenly distribute the cool air. 

Factor #4 – Method Of Heat Exchange

Finally, the way the AC system exchanges hot air for cold air affects how much electricity the system uses. For example, geothermal systems leverage the naturally-regulated temperature of the earth, unlike a window air conditioner that has to do all the heat exchange work itself.

Which Air Conditioner Should You Choose?

Once you’ve addressed all of the factors above, the best air conditioner comes down to weighing the initial cost with the potential energy savings. Although systems like geothermal can cost considerably more upfront, if you plan on staying in the home for many years, it can pay off. A little number crunching can go a long way!

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