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Replacing an Existing Central Air Conditioner

If your existing air conditioner needs replacement or is more than 10 years old, chances are good that it is also inefficient. A 10-year-old air conditioner probably has a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) between 7.0 and 8.0. Some new models have a SEER or 12 or 13. A more efficient unit should pay for itself through decreased utility bills and offer improved reliability and warranty protection. In addition, it is less harmful to the environment because the refrigerant in newer units does not deplete the ozone.

If you have an electric or oil furnace or a conventional gas furnace and your space heating costs $1,000 or more per year, you should consider installing an efficient air-source or ground-source heat pump instead of a central air conditioner. Ask two or three contractors how much more it would cost to add a heat pump to your furnace. Heat pump SEER ratings are competitive with those of central air conditioners, but heat pumps have the added advantage of providing savings in heating costs during the winter.

Heat pump savings range from a low of about 20 percent where gas is the primary heat source to as high as 60 percent where an electric furnace is the main source of heating. If the additional capital cost divided by the estimated savings is five years or less, consider installing a heat pump instead. They are good for the environment and are an efficient way of using electricity for home heating.

More about heat pumps

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