The New Cool: 3 Ways Air Conditioning Has Changed for the Better
Like so many other technologies, central air conditioning has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years. Delivering enhanced efficiency, unprecedented performance, and "stays out of your way" unobtrusiveness, the latest cooling systems are very cool indeed.
How did we live before air conditioning? In some regions, it’s not even a nice-to-have amenity, but a virtual necessity for survival. Everywhere else, homeowners rely on AC for much-needed mid-summer heat relief, and they have done so for decades. Of course, central air conditioning hasn’t always been the fine-tuned yet affordable convenience we know today. Even recently, over the last dozen or so years, we’ve seen the technology advance, like so many others, by leaps and bounds. If it’s been ages since you last surveyed the air conditioner market, therefore, “You might be very pleasantly surprised,” says David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services. With energy costs on the rise and concern mounting for the environment, HVAC equipment manufacturers have responded by launching lines that boast, not only exemplary efficiency, but much-improved performance all around. In the past, you may have resisted the temptation to install central air, or you may now be considering an upgrade your current system. Either way, you already know there’s nothing better than AC this time of year. But to find out why the latest AC equipment outperforms what came before, continue reading now.
1. MORE COMFORTABLE
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity: There’s a lot of truth to that old aphorism. Go out on a high-humidity day, and you feel discomfort right away. Retreat back into the air conditioning, though, and you may not always get relief. It depends on the age of your system. According to Kenyon of Sears Home Services, previous generations of AC technology can maintain the set temperature but often fail to mitigate humidity. That’s why, in a room cooled by an older system, you may feel clammy and “never fully at ease,” as Kenyon puts it. Nowadays, it’s a much different story. The latest systems are considerably more adept at controlling the moisture content of air, largely thanks to a new type of HVAC component, the modulating condenser. Kenyon explains, “Modulating condensers monitor conditions in the home and self-adjust to keep humidity within a comfortable range.” In other words, many of the latest air conditioners now works against, not only sweltering heat, but discomfiting moisture as well. “That’s a big step up in terms in comfort,” Kenyon points out. An added bonus: Lower humidity usually means you can set the thermostat a bit higher, cutting consumption and saving energy dollars in the process.
2. MORE EFFICIENT
“There’s a night-and-day difference between the average efficiency of air conditioners today versus the average twenty or even ten years ago,” Kenyon says. In fact, efficiency has improved so much and so quickly that the traditional rating system has struggled to keep pace. Pros and consumers alike have long relied on the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating to understand the efficiency of a given HVAC component, relative to others. “It wasn’t so long ago that you would see SEER ratings between 4 and 10,” Kenyon remarks. Flash forward: Today, many air conditioners boast markedly higher SEER ratings, from around 14 up to as high as 26—numbers that Kenyon deems “off the charts!” Even so, it’s key to remember that home energy efficiency depends, not only on the SEER rating of the cooling appliance, but on a host of interconnected factors. Be sure to work with HVAC specialists that look at the bigger picture. For instance, before Sears Home Services considers a job complete, its experts study and make recommendations on an array of factors, from the condition of ductwork to the amount and quality of insulation. “For maximum efficiency, everything needs to work together,” Kenyon concludes.
3. MORE DISCREET
Up to now, home cooling has typically entailed one or another type of sacrifice. In exchange for the benefits of central air conditioning, you would put up with its considerable downsides, including noise and compromised air quality. Here’s the good news: Comfort no longer has to come with a catch. As Kenyon says, “The best of the new breed operate quietly, while promoting the health of the home.” Take the issue of noise. “Once upon a time, if standing near the outdoor unit, you needed to shout to be heard,” Kenyon recalls. But where newer models are concerned, a disruptive level of noise signifies, not normal operation, but a problem in need of repair. By the same token, filtration has come a long way since the days when cooling systems were notorious for distributing dust, pollen, and other airborne impurities. From pleated media-type filters to innovative electrostatic and ultraviolet ones, new options remove such particles—in some cases, even microscopic particles—in the regular course of recirculation. “It all adds up to more enjoyable, less obtrusive air conditioning,” Kenyon says.
For all but the most ambitious do-it-yourselfers, putting in or upgrading a central air-conditioning system calls for the involvement of well-qualified contractors with years of experience in HVAC. Don’t just flip open the phone book and settle for the first company listed. Instead, put thought and care into your search for the right pro. There are too many complexities involved to risk doing otherwise. As Kenyon puts it, “Even if you have a top-of-the-line system, you can’t expect peak performance, unless the components are installed properly installed.” Don’t know where to start? Schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Doing so gives you the chance to discuss your needs with an expert, while becoming an expert in your own right on all your different options. At the very least, your project consultant can explain the often quite generous tax credits, incentives, and rebates available in many areas to help defray the upfront cost of energy-smart HVAC. From initial planning to final installation and beyond, Sears remains committed to the lasting success of your project.
This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.