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How Technology Has Pushed Energy Efficiency in the Last 5 Years

air-conditioner-on-leavesThe air conditioning system has been around for over a century. The first electro-mechanical model was installed in a Chicago paper plant in 1902. But people tend to think of air conditioning technology as static—current ACs are pretty much just the same as the air conditioners from back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, over the last 5 years of development, we’ve gone from having 16 SEER air conditioners (SEER is a measure of energy efficiency) as the highest in cooling efficiency. Now it’s common for homeowners to purchase 25 SEER air conditioners.

What got us to this point? How has technology increased air conditioning energy efficiency so high in so short a time?

Air conditioners aren’t the electricity guzzlers they used to be

Central ACs have gotten a bad rap for using immense amounts of electricity. For example, a standard central air conditioner used to consume 6000 watts of electricity per hour. Now, central ACs can do the same job for less than 2000 watts per hour.

Refrigerant improvements

Air conditioners used to run from a refrigerant blend known as R-22, aka “Freon.” (Freon is actually a brand name and doesn’t refer to a specific refrigerant blend.) But R-22 is being phased out, and during the last five years its manufacture in the U.S. has ceased and air conditioners that use it can no longer be built. The new ACs must use a refrigerant called R-410A (or “Puron”) which is not only better for the environment, but allows for improved heat transfer and efficiency performance. (If you still have an R-22 air conditioner, we recommend a replacement as soon as possible.)

Scroll compressors

The compressor is the heart of an air conditioner—it’s where the refrigerant is put under pressure to cause it to circulate and start the cycle of transference of heat outside of the house. Older piston-driven compressors have given way to scroll technology. Two rotating scrolls trap the refrigerant gas to compress it, and they do this at greater efficiency than pistons. In fact, scroll compressors can get more efficient over time.

Multi-stage compressors and variable speed fans

High-efficiency air conditioners are usually equipped with multi-stage compressor and variable speed fans so they do not have to work at the same capacity at all times. A standard AC will run the compressor and its blower fan at the highest possible energy use: essentially, they’re either on or they’re off. But a multi-stage compressor and variable speed fans allow the AC to power down to lower capacity when possible. Most of these high-efficiency systems will work at lower capacity 60% of the time, and that makes a tremendous difference in energy use.

Improved thermostat technology

Finally, thermostats have helped push up the efficiency of both ACs and heaters. New “smart” programming lets thermostats create their own programs based on use history and conditions in the home. This maximizes energy use in a way that was impossible for standard thermostats. They are especially useful with multi-stage compressors and variable speed fans.

If you’d like to replace your home’s aged central AC with a high-efficiency air conditioner in Bellevue, WA, speak to our HVAC specialists today.

S&L Mechanical Heating and Cooling serves the Bellevue area. Get in touch with us for quality service for quality living!

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