Like all machinery and home appliances, AC units malfunction after prolonged use. The average lifetime of most HVAC units falls between 15-20 years, meaning that older units are increasingly likely to partially or completely fail.

However, the question “do old AC units use more electricity” is more complicated. The simple answer is that yes, most AC units decrease in energy efficiency over time. Older units often use more electricity as they age. 

Older units use more power due to antiquated technology and wear and tear. New AC units use the latest technologies, greatly increasing their energy efficiency when compared to old models. Keep reading to find out more about how to gauge the energy efficiency of your AC unit and whether a new one is worth the investment. 

AC Unit Efficiency and Age

As mentioned previously, the most efficient air conditioners utilize new technology to reduce energy usage. Some 20-year-old AC units can use around 6kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity to cool down an average family home in the United States, whereas a new unit may only use around 1.7 kWh to cool the same-sized home. 

AC units cool air down by using a fan to blow hot air over evaporator coils. These coils contain liquid refrigerant, which is the principal cooling agent in an air conditioning system. As the liquid refrigerant becomes hot, it changes into a gas, absorbing the heat from the air. 

Air conditioners must cycle the liquid refrigerant through the condenser and evaporator coils to continue the cooling process without interruption. After the liquid refrigerant converts to a gaseous state, the compressor must exert pressure to condense the gas back into a liquid. The machine then pushes the same liquid back through the system.

An example of the advanced technology that new air conditioners use is a two-stage scroll compressor. Unlike the old single-stage piston compressors of older AC units, the two-stage scroll compressor uses significantly less energy when compressing the refrigerant gas.

Though new technology is the most obvious way to determine the energy efficiency of your unit, the best way to determine how much electricity your air conditioner uses is to check the SEER rating. 

SEER Ratings

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a number that indicates how much electricity heating and cooling units must use to properly control the temperature of a space. A 13 SEER rating is the minimum for any unit created after 2015, while 25 is the current maximum (thus indicating the most energy-efficient units). 

Units older than 2015 may operate at a SEER rating of as low as 10. Furthermore, due to consistent usage and age, these older units will most likely function at a lower SEER rating of 8 or 9. So, depending on the age of your unit, your HVAC system may be extremely inefficient, costing you hundreds extra in energy bills per year. 

Besides SEER ratings, proper air conditioner sizing is also integral to save the most electricity possible when using your AC. Units that are too small for a space will likely short cycle or run constantly, which can not only damage the mechanics of your unit but also use extra energy. 

Even with a 25 SEER rating, units that are too large for your space will improperly dehumidify the air. Cool but humid air is not only uncomfortable, but consistent exposure to high humidity can sometimes cause health problems. Discuss the proper size of a new AC unit for your space with an expert before replacing it. 

3 Benefits of Upgrading Your AC System

So, the answer to “do old AC units use more electricity” is yes. Thus, if you have an older air conditioner model, you should consider replacing it. The top three benefits of upgrading your AC system, as presented by El Cajon’s trusted air conditioning installation experts, include:

1. Increased Energy Savings

As we explained in the previous sections, new air conditioners utilize the latest technology to provide energy savings. The wear and tear that older units also sustain can greatly reduce the SEER rating of these air conditioners, raising your energy bills significantly. 

2. Better for the Environment

Increased energy efficiency obviously reduces your environmental footprint when using air conditioning. However, older air conditioners also use a different kind of refrigerant from new units. Namely, old air conditioners use R-22 while new units use R-410A.

These two types of refrigerant liquid are not interchangeable due to the amount of pressure required to condense them back into gas. So, older units can only process R-22. And, though HVAC units have used R-22 for several decades, R-22 has high Global Warming Potential. 

Inventors created R-410A with the specific intent to reduce the environmental impact that air conditioners have. Studies have proven that R-22 damages the ozone layer and increases your carbon footprint. Investing in a new unit will allow you to switch to R-410A and significantly reduce your air conditioner’s environmental footprint.

3. Health and Safety

The older your AC unit, the more likely that it will fail. During the hot summers in El Cajon, CA, an AC malfunction can be dangerous for your safety. Furthermore, old AC units collect dust and other allergens over time that circulate through your air and may cause health problems. 

Finally, older air conditioners can also leak dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide. Inhaling carbon monoxide is life-threatening and can result in poisoning. Thus, it is best for your health and safety to invest in the most up-to-date units. 

Top-Notch HVAC Installation in El Cajon, CA

If you think that after answering the question “do old AC units use more electricity” you should invest in a new unit, contact Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning. We have over 10 years of experience in HVAC installation and repair throughout El Cajon, CA and the surrounding areas. 

Check out helpful topics, such as “cover AC unit in winter,” on our blog! Call our expert HVAC technicians at 619-949-2483 for advice on SEER ratings, the best new AC technology, and free estimates on our services today.

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