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The Benefit of Purchasing a System Versus a Single Unit

Written by All Comfort Services | February 12, 2020

Do you ever get one part on your car replaced, only to have another part fail soon afterward? Car engines are complicated systems, and all of their individual parts are carefully matched for maximum performance. A new part with radically different operating characteristics can put extreme stress on other related parts, causing them to fail.

Similarly, your home’s heating and air conditioning units form another complex system and share critical components. These critical components are your furnace and air conditioner. They often use the same blower to force conditioned air throughout your home. If you’re thinking about replacing your air conditioner, should you also be replacing your furnace at the same time? To answer that question, let’s take a look at what the furnace and air conditioner have in common, as well as the pros and cons of replacing both systems at the same time.

For more information on HVAC units – both systems and single units – call All Comfort Services at 608-838-7300 or contact us online today.

HVAC Units – Systems versus Single Units

Your heating and cooling equipment work together to form an HVAC system. Your furnace, air handler or blower, and evaporator coil are located inside your home, and they’re connected to your ductwork. Air conditioning units sit outside your home. ENERGY STAR, the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) recommend that the air conditioner, coil, and furnace be replaced together in order to meet their installation guidelines.

Like the car engine we mentioned above, not doing this can have serious implications on the performance and efficiency of your entire HVAC system, and you may encounter the following issues:

  • A decreased life span of your system – According to AHRI, “when (components are) improperly matched, the efficiency and longevity of these systems are significantly compromised.” With matched equipment, you’ll get the best possible system performance without additional stress on any one component of the system.
  • Lower system efficiency – Would you put used tires on a brand-new car? Of course not, because it would prevent your car from running as smoothly as possible. The same is true for your furnace and air conditioner. Even if your new outdoor unit is 18 SEER, the old indoor section (probably intended for an 8-10 SEER unit) could cause the system to lag behind, keeping your energy bills higher than they should be.
  • Premature breakdowns – As in the automobile example, an old air handler may not be as capable of moving the required volume of air as a new one. This creates undue stress on the other components of your air conditioner and forces them to work harder, resulting in unnecessary, premature breakdowns.
  • Increased installation costs – Replacing the air conditioning unit, waiting a few years, and then having another contractor come out to install the furnace unit means paying for two separate installations instead of one. Replacing your furnace and air conditioner at the same time will cut down on overall installation costs for both systems.

Obviously, if your air conditioner just stopped working, you’re facing some quick and tough decisions. It may be better to take a moment to think, then respond rationally, without rushing into an uninformed choice for your home.

Here are important factors to consider when purchasing a new heating or cooling system:

What is the age of your system?

On average, a furnace will last 15 to 20 years, and a central air conditioning system will last 12 to 15 years, depending on the quality and efficiency of the equipment. If your furnace and air conditioner were installed at the same time, then they are the same age. So, if your air conditioner stops working at the end of its usable life (10-12 years), then your furnace is also near the end of its usable life. If you have to replace your air conditioner, consider replacing your furnace and coil in order to maximize the return from your investment.

What is the SEER?

The higher the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, the more efficient the unit, which translates to less money spent monthly cooling your home. A 13 to 14 SEER rating is the minimum; 15 SEER is good; and above 16 is highly efficient. A high-efficiency system can cut energy bills in half when compared to an old 8 SEER unit, and it will also provide many comfort benefits.

An unmatched system will never be able to achieve the SEER designated on the yellow hangtag affixed to your condenser. In fact, it will probably be closer to the SEER of your old system. When you match your condenser with the correct coil and furnace, you are guaranteed to get the SEER you paid for. Often, matching the best furnace will boost your efficiency beyond the yellow hangtag. Remember, the higher the SEER with your matched system, the greater the utility savings for you every month.

What type of refrigerant is used?

R-22, also referred to by brand names like Freon® and Puron®, has been banned from use in all units produced after 2009. As an ozone-depleting gas, R-22 refrigerant should NOT be used in new systems. If you’re buying a new system, make sure it uses R-410A or a similar approved refrigerant. In some cases, repairs can be made to existing systems using the R-22 refrigerant already in your old system, or it can be repaired and recharged with “re-claimed” and recycled R-22 refrigerant from other old systems.

R-22 system components such as indoor coils, and refrigerant controls are NOT compatible with new R-410A systems! Don’t just go for the lowest price. Don’t just think about the price of each component – consider how your system will work as a whole.

Should you consider a maintenance contract?

Maintenance is necessary to keep your system functioning in optimal conditions over the life of the unit. Over time, dirt, debris, and other foreign substances can cause buildup in your system, erode electrical connections, and cause other damage that is expensive to repair. The buildup can also cause a 14 SEER unit to perform like a 10 SEER one, making your system work harder and your utility bills spike. Ensuring your system is clean and maintained annually can extend the life of your system and help you avoid expensive and preventable repairs.

How do I know if it’s time to replace?

There are certain telltale signs that indicate it’s time to either replace your heating and cooling equipment or improve the performance of your overall system:

  • Your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 10 years old
  • Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old
  • Your energy bills are going up
  • Your cooling or heating isn’t as efficient as it used to be
  • Some rooms are too hot or too cold
  • Your home is too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer
  • Your home has excessive dust
  • Your heating or cooling system is noisy

You may qualify for a federal tax credit.

A number of tax credits for residential energy efficiency have been renewed, and are available for purchases made in 2020, as well as retroactive to purchases made in 2018 and 2019. ENERGY STAR products eligible for tax credits are independently certified to save energy, save money, and protect the environment. The total credit can be as much as $500. It only applies to an existing home, which must be your principal residence. New construction and rentals do not apply.

Replacing an air conditioner and a furnace at the same time is going to be expensive. However, based on the information given, replacing your furnace and air conditioner at the same time is smart and cost-effective. It will save you money in the future by lowering your energy bills, reducing repairs, and minimizing installation costs. Your comfort level will increase year-round when you get the best performance possible out of your system and better maintain the temperature and humidity levels in your home.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, and we will support your choice. However, we strongly suggest you get a matched system. Replacing both your air conditioner and furnace at the same time will help keep your home as safe and comfortable as possible.

Call All Comfort Services at 608-838-7300 or contact us today to schedule an appointment and discuss your future system!

This post was adapted from one on the Lennox Comfort Matters blog.

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