Even if your old air conditioner isn't quite dead yet, it isn't too early to start deciding what you will get to replace it. The air conditioner affects your budget not only with the price tag, but also with it's energy usage over the next couple decades. A zone-based system is a great way to ensure that you are going to save money in the long run.
Your Old Air Conditioner is More Expensive Than You Think
As with most things in life, air conditioners don't age particularly well. While they usually last a couple decades, near the end of their life, they start to break down more often and eat through electricity in attempt to produce the same amount of cool air. In some cases, the difference in energy usage alone could make it worth doing the upgrade now. Even if it isn't, realizing how much extra you are spending can give you a kick in the pants to start saving up so you can make that upgrade sooner rather than later.
Efficiency is not the only thing that could push you to an air conditioning replacement a little earlier. As mentioned, repair costs can skyrocket as the unit nears the end of its life. Your HVAC tech will be a good resource in making this decision. Most air conditioners give warning signs long before they fail, and a good tech will be able to spot them. Have them give your unit an extra-thorough inspection during the annual maintenance. While it isn't guaranteed, you should be able to get a reasonably good estimate of what your repair expenses would be over the next couple years. If this amount is simply too high (especially when combined with the higher electric bill), then it is time to invest in a new unit.
You'll Be More Comfortable
Zone based HVAC isn't just about saving money on your bills, it is about keeping you as comfortable as possible. Different rooms are best enjoyed at different temperatures, and heat up at different rates. With a traditional system, there is only on or off for the whole house. By upgrading to a zone based system, you can target specific areas and set the temperatures to best fit your needs.
- It is usually best to keep your bedroom cooler than the rest of the house. Skip the window unit, and just turn down the thermostat in that area.
- The top floor of your home will naturally be hotter, and the basement will naturally be cooler. Rather than wasting energy on cooling your basement, you can just add a bit of extra cool air to the top floor.
- The kitchen is often a source of extra heat. A zone based system can handle this gracefully and let you get back to enjoying your dinner.
You'll Save More Money Than With a Traditional Air Conditioner
While the reasons to buy a new air conditioner have been discussed, why is a zone-based system superior from a financial perspective? Well, all that control doesn't just help you stay comfortable. It also ensures that your air conditioner doesn't run any more than it absolutely has to. Air conditioners paired with these systems are also designed to run at different levels, so if it is only cooling a few rooms, it doesn't have to run at full strength. Doing this with a traditional unit would be a recipe for disaster, which is why you can only change your home to this type of system when you are buying a new air conditioner.
While they still aren't a common choice, zone-based air conditioners are worth considering, especially if you have a lot of square footage to cover. The extra comfort is nice, but the energy savings will put a smile on your face for years to come.