With improvement in technology, modern air conditioners can deliver better energy efficiency. Air conditioner manufacturers are continuously looking for a competitive advantage by offering customers more features, and some of the most desirable features are related to energy efficiency.
Air conditioner manufacturers have come up with improved versions of AC refrigerants and variable power compressors to allow air conditioners to be more efficient. Certain government regulations related to energy efficiency in the U.S. have also pushed air conditioner manufacturers to look for ways to make their air conditioners use less electricity.
How Is Energy Efficiency Calculated?
The energy efficiency of modern air conditioners can only be compared to past models if we can calculate the energy efficiency. If you have ever gone AC shopping, you would have noticed that air conditioners are often labeled with an EER or SEER rating. These ratings have become a major factor in the decision-making of AC buyers and a major part of how air conditioners are marketed.
The energy efficiency of an air conditioner is measured in EER or SEER. EER stands for “energy efficiency ratio,” and SEER is short for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio.” This ratio is calculated by dividing the capacity of the air conditioner (BTUs) by the usage of energy (watts). The SEER ratio incorporates the time of the year into the calculations for a more specific measurement.
The SEER rating for air conditioners in the early 1990s was around 10 SEER for typical residential AC split systems. In today’s world, it is common for air conditioners to have a rating of 16 SEER or more. The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) has set minimum standards of SEER ratings for air conditioners. This rating was set at 13 SEER in 2015 and is expected to keep going up as air conditioners become more energy efficient.
What Makes Modern Air Conditioners More Energy Efficient?
There are several reasons for the improved energy efficiency of air conditioners, including improvement in the design and function of some of its components. The refrigerant of the air conditioners functions as a specialized blend of chemicals that can easily change states between liquid and gas. The refrigerant flows through the AC coils into several components, including the evaporator. It allows for the efficient transfer of heat, which is a vital component of the refrigeration cycle.
Newer versions of the refrigerant, such as the R-410, are far more energy-efficient than older versions like the R22. The R-410 is also more environmentally friendly compared to the R-22, which is set to be phased out. If you own an air conditioner that uses an R-22 refrigerant, please consult with a professional HVAC technician to upgrade to a newer model. Keep in mind that, for most models of air conditioners, you can only use the type of refrigerant that has been recommended by the AC manufacturer.
It is also common to find modern air conditioners with variable power compressors. With older models, the compressors would operate at one speed regardless of the requirement of the air conditioner. When the air conditioner reached the temperature set on the thermostat, the compressor would switch off until the temperature would rise above the thermostat reading.
The continuous switching on and off of the compressor and the requirement for the compressor to work at full power every time it is switched on is inefficient. Variable power compressors can adjust the power according to the requirements of the air conditioner. This allows them to more energy efficient than single-speed compressors. Modern air conditioners are also fitted with variable-speed fans, which also operate on a similar model to variable power compressors.
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