The Future of Air Conditioning: It’s All About Efficiency and Comfort
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Last Updated on June 25, 2015
What do you consider most important about your air conditioning system? That probably depends on your perspective. If you happen to work for the EPA, it’s energy use. If you’re a facilities manager, it’s reliability. Business owners usually care most about the cost. Employees and customers care about comfort.
In the past, these concerns have sometimes been mutually exclusive. To get the most energy-efficient units, you had to shell out a lot of cash, and in some cases you had to sacrifice some cooling power to get the energy savings. And buying a more expensive system did not necessarily guarantee reliability.
But things are changing. Federal energy-efficiency standards due to take effect in 2016 have put pressure on equipment manufacturers to develop new technology, and have made changes to the way system performance is evaluated. These changes have led to innovative designs that not only save energy and reduce costs, but provide enhanced comfort with reduced humidity and more consistent temperatures. The bottom line: you can buy a system that will make everyone happy!
If you expect to be in the market for a new air conditioning system sometime in the coming couple of years, it’s to your advantage to be aware of the following new features and energy-efficiency ratings.
IEEE: Why partial load efficiency is a better performance measurement
If you’ve ever examined the sales literature for a new air conditioning system, you’ve probably been bewildered by all the acronyms. Here’s a simple explanation of the various measurement ratings.
For decades, the standard performance measurement was something called EER, or Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s a measurement of the cooling created for the amount of power used. The problem with EER is that it’s calculated based on a continuous peak load, typically an outside temperature of 95 degrees and 50% humidity. Most air conditioners are not running at peak load all the time, so these numbers can be misleading.
A better standard of measurement is the SEER rating, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This measurement takes into account varying temperatures during the cooling season, so it’s a more accurate way to judge the energy efficiency of the unit.
The best and most accurate way to measure the cooling power of an air conditioner for the amount of power consumed is called IEER, or Integrated Energy Efficiency Ratio. This measurement uses a weighted average of the unit’s efficiency at various capacities and under different conditions. The new energy-efficiency standards are focusing on this measurement, since most systems are usually running between 50 and 70 percent load capacity.
In the New York City area, our climate is variable and other conditions like pollution and building usage can greatly impact the load on the air conditioning system. Therefore, be sure to look for the IEER rating when evaluating new systems. Never compare an EER to an IEER rating, which is like comparing apples to oranges and won’t be an accurate correlation.
New compressor technologies to enhance comfort while using less energy
When you’re perusing that sales literature, be on the lookout for these new energy-saving features that are just as kind to your building occupants are they are to your wallet.
Variable speed compressors
As the name implies, this feature allows the compressor to operate at a range of different speeds, depending on the system load. The design allows for less cycling, lower noise, and improved dehumidification, especially under light load conditions. These units are built for reliable operation and offer significant energy savings.
This feature, used in light commercial package, split and rooftop air conditioning systems, uses multiple compressors working together to improve energy-efficiency and temperature consistency. When the system is under a lighter load and less cooling is required, each compressor can be independently turned on and off to save energy, reduce noise and cycling, and increase the longevity of the system.
When you’re in the market for a new air conditioning system, it pays to be well-informed about the latest technology, to be sure you’re getting the right system for your needs. If you’re confused by all the technical jargon, and looking for a vendor that can provide reliable expertise and easy-to-understand answers to all your questions, download a copy of our white paper, Contract Confidence: Transitioning to a New HVAC Service Provider. This guide aims to help you evaluate your needs and find the best solution for your business and your budget.