Good reasons to upgrade your old AC in the off season


(StatePoint) Before you turn off your AC system for the season, consider having it checked out by a certified contractor. If it’s older or has been giving you problems, you might want to replace it. 

“It may not be top of mind, but fall is actually the ideal time to think about your home’s cooling system,” says Frank Landwehr, VP of Marketing at Emerson Climate Technologies.

There are five reasons why consumers who consider this important home upgrade during the off-season often have much better outcomes, say the experts.

• Contractor considerations:  Give yourself plenty of time to identify the best AC contractor for your installation. Contractors in between cooling and heating seasons will be more available to help solve your specific problems. 

• New features: Learn about the latest technology and features available for HVAC systems, as a lot has changed in the past 20 years. Consider systems with features ranging from superior humidity reduction to noise reduction to remote control systems and energy-efficient programmable thermostats.  “Dual fuel” heat pumps that can use either electricity or natural gas for heating are another recent innovation to consider.

• Zombie heat pump: So-called “zombie” heat pumps appear to be alive and running, but in reality are not performing optimally, or at all. If your air conditioner doubles as a heat pump, fall is the time to have your system checked out for the heating season.  Fall is also a good time to have a conventional furnace checked out by a contractor. If it’s older like the AC unit, you might be better off having them both replaced at once.

• Recalculations: Have your contractor run new calculations on your home. Changes since that old AC system was installed can affect your needs. For example, if you added insulation, upgraded to more efficient windows, knocked out walls or added a room, you might need a different system size than before -- and the wrong system can be problematic. 

A system that’s too small won’t keep up on the hottest days. A system that’s too large will cycle too much, causing wide swings in temperature -- and won’t necessarily remove all the humidity from your home. 

Further, if you plan to close the AC vents in seldom-used rooms, look for a system with at least two steps of capacity modulation. Closing room vents and doors effectively makes your house appear smaller to your HVAC system, which could significantly damage the system or cause it to fail prematurely.

• Regulations: Know the latest government regulations and rebates before you buy. New regulations going into effect January 1, 2015, might affect the minimum efficiency standard in your region. Give yourself time to consider whether you want to replace your system ahead of the change. 

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