For the most part, Texas is a summer peaking state. As such, all across Texas, homeowners and businesses are more concerned with cooling their homes during summer. Cooling is essential in Texas’s arid and semi-arid regions, where temperature can get excessively hot during the summer months.
In the same light, it is during the summer when energy usage is at its highest. Typically, it is common for residential demand for electricity to increase by about 400% during summer months, as more and more households rely on air conditioners to keep their houses cool.
With this in mind, it is only fitting to make a wise choice as far as choosing an air conditioning system for your Texan home. There are many cooling solutions available, but not all products will serve you well nor meet your needs. Therefore, you should not settle on the first system you come across. Instead, take some time and consider the merits and demerits of each kind of system.
This article will delve into three of the most popular cooling systems that Texans use in their homes.
#1. Whole-Home Air Conditioners
Also known as central air conditioners, whole-home air conditioning systems are designed to cool the entire home. Central ACs are located outside, with the air handler the only part of the system installed indoors. The system depends on ductwork to distribute cool air. Central ACs are the most popular air conditioning system for houses that already have ductwork.
– Most Convenient to Install When the House Has Ducts – The EIA reports that over 91% of homes built after 2000 in the U.S. have central ducts for space heating and cooling. As such, it is most likely that installing central air conditioning in your home is a straightforward endeavor as you already have the infrastructure ready.
– Better Humidity Control – Central Air conditioners offer better humidity control as they extract more moisture than other systems. This is important for humid parts of Texas such as South Padre Island, Laguna Heights, and Port Isabel.
– Provides Better Airflow – If you are cooling a large space or the entire home, central AC is the best option. This is because they tend to offer better airflow than any other AC system.
– High Up-Front Costs When Your House Does Not Have Ducts – Installing ducts where there are no ducts can be expensive.
– Many Lack Zonal Cooling Capability – Common central ACs models lack zonal cooling. As such, users cannot set different temperatures in different rooms.
– Higher Utility Bills – Compared to ductless ACs, whole house ACs are less energy efficient. Moreover, they lack zonal cooling, which has the potential to lower the overall bill. In many cases, the lower efficiency results in higher utility bills.
– Maintenance Intensive – The maintenance of central ACs can be extensive and frequent, which makes it costly. For instance, the ductwork should be cleaned every 3 to 5 years, and technicians must maintain the refrigerant at the correct levels.
#2. Ductless AC
Also known as a mini-split system, ductless air conditioners use the same working principles as the central air conditioner. It pulls hot air from the indoor and vent cool, conditioned air into the room. As such, ductless systems use refrigerants to draw hot air from the indoor space and the condenser to disperse the hot air into the environment.
The difference between central AC and ductless ACs is that they have a part of the AC housing the compressor outdoors and one or more indoor air-handling and evaporator coil installing on the walls or ceiling. Crucially, the link between the two units is via a conduit that passes through a small hole in the wall. As the name suggests, a ductless unit does not use ducts.
Additionally, ductless ACs are designed to provide zonal cooling, unlike central AC that supply cool air to the entire house. As such, ductless ACs tend to be more energy-efficient than central ACs.
– Relatively Easier to Install – Ductless ACs are popularly used in homes that lack ducts. Since the connection between the indoor and outdoor units of the system takes vial a small hole, ductless ACs are much easier to install.
– You Can Control Air Conditioning in Individual Rooms – You get individualized zoning. Rather than supply cool air to the entire house, ductless ACs supply air to a specific room or space. As such, you can control the temperature levels in every zone where you use one.
– Energy Efficient – Compared to central ACs, ductless ACs are more energy efficient. Some advanced Ductless ACs have a SEER rating of 30, which is class-leading in the air conditioning industry.
– Can Be Expensive to Install in Some Houses – To air condition your entire home with this method, you will have to invest in several handling units. Buying many ductless AC units can pile up the cost, making your air conditioning system substantially pricier to purchase and install a central AC.
However, the running cost can remain low, owing to zoned conditioning, especially if you do not plan to air-condition the entire home all the time.
– Some owners view the indoor evaporator coil unit as an eyesore.
#3. Portable Air Conditioning Units
Portable ACs are part of the packaged AC category. The other example of packaged ACs is the window ACs. These two systems are called packaged air conditioners because every unit contains all heating and cooling systems inside one package. As such, packaged systems have the evaporator, compressor, and heating elements inside the unit. They’re used to condition individual rooms.
In portable ACs, the unit is placed strategically on the floor with a hose mounted on the window to exhaust hot air. This is in contract to window ACs where the entire AC is installed on the window. The unit draws in hot, humid air from the indoors and vents cool, conditioned air back into the room.
Portable ACs are particularly a good option in Texas, where the need for heating is typically not as high as the need for cooling. They are convenient, especially in homes that do not have ducts already installed. Portable ACs are inefficient and ineffective in heating. In addition, they produce heat electrically, which can be more expensive. However, homeowners in Texas do not need a lot of heating.
– Simple To Run and Use – Most portable air conditioners are set on wheels or casters that make it easy to move around. Alternatively, they are lightweight enough to carry without exerting your back.
Additionally, portable ACs do not need a considerable retrofit to install. It only requires a vent on the window, which is easy to install.
– Easy To Maintain – Being portable, the maintenance of portable ACs is easy. You do not have to detach the unit from a permanent fixture. Additionally, aside from periodically draining the condensation pan, there is not much maintenance needed.
– Can Be More Efficient to Run in Small Spaces – When cooling small spaces – zonal cooling, running a portable AC is far more economical than a central AC. If you need to cool an area measuring 500 square feet to 600 square feet, a portable unit will be more efficient.
– Can Be Expensive to Purchase – For the most part, the upfront cost for portable ACs is lower than central air conditioners. In many cases, purchasing a unit or two of portable ACs will cost lower than buying and installing central ACs, especially if the house has no ducts.
However, suppose you intend to air condition a whole house consisting of several bedrooms, the living rooms, several bathrooms, and the kitchen concurrently. In that case, the upfront cost might creep up a lot. You will have to purchase enough of ACs to run simultaneously to cool the entire house, which can be expensive.
– Disassembly And Storage Every Winter Can Be A Hassle – You have to figure out where to store the portable units during the winter. Leaving portable ACs lurking around in your living all through the winter months is inconvenient and can also be hazardous.
If you use several units, storage can be a huge issue.
– Given that the entire air conditioning system runs indoors, noise can be an issue, especially when the AC runs at full power.
Energy Efficiency Comparison of the Three Air Conditioning Systems
Most homeowners would like to know the comparative energy efficiency of the different AC systems. However, there is no clear-cut answer. It all depends on your use case. For instance, portable ACs may use as little as an eighth of the electricity central air conditioners use. In the same light, the energy efficiency of ductless systems is potentially more than what you’d get from a central AC.
However, you can only accrue the benefits of using portable AC when you implement zonal air conditioning. That is to mean you should use the AC to cool only the necessary places. When you use numerous portable AC, the energy efficiency advantage of portable AC might dwindle.
It’s important to note that other elements influence the differences in energy efficiency between central, ductless, and portable ACs. For instance, for whole-house ACs to realize their full energy efficiency potential, the ductwork must work efficiently. It should not leak or have numerous unnecessary turns.
Additionally, the sizing of your AC will also influence the energy efficiency of your system. Installing an overpowered unit has the potential to run inefficiently. This is because the unit will cycle on and off more frequently as it cools the indoor air very fast without cooling the structure. On the other hand, too small of an AC unit, regardless of its type, will cause the entire system to overwork just to maintain the set temperature.
All things considered, if you have an old air conditioner in your home, upgrading to a new unit, regardless of the type you prefer, will give you energy savings. The benefits stem from new AC models having better SEER ratings than old AC models. SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio – is a measure of the amount of energy the AC uses compared to the cooling the AC provides.
As such, the higher the SEER rating, the better efficiency an AC will deliver. It is estimated that modern ductless ACs have the potential to deliver up to 30 SEER. New models of central ACs come with a SEER rating of 21 on the high end. However, the old units can only deliver up to 10 SEER.
Shop Around for The Best Rates
While choosing an energy-efficient AC will help you lower your utility bill, there are other ways you can reduce your utility bills. Some are even more effective. One such method is shopping around and committing to an electricity plan that meets your needs without overpaying your electricity. As such, you should shop around for the best rates possible.
Since 2002, the Texas electricity market has been deregulated. As a result, you can source your electricity from one of over 40 companies. As such, Texans have the freedom and opportunity to choose a local electricity supplier that meets their needs. You choose your electricity supplier based on fixed-rate plans, variable plans, prepaid electricity, renewable electricity, and free electricity during certain times.
Obviously, shopping around for an electricity supplier is of critical importance. If you choose the wrong plan, chances you will be overpaying for electricity. Therefore, your goal should be to find the best deal possible for your needs.
Shopping around also helps you identify the hidden rates and charges. For example, even when you sign up for a fixed-rate plan with a low kWh rate, you might still overpay for electricity if you do not account for add-on fees.
You should also shop around if you using green energy is essential for you. For example, if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, consider taking up plans that use green energy only.