So I bought a new air conditioner for my house. Wait for it....
Wait for it....
It's pretty cool. Ha!
The old unit died last Friday, the first day of the long, hot, Memorial Day weekend. We called Service Experts (formerly known as Teays Valley Heating and Cooling) to see what the deal was. The guy came out, poked around a little bit, and quickly determined the system had lost all its Freon. "That means you have a leak somewhere," he said. "I could refill the Freon, and that'll be about $Xxx, but it could just as easily leak out again before I leave your driveway. The proper solution is to repair the leak. Now, I can do that, but that plus the Freon means you're putting at least $xxxx into a system that's fourteen years old. I can do whichever you want."
I sighed. "Just go ahead and tell me how much a whole new system is, because it kind of sounds like that's where this is going."
"Depending on what you get, you're looking at anywhere from $Xxxx to $xx,xxx. I'm just a service guy so I can't give you more accurate numbers, but I can schedule you an appointment with one of our consultants."
The consultant came Tuesday. Long story short, I ended up buying both a new furnace and a new air conditioner. I like to think I'm pretty savvy regarding sales pitches, and I don't think there was anything sleazy going on at any time with either the service guy or the consultant. I think getting a completely new HVAC system was absolutely the right thing to do versus replacing parts here and there and hoping it would all last another season. The old stuff was manufactured in 1997 and installed in early 1998. This is before we owned the house — the previous owners had done the same thing, getting everything at the same time, so it was all the same age. With fourteen years plus on it, it was really just a matter of time.
1997 doesn't sound like that long ago, but it is literally a lifetime to many home appliances.
I opted for high-efficiency. I play a long game. In the winter, the new furnace will be (in theory) 16.7% more efficient than the old, and in the summer, the new air conditioner will be (again, in theory) 23.5% more efficient. Over a year that should translate to a rough, back-of-the-envelope savings of 14% on my energy bills. The air conditioner and furnace are paired with a variable-speed blower motor which, when maintaining a temperature instead of moving toward it, can do so using much less energy. The old unit was either on or off. Finally, there are solar panels available as an expansion option for the air conditioner... and they connect directly to the unit. Solar-powered air conditioning might be the most intuitive and brilliant idea I've ever come across. I didn't get any panels with this setup, but if energy prices keep going up it will become more and more economically attractive.
Speaking of that, I learned something interesting when talking to the consultant. In the 90s, it became fashionable to install heat pumps coupled with gas furnaces. The thought was that during cool weather in spring and fall, the heat pump, powered by (at the time) cheap electricity, would be the primary heat source. If the temperature dropped below a certain setpoint the gas furnace would kick on instead, burning fairly expensive (at the time) natural gas. All this was automated via a control unit which measured the outdoor temperature and reacted accordingly so Joe and Jane Homeowner didn't have to adjust a thing. But over time, electrical rates have jumped a good bit (which I've discussed previously), so the cost-effectiveness of this idea has disappeared. So as a result, heat pumps are now falling out of fashion.
It took the two installers about six hours yesterday to install everything. After the installation was finished and the guys left with all the old equipment (one of them wishing me a nice cool day as he departed), I dug around in the garden some and mowed the lawn while the house cooled down. I came in and soaked in the cold air and it felt awesome. I've decided to leave the temperature at a lower setting for a few days before returning to my miserly ways. I've earned it, right?
Of course, it would be the weekend when it's going to be in the low 70s anyway....