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Central air conditioners

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A new air conditioner is a big investment - but keep in mind that choosing an energy-efficient system can mean big energy savings.
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A new air conditioner is a big investment – but keep in mind that choosing an energy-efficient system can mean big energy savings.

Central air conditioner energy guideInvest in energy efficiency

The energy efficiency of a central air conditioner is measured in a unit called SEER - seasonal energy efficiency ratio. The SEER is the cooling output divided by the power consumption, with climate and other variables factored in.

The higher the SEER, the better - a rating of 10 is considered the minimum for new systems. Your older system might have a SEER of 7 or 8 - or even less. The SEER will be listed prominently on the yellow-and-black EnergyGuide.

If you replace an older central air conditioner with a new 12.0 SEER unit, you can lower your cooling costs by at least 30 percent!

Installing your new central air system

When your new air conditioner is installed, make sure the dealer places the outdoor compressor in a shady area. This can help reduce energy use by up to 10 percent. Be sure to maintain at least a one-foot airflow around the entire unit.

And if you don’t already have one, now is a great time to install a programmable thermostat. Using it to automatically raise the temperature 10 degrees while you’re sleeping or at work can cut your electricity bills by 10 percent!

When to buy

If you know your existing air conditioner is on its last legs, it pays to plan ahead for replacing it. Making an emergency decision on a new system during the middle of a heat wave can lead to bad energy choices.

Late winter or early spring is usually the best time to purchase a central air conditioning system – it’s the off-season for dealers, and many manufacturers offer significant rebates during this time of year. End-of-summer clearance sales are a great time to purchase a window air conditioner – but the selection might be limited.

Maintaining your central air conditioner

With good maintenance, your air conditioner should last about 15 years. You can keep your system running efficiently with these easy tips:

  • Wash outdoor air compressorCheck all hose connections for leaks, and make sure the condensate tube is draining freely.
  • Change or clean the furnace filter once a month. This is especially important during the summer when dust and allergens circulate.
  • Clean the outside compressor by spraying it with a hose.
  • Keep plantings at least one foot away for adequate airflow around the entire unit.
  • Vacuum registers and air vents regularly.
  • Have your ductwork professionally cleaned every few years.
  • Keep furniture and drapes away from registers.
  • During the winter, keep the compressor covered and remove window air conditioners.
  • While you’re working around your air conditioner, be sure to shut off the power at the service panel before you start.

It’s also important to have your air conditioning system inspected by a service technician. A $50-$100 annual tune-up can reduce your cooling costs by five percent.


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If you are vision-impaired or have some other disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act or a similar law, and you wish to discuss potential accommodations related to shopping or ordering on or using the benefits of our website, please contact Alliant Energy at 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268).