Without a doubt, San Diego homeowners know that improving energy efficiency is the best way to lower their monthly electricity bills. And when you consider that the average homeowner here pays around $283 every month for electricity, it’s also clear that any savings opportunities are worth exploring. However, knowing where to look for savings isn’t always clear. The one obvious place to look, though, is at your home’s air conditioning system.

On average, a home’s AC consumes about 12% of its total electricity in the summer. So even a marginal improvement to your AC efficiency will make a meaningful difference. With that in mind, the experts here at Comfort Bros Heating, Air & Plumbing put together this guide to choosing an energy-efficient AC for your San Diego home. With it, you’ll have everything you need to make an informed choice about your next AC system.

Understanding AC Efficiency

Before discussing the various types of AC systems, you might choose for your San Diego home, you must first understand how to compare their efficiency. That means understanding the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). It’s a rating system that allows consumers to gauge the efficiency of a given air conditioner at a glance.

The system works by assigning a numerical score to a unit that reflects its estimated energy efficiency during an average cooling season. The formula used to find a unit’s SEER rating assumes you’ll operate your system at a steady indoor temperature while outdoor temperatures fluctuate between 64 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a simulation model that doesn’t quite fit every area’s weather but should provide enough accuracy for you to compare multiple systems against one another.

Here in San Diego, as of the beginning of 2023, the lowest-rated AC system you’re legally allowed to purchase is one with a SEER rating of 15. That means that no matter what type of AC system you purchase, it must meet that minimum standard. For comparison’s sake, all you need to know about SEER ratings is that the higher the SEER rating number, the more efficient the system.

Central Air Conditioning Systems

Right now, the dominant type of air conditioning systems you’ll find in San Diego homes are central AC systems. They use a network of ducts inside your home’s walls to cool your home via a single central indoor air handler and an outdoor condenser unit. They’ve been standard equipment in homes here since the 1960s and were the most efficient cooling option you’d find on the market for many years.

Today, the average SEER rating of central AC systems on the market is between 15 and 20. They offer excellent efficiency for what they cost and typically last between 15 and 20 years with proper maintenance. However, the biggest efficiency drawback involved in central air conditioning systems isn’t a flaw of the systems themselves. Instead, it’s in the ductwork that carries the cold air they produce around your home.

According to HVAC experts, the average central AC will waste between 25% and 40% of the energy they consume through ductwork energy losses. This happens as cold air escapes en route to the rooms in your home or through heat transfer between your home’s walls and the metal ducts. This means your home’s ducts play a very large role in the real-world efficiency of any central AC system you purchase.

It’s worth pointing out that you can add insulation to your home’s ducts and have them professionally sealed to try and prevent some of that energy waste. However, doing so isn’t always cheap and may be difficult, depending on how easy it is for an HVAC technician to reach the parts of your home’s ductwork that need work.

Ducted Heat Pump Systems

Ducted heat pumps offer another efficient cooling option for your San Diego home. They’re similar in form factor to conventional central AC systems, which makes them a good option for homes looking to upgrade their existing HVAC system. On average, you can expect a ducted heat pump to have a SEER rating between 16 and 23, depending on how much you’re willing to invest in one.

The biggest advantage to a heat pump is that it can deliver highly efficient cooling as well as heat for your home in the winter when needed. Here in San Diego, this makes heat pumps an especially attractive and efficient AC option because they also eliminate the need for a conventional heating system and cost very little to operate in heat mode. Plus, they’re also subject to state and federal incentive programs that may reduce your upfront costs significantly.

However, ducted heat pumps suffer from the same ductwork-related energy waste as conventional central AC systems. So, while they make an excellent replacement for such systems, some of the efficiency benefits a heat pump can offer will go to waste.

Mini-Split ACs and Heat Pumps

Mini-split ACs are among the most efficient AC options on the market today. They’re a type of ductless cooling system that comes with significant efficiency advantages relative to the other options listed here. Today, it’s hard to find a mini-split with a SEER rating below 20, placing them at the higher end of the efficiency scale. However, you can find mini-splits with SEER ratings as high as 42 if you’re interested in maximum efficiency.

The secret to the high efficiency of mini-splits is that they eliminate the need for ductwork. Instead, they use individual air handlers installed throughout your home, all linking to a single outdoor condenser unit. That not only eliminates the energy waste associated with ductwork but also gives you far more control over temperatures in your home. With a mini-split, you can set different temperatures in each room to suit the comfort preferences of their occupants. You can even turn off individual air handlers entirely to avoid wasting energy on cooling spaces you’re not using.

It’s important to note that some mini-splits include heat pump technology. Just as with ducted heat pumps, this makes them capable of heating your home in the winter when needed. And they’re eligible for the same incentives and subsidies as ducted models. That makes them an excellent choice for homeowners looking for a future-proofed, all-electric HVAC system that delivers unparalleled efficiency in all operating modes.

Consult the HVAC Experts

No matter what type of efficient AC system you’re interested in for your San Diego home, Comfort Bros Heating, Air & Plumbing can help. Our highly trained staff and technicians can answer all of your questions regarding efficient AC options for your home. We offer all types of HVAC services, including installation, repair, and maintenance. Plus, we offer indoor air quality services, duct cleaning, and even a maintenance plan to help you stay on top of your home’s ongoing HVAC maintenance needs. We’re also a family-owned business so we understand how important it is for you to make the best possible HVAC choices for your home and family.

So, for efficient AC systems and all of your San Diego home’s other HVAC needs, call the experts at Comfort Bros Heating, Air & Plumbing today!

Meet the Author
Nicholas Gildark
Nicholas Gildark

Nicholas Gildark is a San Diego native who comes from a tight knit family and enjoys spending time with them. Nicholas is engaged to his beautiful fiance Allison Velasquez. The two of them recently purchased a home.
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