Are Old AC’s Better Than New AC’s?

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Are Old AC’s Better Than New AC’s?

Are Old AC's Better Than New AC's?

A question that pops up pretty often for us technicians at Fox Family revolves around people wondering if newer AC’s are better than old ones. As governmental regulation evolves and the world keeps spinning, every industry tries to make things run smoother, quieter, more intelligent, sustainable, and definitely more efficient.

So, I can tell you without a doubt, yes, a new central air conditioning system with today’s efficiency standards are going to save you money. Some people like their old AC system and think the old AC’s are better than new AC’s. It’s tough sometimes letting go of your old, faithful air conditioner that has served you for 20 years. But if you think it’s time, I may have some information to share that you didn’t already know about new air conditioners.

Compressors Have a Better Design Now

Let’s start with the heart of the air conditioner, the compressor. Compressors are one of the most expensive things to power in your home. But they’ve gotten much more efficient. One of the reasons they’ve gotten better is in their design. Old piston or reciprocating compressors had parts that, if exposed to dirt, moisture, and other contaminants, could cause it to fail easier. They had more moving parts, so more things to go wrong.

Today’s compressors use less energy to run because of the modern scroll compressor, which requires fewer moving parts. They’re not completely fail-proof because they still have motor windings that are susceptible to contaminants. Over time, the protective barrier shielding the copper wires of the motor can wear away and cause permanent damage. Its design allows it to handle errors in the system better than old compressors, making them less likely to fail, saving you money over time.

Condenser Coils and Evaporator Coils Transfer More Heat

You have two coils in your air conditioner that are responsible for removing heat from your home. I tell people, you have a cold coil and a hot coil. The cold evaporator coil at the air handler or furnace absorbs heat from the home and sends it outside to the hot condenser coil, where the heat is released into the air. How are air conditioners more efficient today? Because they have larger coils that can complete this heat transfer process easier than old AC units.

Trane SpineFin™ Coils

Condenser coils sold by our company come with Trane SpineFin™ coils, the world’s leading heat exchanging process in the industry. It’s made by splitting an aluminum strip into teeth, called the fins. Each tiny fin is a heat-transferring vehicle. Then those thousands upon thousands of fins get wrapped around the aluminum tubing that makes up the condensing coil. They are so much more efficient because the fins offer a larger surface area for heat transfer, which also allows the SEER rating of the system to maintain for years longer because they don’t get impacted with dirt as quickly, allowing for more airflow between the tubes.

Standard radiator-style coils work too.  As we said above, they are bigger now, so they allow more effortless heat transfer.

SEER and Ratings Identify Efficiency, AHRI Certifies It

SEER and Ratings Identify Efficiency, AHRI Certifies It SEER is the efficiency of the air conditioning system over the entire span of the summer. From May until September, what was the average efficiency of the unit? On 80-degree, non-humid days, your “14 SEER” air conditioner may actually be running at 16 to 20 SEER efficiency because it doesn’t have to work as hard on those days to reach the exact temperature you want it at inside.

On 100-degree days, your system may never shut off. Just pumping away night and day to keep you at that nice cool temperature inside the house. So, the system has to work harder on these days, which can stretch over a matter of weeks. The average number of times it hits 100 degrees in Sacramento is 22 days. These hot days, you may only see 7 SEER efficiency from your system. Now take that average over the entire summer, and you have your SEER rating for that air conditioner.

SEER ratings these days are more efficient. A system installed in 2000 could be running at 8 to 10 SEER. (And that’s the average over the summer!) In California today, you can’t get anything less than a 14 SEER system.

The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute posts up-to-date, real-time SEER and EER ratings of the equipment installed in today’s homes. Their certifications validate the manufacturer’s claims for the efficiency of their systems. They are independent results, so customers can feel assured the numbers they see on their contracts are legit!

Blower and Condenser Fan Motors Require Less Maintenance

Like compressors, the motor on top of your air conditioner  that disperses the heat to the atmosphere runs smoother. Digital ECM blower motors use DC voltage to make systems more efficient. Some motors have been completely reengineered and flipped the stator and rotor windings to allow for variable speed operation in increments of 1% adjustments!

Blower motors inside the furnace are designed with better housings to let the air flow through the system more evenly, translating to easier work for the air conditioner. Condenser fan blades are designed to sweep hot air out of the air conditioner quieter and more thoroughly and put less stress on the motor.

Air conditioner motors themselves require less maintenance than older motors. We used to have to physically add oil to the engines through a port on its backside. Motors today have sealed bearings, so we don’t have to worry about these types of preventive measures anymore.

All of these parts work in conjunction with each other. Suppose details like airflow through the system aren’t right. In that case, parts of it like the compressor will work harder; evaporator coils can freeze up, causing unexpected wear and tear – not to mention a couple of days of being without air conditioning if it does break down.

Programmable Thermostats are More Intuitive

Thermostats have gotten a lot more intuitive, making it easier to set your thermostat up on a schedule for your weekdays, weekends (and yes, even individual days at a time.) Have you ever left the house and remembered you shouldn’t have left your AC cooling your home at 60 degrees while you’re at work? With smart thermostats, as long as you have a cellular or Wi-Fi connection, you’re able to take care of that no matter where you are? 

You could be across the country or snuggled up in bed. If you want to crank up the heat a little, you don’t have to lift a foot!

Honeywell Home Google Nest Ecobee Emerson Carrier and Bryant Trane and American Standard Lennox thermostats Braeburn

Energy Star recognizes these brands for meeting its standard for energy efficiency and ability to save you money over the years to come:

  • Honeywell Home
  • Google Nest
  • Ecobee
  • Emerson
  • Carrier and Bryant thermostat
  • Trane and American Standard thermostats
  • Lennox thermostats
  • Braeburn
  • EcoFactor
  • Greenlite
  • IEC
  • LUX
  • Pro1
  • Prostat
  • Ventstar
  • And Zen Thermostats

Some of the more premium systems require the use of that brand’s proprietary smart thermostat. So before you buy a new system, do your research. Energy Star says the average household spends about $1000.00 heating and cooling their homes. Using a programmable thermostat tells your system when you would like to have it on and when to have it off on an automatic schedule, which will save you money over the next several years.

Single-Stage, Two-Stage, Multi-Stage, Variable Speed – Oh my!

When you start talking about where you can save money on home cooling and heating, everyone will steer you towards the conversation revolving around multi-stage systems. Here are some cliff-notes from another blog I did recently on this topic:

Single-Stage Systems

The single-stage option has the simplest form of technology, is the lowest in price but the lowest in value. While they are UL Listed and safe to put in any home, lower-end models have more vulnerabilities than higher-end equipment. Every time a single-stage system turns on, it gives you 100% power every time. Like a light switch, it’s either all the way or all the way off. Today’s minimum standard 14 SEER systems vs. your older 8 to 10 SEER system can save you about $200 a year, equating to about $4,000 over 20 years. But, there are better technologies that allow for better efficiency.

Two-Stage Systems

Two-stage systems have better technology. They run more efficiently and control the temperature in your house without fluctuating as much. The main feature of a two-stage system is that they all typically run at around 70% capacity in the first stage and 100% capacity in the second stage. These systems will run the majority of the time in the first stage, where you start seeing the money savings. Two-stage systems are great for two-story homes that have two thermostats or zoning. These systems can be set up to run in the first stage when only one floor is calling for air. The second stage will only come on when both zones are calling for air. This is how I have it set up in my house.

Other Multi-Stage Systems

Some brands out there offer something between a two-stage system and a fully variable stage system. I’ve heard of 3-stage systems, and I’ve heard of 5-stage systems. All advanced aim to keep your room temperature from swinging around as much as a single-stage system. If you’re not needing it to do a lot of work during that call for cooling or heating, it will just work at a lower capacity for that cycle. Two, three, five-stage, and I suppose even more will all dehumidify your home easier than single-stage systems too.

Fully Variable Stage Systems

Variable speed systems can adjust their capacity levels from about 25% to 100% in 1% intervals at a time. They maintain even lower temperature swings in the house and specialize in dehumidification. These systems can keep your home to within a half degree of the temperature you want it.

These are the quietest systems too. Because they typically run at a slower speed, they require less energy and create less noise with less vibration. 

All of these variable speed systems have WiFi capabilities, are communicating systems, and are ultra-quiet.


A lot of people SAY new AC systems are more efficient than older ones. Hopefully, we have explained HOW they are more efficient. Now you know what components or aspects of the HVAC systems are better now. Older systems were built strong and lasted a long time. But, modern HVAC systems are built more innovative, so saving money and being comfortable is attainable. 

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