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Top 5 Advances in Modern Central Air Conditioning

Though heralded as one of the top 10 greatest mechanical engineering achievements of the 20th century by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), air conditioning is generally taken for granted by the public at large. While not much has changed in the basic design since the 1930s, there have been several innovations that have helped improve the efficiency and availability of conditioned air. We’ve highlighted the most important advances in the last few decades to offer some perspective on this invaluable invention.

  • More Energy-Efficient – Today’s central air systems use 30% – 50% less energy to maintain the same amount of cooling they did in the ’70s. In the mid ’70s the Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) introduced a rating system to monitor the cooling efficiency of HVAC units. This system eventually became the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), which approximates the actual cooling cost of an appliance based on the installed climate zone. This helped motivate manufacturers to refine the components and materials to improve efficiency.
  • More Eco-Friendly – In 1994 Freon (also referred to as R22) was found to be harmful to the environment and prohibited for use in new air conditioning equipment. Refrigerant 410A has been proven environmentally sound and won’t deplete the ozone. It is scheduled to replace R22 entirely in 2020. There are also several modern air conditioning options that are much better for the environment including geothermal, solar and hybrid system designs.
  • Humidity Control – Air conditioners were originally created to help control humidity levels in buildings. In 1902 Willis Carrier, who is credited as the inventor of modern air conditioning, made the machine to specifically help paper from being ruined by humidity. While every central air system will help with humidity, there are newer modulating units that ensure humidity doesn’t go over 50%.
  • Variable Speed Blowers – For decades, the single speed motor was the standard for central air units. It wasn’t the most efficient as it would simply turn on abruptly whenever the thermostat requested it to do so. The blower motor would come on and the air would travel at one speed until it hit the required temperature – then turn off just as abruptly. Then came the multi-speed motor, which in most designs had three different speeds. This system was much smarter and allowed for better use of the motor during different periods of use. More recently, the variable speed blower was introduced, which has even more flexibility and can run at any level between 0 RPM and the maximum. This ensures better efficiency and more even temperature control.
  • Smart Technology – Digital, programmable thermostats can help you save hundreds of dollars on utility bills by “remembering” what temperature your home needs to be during different times of the day. This ensures that your HVAC unit only runs when needed and, more importantly, that your home is always at the perfect temperature. You can also access these smart thermostats from your computer or smartphone, allowing you to control the temperature settings wherever you are – including miles away on vacation.

5 Best Smart Thermostats

When you need help with your central air system, remember that Cassel is the most respected HVAC company in Illinois. We can help you with all your repair, maintenance, and installation needs. Call us today at (217) 866-1596 and we’ll schedule an appointment.