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Why Must I Replace My Indoor Coil?

The Government Requirements

From January 23, 2006 onward, the U.S. Department of Energy required new cooling systems to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. Prior to this the minimum SEER rating was 10. A 13 SEER rating was a 30% increase in efficiency and required a major overhaul in the HVAC market.

Another Update

On January 1, 2015 the U.S. Department of Energy mandated all new cooling units in the Southeast have a minimum SEER rating of 14, this time an almost 10% increase in efficiency.

A New Condenser is Now Required for Most People

While the reduced national demand for energy is certainly a good thing, there is a challenge for people who have an existing condenser with a SEER of 10.

That's because the outdoor unit (condenser) is half of a split-system. It is also the more expensive half. The air handler, refrigerant lines and evaporator coil, constitute the inside half of the system. Working in tandem, the outside and inside units must be matched in size and efficiency for best results (and to avoid damaging the new unit that may result in costly repairs).

Matching 5 Components to Meet SEER Requirements

In order to produce a SEER of 13, manufacturers have had to drastically redesign their systems. The new units are considerably larger in physical size and require strict adherence to connecting the condensing units to matching indoor coil units, using the correct size refrigeration tubing with the correct refrigerant charge, if the desired results are to be obtained.

A new air conditioner or heat pump should consist of 5 properly matched components:

  1. Indoor evaporator coil and or fan coil

  2. Outdoor condensing coil

  3. Correct sized refrigerant tubing

  4. Properly sized circuit protection

  5. Properly sized electrical wiring

When properly assembled, they will produce a specific amount of cooling at a specific rated efficiency. Capacity and efficiency ratings are produced by the manufacturer under strict testing conditions. Any substitution of any of the components will produce a variation in either capacity or efficiency (or both).

Reasons an Indoor Coil Should Be Replaced at the Same Time

When an old outdoor condensing unit fails, it is very important that the indoor coil be matched and replaced at the same time for a number of reasons.

First and formost:

  • State Code now requires all new and replacement of existing equipment be ARI matched to certify Government mandated efficiencies.
  • Impossibility of attaining capacity and efficiency ratings of the new condensing unit if the indoor coil is not changed.

Some other important reasons are:

  • New equipment operates with R410A a newer environmentally friendly refrigerant. Older indoor units are not built to withstand the higher pressures that R410A operates with.
  • It is very common to have compressor failure in a new unit after just one or two years when an old indoor coil is used.
  • The warranty does not protect you from compressor failure due to an old indoor coil. Manufacturers can require the indoor unit model and serial number. If not a matched system they will disallow and void the outdoor unit warranty.

At the very minimum, if maximum efficiency, reliability and safety are to be achieved, we highly recommend replacing the condensing unit and the indoor coil plus a very careful check of refrigerant lines, circuit protection and wire size.

Have a question? Want to learn more? Contact us and we will help you decide on what your next step should be for HVAC installation or repair. 

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