Best balance between cost/efficiency for Trane furnace and AC?


I'm ready to replace my 20 year old 10 Seer gas furnace/AC with a full Trane system. I am confused by all the options (well at least I decided on the brand), but what I'd really like to know is which units represent the best balance between short-term cost and efficiency in the long run (especially the AC part)? Initially I'm thinking, maybe 15 Seer? Living in warm Southern CA my gas costs in the winter are low but in the summer the AC electricity costs are very high. Since they don't post the price of the systems online it is a bit tricky to know ahead of time how to balance this.
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We did this in 2005-2006 with both systems that were 15 years old at the time in north Texas. Similar balance between heating days and cooling days. We had SEER 10 A/C and 60% AFUE gas heat. We went with SEER 12 before SEER 13 became the minimum. The smaller unit was increased from 2.5 to 3 ton on the west side as well as going to 5" filters from the standard 1". Both are Trane units. Since then we have replaced every exterior window with triple-pane vinyl-framed windows this year. We have looked at the radiant barrier treatment advertisements but have not seriously shopped it. There are a few items still to consider: - two-speed fan on the replacement unit - heat pump vs. conventional - money put into insulation vs. heating-cooling efficiency: both are a single-investment, payback-over-time consideration.
On Sat, 27 Sep 2008 23:25:09 -0700, "scorpionleather"

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Only you can figure it out based on your present and anticipated electric rate, what you consume in Kwh, actual bids of different units and Seer comparisons. Look at a "Seer chart" to start to figure what you can save, you can go to maybe 19+ seer with VSDC motor and cut your usage of electricity by maybe 65-70% that is a major savings, and as rates are going up everywhere the payback looks even better. If you plan on insulating a small unit could work, a load calculation and energy audit would be smartest.
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