Homeowners need an air conditioning buyers guide when they install a new central air conditioning system or upgrade the one they have. Although most new homes come equipped with central heating and air, those systems may be a minimal basic system that won’t keep up with a growing family. Many older homes used window air conditioning units, and those that still have their original central air system are probably at end of life. So, for those of you who are considering a new or replacement purchase, here are the top 2 considerations before you buy.
The first consideration in an air conditioning buyers guide is proper sizing of the unit for the amount of space you need conditioned, the usual level of warmth of your local climate, and the number of people and type of activities you do in the home. Replacing an older unit with the same size new unit would be an easy decision to make, but if the old unit was incorrectly sized, or if you have changed the home over time, the old size might not be the right size for today. A responsible air conditioning contractor will know how to calculate the cooling load of your home using an industry recognized method. If a contractor tells you that determining the correct size isn’t important, beware of that contractor.
Sizing involves right-sizing the cooling equipment, the ducts that deliver the air to the rooms, and accurately locating the correct number of supply registers. If you already have duct work for your existing heating system, the installation cost for adding a central system can be less; however, the ducts used for heating might not be the right size or in the right location for optimal cooling and your contractor should discuss that with you. Also, if you have older duct work it might be leaky or not properly insulated, so that should be checked by pressure testing.
If your home doesn’t have existing ducts, adding them can be expensive, though if you plan to cool your entire home, central air is typically the best choice. If you are not planning to cool the entire home, you might want to consider a split-ductless system. Unlike central systems, split-ductless systems need no ductwork so they are easier to add to some homes.
The second consideration for our Air Conditioner Buyers Guide is efficiency. The industry uses a rating system for called SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.) The SEER of each device is calculated by the dividing the cooling output by the electric energy input. The result is a single number, and higher numbers indicate higher efficiency. Older air conditioning systems have SEER ratings up to 10, but we now have SEER ratings in the mid-20’s. Buying a higher efficiency unit will cost a little more up front but the utility savings over the life of the equipment will pay back that extra initial cost. Also be sure to look for the Energy Star label on all the equipment you consider. Remember, you need to have to get Consideration 1 (sizing) correct before you can get Consideration 2 (efficiency) to give you the most comfort and the most savings.
SEER ratings tell you the potential efficiency of the system if it is operating under optimal conditions. However, most of the efficiency depends on having a correctly sized unit for your home that was properly installed with properly sealed ducts, so the third consideration is a great installation. The best AC equipment in the world will not give you results unless it is installed per the manufacturer’s directions. As a wise buyer, you should be sure to use an experienced and trusted contractor who will ensure all 3 considerations are covered.
If you are considering making a purchase and would like expert advice and pricing, please contact us. Since 1987 we have helped thousands of satisfied customers with this same decision, and we’d be glad to use our skills and experience to help you.