Buying a new central air conditioning unit is an intimidating prospect. These units don’t come cheap; installing a new central air conditioner in a 2,000-square-foot home can cost between $3,500 and $4,000 on average. A new air conditioner is a huge investment in your home, and if you choose the wrong unit, or the wrong contractor, you’ll pay for it in the form of increased installation costs, higher energy bills, and an uncomfortable home.
Before you go shopping for a new central air conditioner, understand the types of units available on the market. Learn how to tell if your contractor is sizing your unit properly. While an energy-efficient air conditioner might cost more up front, it’ll make up for those higher initial costs with lower energy bills in the future.
Understand the Types of Air Conditioners Available
You might be surprised to learn that there are multiple types of air conditioners, especially if you’ve always used a central air system that distributes cooled air through your home’s existing ductwork. Most air conditioners are split systems, meaning that they consist of an outdoor condenser and compressor, and an indoor coil. Some are heat pumps, which serve the purpose of both heating and cooling by removing heat from the house during the summer and pulling it into the house during the winter. The heat is either disposed of or pulled from the ground, depending on the season.
In a central air conditioning system, refrigerant that circulates between the outdoor compressor and the indoor coil cools and dehumidifies air. A blower fan then distributes that cooled air around the house through ducts. An alternative to central air systems, the split ductless system, uses multiple indoor blower units to distribute cool air around the house. In a split ductless system, indoor units must be installed in each room you wish to cool. Split ductless systems are a good option for homes that don’t have existing ductwork, since it saves you having to rip open the walls to install ducts.
Get the Right Size Unit
It’s not uncommon for contractors to install oversized air conditioners. They do this not because a larger unit is better, but because they don’t size the units properly. A qualified air contractor should size your unit based on rules laid out in the Air Conditioner Contractors of America (ACCA) Manual J, and he or she should use Manual D to make sure your home as the right size ductwork. A good contractor will spend at least an hour measuring floors, ceilings, and walls in your home; checking insulation in the walls, crawlspaces, and attic; and asking questions. Factors like the number of people who live in your home, your area’s average outdoor temperature, the average temperature inside your home, the amount of natural shading your home has, and even the color of your roof can affect your air conditioner size needs. When you get a bid from a contractor, you should get a printout of his or her cooling load calculations. These printouts can be lengthy and complicated, so don’t be afraid to ask the contractor questions about anything you don’t understand, and ensure the bid takes into account all of the factors that can affect your home’s cooling needs.
Make sure you get a properly sized air conditioner when you hire a reputable contractor like Cooper Climate Control to install your new unit. A unit that is too big will start and stop more often than is necessary, which can raise your energy bills. It may cool your home inefficiently, cost more to buy and install, and fail sooner than an appropriately sized unit. Air conditioners are sized by tons of cooling power; a ton of cooling power is about as much cooling as you’d get from melting a ton of ice. A one-ton air conditioner can remove about 12,000 BTUs from your home.
Have a contractor run your cooling load even if you’re replacing an existing air conditioner — your previous contractor may have calculated your cooling needs incorrectly, or your home’s cooling needs may have changed. New windows, increased insulation, the addition of a new room or rooms, or changes in the number of occupants are some of the things that could alter your home’s cooling needs.
Choose an Energy Efficient Model
Though energy-efficient air conditioners cost more to buy, you’ll save money over the long run on your energy bills, making these models cheaper overall. Look for the Energy Star label when you buy an air conditioner. In order to maintain the efficiency rating when you replace an air conditioner, you need to replace all of it — the condenser, the blower, and the inside coil. Replacing just part of your unit could negatively impact its energy efficiency.
Don’t let replacing your air conditioning unit scare you. A new air conditioner is a big expense, but it’s well worth it for the comfort it provides — and in some climates, it’s not a luxury, but a necessity. Educate yourself before you go shopping for a new unit, and you’ll be sure to find a unit that meets your needs, for a reasonable price.
****This is a guest post featured on behalf of Michaela Kajiwara from Business Outreacher****