Central Air Conditioning: A Buying Guide

air conditioning

Winter is finally behind us but that means preparing for warm (even HOT) weather here in the Northeast. Some of us welcome the sun and hot temperatures, while others prefer dodging them with the help of air conditioning. If you’re considering adding central air conditioning to your home, you’re not alone – more than 75 percent of U.S. homes use air conditioning, and 90 percent of new homes are equipped with central air.

But what are some things to consider when purchasing a Central Air system? Here’s a checklist from Consumer Reports.

1. Central Air-Conditioning Types
The most common type of central air conditioning is the split system, which features a large, boxy condenser outside the home and a fan-and-coil system inside, connected by pipes carrying refrigerant. The air is distributed through ductwork. However, not every home can accommodate the ductwork needed to install central air. Split ductless systems are an option for those homes because, as the name indicates, they don’t require ductwork.

2. Keep Your Ducts in a Row
If you are installing an AC system from scratch, your contractor should calculate the size of the cooling equipment you need by using recognized methods such as what you’ll find in the Residential Load Calculation Manual, aka Manual J, from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). If you already have ductwork for your heating, adding a central system can cost less.

Keep in mind that ducts used for heating might not be the right size or in the right location for optimal cooling. Your contractor should ensure that duct sections are properly sized and that there are enough supply registers to deliver sufficient air to the right spots. Undersized ductwork can make for inefficient and noisy operation.

3. Important Factors for Choosing Central AC

  • Size
: A synonym for the air conditioner’s cooling capacity, size is measured in British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr.) or in “tons.” One ton of cooling equals 12,000 Btu/hr. For sizing guidance, check the Energy Star website.
  • Efficiency: 
This describes how much cooling the unit delivers for each watt of electricity. Efficiency is expressed as the seasonal energy-efficiency rating, or SEER. The minimum SEER for a split system central air conditioner allowed today is 14, so look for units with SEER ratings of 15 or greater. The higher the SEER, the more you can lower your energy costs.
  • Maintenance: 
A service plan that combines regular inspections with discounts on repairs and a labor warranty is worth negotiating into the overall price. Prices for such a service vary widely.
  • Programmable thermostats: 
Proper use of a programmable thermostat can reduce your cooling costs by about 10 percent. And using a box or ceiling fan, which costs little to run, can make you feel 3° F to 4° F cooler.
  • Upgrading an existing system: 
If you’re upgrading your central air, don’t assume you should buy the same-sized system. Any changes you’ve made to improve your home’s energy efficiency, such as upgrading your windows or adding insulation, can reduce your cooling needs. On the other hand, if you’ve added rooms, you might need more cooling.

4. Installation: Find the Right Contractor
Whether you’re replacing an older air conditioner or installing one for the first time, finding a trustworthy contractor to install and service an air-conditioning system matters the most. Here’s what to do.

  • Ask around. Seek referrals from neighbors, family, or business associates. It’s wise to get price quotes from at least three contractors.
  • Check their background. Contractors who bid on your installation should show you verification of bonding and insurance, plus any required contractor’s licenses.
  • Get specifics. Contractors who bid on your job should calculate required cooling capacity by using a recognized method such as one found in the the ACCA’s Residential Load Calculation Manual, also called Manual J. An additional reference for assessing ductwork needs is Manual D. The calculations produce a detailed, room-by-room analysis of cooling needs.

For more info, visit Consumer Reports for the full article.

Call our office today to for more details on our Air Conditioning services: (860) 423-6859