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Central Air Conditioning Buying Guide

A central air conditioning system is the perfect solution for homeowners who want to pump cool air throughout their home using a duct system. Whether you are buying a new unit for the first time or are replacing an existing unit, you'll have many devices from which to choose. Working with a professional HVAC dealer is the best way to ensure that you find a central AC system suited to your needs and your budget. Remember that taking time to do research now will take the stress out of the shopping process.

How to Buy A New Central Air Conditioner

There are many different factors you need to take into account when choosing a central AC unit. Before you begin shopping, evaluate the unit that is currently used in your home. How old is the unit? Are you satisfied with the unit's energy efficiency? You will also need to take the following factors into consideration before making a purchasing decision.

Load Calculations and Unit Size

Choosing an AC unit that is correctly sized is essential. The size of a central AC device is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). Units that are too large or too small for your home will lead to discomfort and skyrocketing electricity bills. A professional HVAC dealer will make load calculations based on the size of the area that you want to cool and the type of ductwork in your home. Most manufacturers will also provide information about how many square feet their units are rated to cool.

Efficiency Ratings

Like most homeowners, you are probably concerned about the energy efficiency of your new central AC unit. Manufacturers have worked hard to improve central AC efficiency ratings, meaning that you're likely to notice electricity savings if you're replacing a system that is more than 10 years old. Keep a lookout for these ratings, which describe the efficiency of AC units:

  • SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) ratings are awarded on a scale from 13 to 21. The minimum SEER rating for new units is 13. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit.
  • Central AC units that have received the ENERGY STAR designation provide a high level of efficiency. Many of these units will help you qualify for tax credits and rebates.

Zone Control

Before you buy a new central AC system, you'll need to decide if you want to use zone control. If you opt for zone control, you'll be able to control the temperature in individual rooms or areas from a central thermostat. If you do not opt for zone control, you will set the temperature for your whole house from your central thermostat.

Understanding Your System Options

In addition to choosing the features you want in a new central AC unit, you'll also need to choose the type of system you plan to use. Most consumers will be able to choose from three different types of systems. Remember that some system types might not be a good fit given your home's architecture or the area in which you live.

Packaged Systems

Packaged systems consist of one air conditioner that sits outside of your home on a concrete pad. Many homeowners prefer these types of systems because they are easy to access for maintenance and servicing. If you are installing central AC for the first time, be sure to talk about your unit placement options with a contractor. Avoid placing the AC unit outside bedroom windows if possible.

Split Systems

Split systems consist of an indoor coil that is connected to an outside condenser with a compressor. If you currently use a split system in your home, consider sticking with this design. If you are considering installing a split system for the first time, think carefully about where the coil will be placed so that it is not difficult to access for maintenance and servicing.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps have become incredibly popular over the past decade because they provide for thorough, efficient cooling of both commercial and residential spaces. A heat pump works by drawing warm air out of your home during the summer and pumping cool air back inside through your duct system. Heat pumps can also be used to provide heat in the winter so long as you live in a relatively moderate climate.

Working with A Professional HVAC Dealer

A new central air conditioning system represents a significant financial investment. It's important that you work with a qualified dealer who can help you find the unit best suited to your home and oversee professional installation. You can protect your unit and ensure a long operating life by completing all maintenance tasks according to the manufacturer's schedule and by having regular service performed by a licensed HVAC technician.