How to Buy a Central Air Conditioner: Elements to consider for all-around cool results indoors

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Summer is closer than you
think, so if you have any lingering, last-year memories of air conditioning breakdowns
or indoor discomfort, now’s the time to make plans that’ll guarantee you keep your cool during the next heat wave. Whether you’re due to replace an existing system or arrange a first-time installation, there’s quite a bit to consider… Breeze through the following elements before you shop.


Summer is closer than you

think, so if you have any lingering, last-year memories of air conditioning breakdowns

or indoor discomfort, now’s the time to make plans that’ll guarantee you keep your cool during the next heat wave. Whether you’re due to replace an existing system or arrange a first-time installation, there’s quite a bit to consider… Breeze through the following elements before you shop.

  • style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Go

    with a pro. Though a seasoned

    do-it-yourselfer with a seemingly simple home layout may be tempted to

    take on a central AC installation, it’s definitely best left in the hands

    of a pro. A qualified HVAC technician has the experience and resources to

    properly evaluate a home’s air conditioning needs and structural

    challenges, recommend right-sized equipment, and handle the accompanying

    installations and adjustments. They’re also bound by environmental and

    professional codes and concerns. The

    href="http://www.acca.org/consumer/">Air Conditioning Contractors of

    America (ACCA), a nonprofit association with the goal of bringing

    quality HVAC pros and homeowners together, offers helpful advice and an

    online contractor locator

    for your planning convenience.

  • style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Get a

    system that’s a perfect fit for your home.

    style='font-family:Arial'> Proper sizing of your central AC system is

    critical─if it’s too small, it won’t sufficiently cool your home,

    and if it’s too large, you’ll wind up with a constant racket and

    too-frequent cycling (turning on and off) that wastes energy and wears out

    the equipment. To get to this point, an experienced contractor will go

    beyond knowledge of the basic square footage of your home to a load

    calculation that accounts for the heat gain to which it’s subject. This number

    takes into account such items as the amount, type and placement of

    windows, location and extent of insulation, and even the orientation of

    your home in relation to the sun; it can also assist in recommendations

    for efficiency improvements that’ll help you get the most out of your new

    system.

  • style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Choose

    efficient equipment. According

    to the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, about one-seventh of all the

    electricity generated in this country is used to air condition buildings,

    and by the time you scale that percentage to home usage, any means of

    energy savings is a major plus. Your air contractor knows this, too, and

    can help you choose central air equipment that’ll provide dependable

    style='font-family:Arial'>ind

    style='font-family:Arial'>oor comfort and money-saving efficiency. It all

    comes down to the system’s seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER), which

    tells how many Btus an air conditioner removes for every watt of

    electricity it uses. A higher SEER means lower cost to operate, and you’ll

    find that Energy St

    style='font-family:Arial'>ar qualified air conditioners fit that

    description and are typically 14 percent more efficient than standard

    models. From there, a zoned control system can provide further savings by

    moving the cool only into areas of the home where it’s needed. Visit the

    href="http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cac.pr_central_ac">Energy Star

    site for more details on selecting qualified

    style='font-family:Arial'>ind

    style='font-family:Arial'>oor cooling equipment.

  • style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Ensure

    proper installation of equipment.

    Quality installation of your system is what literally seals the deal for

    cool, comfortable results. The manufacturer’s instructions should be

    followed to the letter, with

    style='font-family:Arial'>ind

    style='font-family:Arial'>oor equipment installed in a conditioned or

    well-insulated space and the outdoor compressor kept clear of debris and positioned

    so that it’s protected from the sun.

  • style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Prevent

    ductwork drains on efficiency.

    As part of your investment in a cooler home, all ductwork should be

    properly sealed with metal-backed tape or mastic followed by an insulation

    wrap. Your contractor may also need to extend your duct system to reach

    new registers and grilles placed in previously uncool rooms.

  • style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Know

    when to replace existing equipment (hint: before it gives out).

    style='font-family:Arial'> If your existing air conditioner is more than

    10 years old, it’s time to start thinking about a replacement.

    style='font-family:Arial'>Usa

    style='font-family:Arial'>ge patterns and equipment condition will affect

    the exact timing of a breakdown,

    but you definitely don’t want to wait until that moment comes. Also

    remember that it’s no big savings to replace only part of the machinery:

    all components in a central AC system are designed, manufactured and

    style='font-family:Arial'>cali

    style='font-family:Arial'>brated to work together for optimum performance and

    efficiency, and piecing together existing and new equipment will usually give

    you the opposite result.

  • Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program’s website.

Read Full Story

Find a Home

Buy
Rent
Value
Powered by Zillow

People are Reading