In the heat of the summer, it might seem that any central air conditioner will do just fine, but it’s important to do your research so you can choose the right unit and ensure the best performance for your home.
In fact, electricity bills rise in the summer because of air conditioning. Over the course of the summer, an AC can account for up to 30 per cent of the season’s electricity bill. That’s a lot of cooling, and a lot of energy. So here’s what to look for before you purchase to help you stay cool and save this summer.
If you’re looking for a full-home cooling system, central air is the right choice. These systems take up no space indoors and are long lasting. The average lifespan of a unit is 15 to 20 years. It’s important to keep in mind that these units are on the higher end of the cooling equipment spectrum. They require professional installation and could require the installation of duct work, depending on your home.
A room AC might be right for you. Read our room air conditioner buying guide to learn which model is right for your home.
The installation of a central AC is key to its performance. Working with a reputable air conditioning contractor can help ensure that the installation is completed properly.
A contractor can also help answer any question you may have and recommend best options for your home, including the correct size and most efficient models.
Before choosing a contractor, don’t be afraid to shop around. Ask for quotes and letters of recommendation from past customers so that you can choose the right contractor for the job.
Size is an important factor to consider when purchasing a new central AC. If a unit is too small, it may not be able to keep up on especially hot summer days; if it’s too large, it could cycle on and off frequently, leading to poor air dehumidification, decreased home comfort and higher energy costs.
Although your contractor can help you with choosing the proper size, an easy way to get an idea of what you’ll require is by determining the cooling capacity needed of the space you’d like to cool. Cooling capacity is indicated by British thermal units (BTUs/hour). The chart below shows the BTUs needed based on square footage.
|Area to be cooled (square feet)||Capacity needed (BTUs/hour)|
|700 up to 1,000||18,000|
|1,000 up to 1,200||21,000|
|1,200 up to 1,400||23,000|
|1,400 up to 1,500||24,000|
|1,500 up to 2,000||30,000|
|2,000 up to 2,500||34,000|
Once you’ve determined what size is best for your home, you’re ready to start thinking about which model is right for your needs. When shopping around, make sure to make energy efficiency a part of your wish list.
There are a few ways you can identify energy-efficient models; first look for the blue ENERGY STAR® label. ENERGY STAR® designation helps you identify systems that provide the best performance while using the least amount of energy. On average, these models use eight to ten per cent less energy than other standard models.
Each unit will also have an ENERGUIDE label. This label includes the model type and its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) which refers to the unit’s cooling efficiency over the entire cooling season. The label includes a SEER scale to show the range available for similar models, and an indicator that shows where the model falls on the SEER scale.
The SEER for central AC units range from 10.0 to 17.0. Depending on the system type that you get, ENERGY STAR units must meet a SEER of 12 or greater.
There are also other energy-efficiency features you can look for, including:
TIP: If you have a smart thermostat, make sure it is compatible with your new central AC unit before purchasing.
Remember, before making this purchase it’s always best to connect with a reputable contractor to ensure you have made the best decision for your home. Make sure to consider your needs, and what features are best suited to achieve them, so once summer rolls around you’ll be staying cool comfortably and efficiently.