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How to Choose A New Air Conditioning System
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How to Choose A New Air Conditioning System

How to Choose an Air Conditioning System

There are many factors to consider when choosing a new air conditioning system or upgrading an existing one. Through decades of experience with installations, repairs, and working with manufacturers, we have identified key factors to consider when buying an AC unit. In this blog, we will cover the types of AC Units, the importance of energy efficiency, and physical and structural limitations your home may have that will all affect the system you choose.

What type Of Unit Is Best For Your Home?

Central Air Conditioning Systems

Central air conditioning is a whole-home cooling system operating from a single central location. These systems are made up of two units: an indoor and outdoor unit. Typically placed in a basement or closet, the indoor unit uses Freon, an evaporator filled with refrigerant, to remove the heat from your home. The refrigerant absorbs warm air, releases it through the outdoor unit, and returns inside to repeat the cycle.
Central air conditioners use ducts and vents located in your walls to move air to and from its central location. A motorized fan pulls air from your home and cycles it through the system where it is cooled. The cooled air is then pumped back through the ducts to the rest of the home.
Before installing an air conditioning system, check with residential zones, apartment complexes, or homeowners associations, as there may be legal restrictions on the type of air conditioning systems allowed. It is crucial to know if your home can handle the additional space and weight of a Central Air Conditioning System as proper infrastructure is required for installment.

Ductless Mini Split Systems

Mini splits are smaller air conditioning systems that are installed to control the temperature of an individual room or area. Much like central air, mini splits are made of an indoor and outdoor unit. However, with this system there can be numerous indoor units throughout the home. Mini splits can be installed in several rooms to serve as a main source of home comfort control or as a compliment to central air, cooling rooms where ductwork cannot reach.

A mini split has a wall mounted unit containing an air handler that internally cools the air. When air enters the wall unit, the refrigerant absorbs the heat and transfers the warm air to the outdoor unit. The cooled refrigerant returns to the inside unit to release the cooled air, and the cycle starts again.

System Efficiency

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)

The SEER calculates how effectively your system cools your home in coordination with the outdoor temperature. This rating is measured by dividing the annual cooling output by the total electrical input. Modern systems’ SEER rating ranges 13-21 but older systems can be lower. There are many factors that affect your SEER rating such as outdoor temperatures, your home’s surrounding buildings, sun exposure, and system maintenance. A low rating does not necessarily mean you need to replace the entire system. Specific parts can be switched out to retain efficiency. Most manufacturers support equipment and replacement parts for the lifespan of the system, which is 15-20 years. However, a higher SEER rating is desirable because it means the system is more efficient. Better efficiency can help lower your electric bill and save you money.
Choosing Air Conditioner Size
Choosing the right size air conditioning system plays a large role in efficiency. To select the correct size for your home, you will first need to measure the square footage of the desired room, then use the chart located below to determine how many British Thermal Units (BTUs) you will require of your air conditioning system.
In short, BTUs measure the power required to cool a room. The higher your BTU number, the more power it will have.

BTU Selection Chart by Room Size

Room Area to be Cooled Capacity Needed
Up to 350 sq. ft. 8,000 BTU
350 to 400 sq. ft. 9,000 BTU
400 to 450 sq. ft. 10,000 BTU
450 to 550 sq. ft. 12,000 BTU
550 to 700 sq. ft. 14,000 BTU


Upgrading Your Central Air Conditioner

Settling for an air conditioning system that is not meeting your needs can leave you sweating the small stuff in life. When it comes to your comfort there is always room to grow. The best way to improve your environment is to know what options are available to you and which systems meet your needs.
HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system technology moves quickly and advancements in the industry have led to greater efficiency. Modern air conditioning systems require 30-50% less energy than models made in the 1970s and 20-40% less energy than models made just 10 years ago.
Adjusting the size and power of your system has many advantages. Systems too strong for their allotted space will not properly remove humidity. Inversely, systems too weak for their allotted space will be unable to accurately control your indoor environment. Choosing the correct size unit, insulation, ductwork, and system location all play a factor when it comes to efficiency.
There are more features to air conditioning systems than you may think. The following are extra features worth consideration.
Installing a quiet unit to reduce white noise. Depending where your system is located noise can disrupt your home comfort.
Fan-only switches. This feature gives you the ability to use the fan without running the entire system. This will help reduce costs if you are someone who wants to run their system at night.
A light indicating routine maintenance reminders like change the filters– helping you maintain an efficient unit.
Thermal expansion valve for those who live in high-temperature areas (often exceeding 95 degrees). The valve increases efficiency when the outside temperature reaches these extreme highs.

Making The Choice

Air conditioning systems are not a one-size-fits-all. The system that matches your needs depends on several factors including home size, budget, and existing infrastructure, to name a few. However, if you are still unsure here are some quick reminders to help you decide.

Central air systems are incredibly efficient, powerful, and have one central control over the temperature in your home. Central air uses ductwork located within your walls to move air between your system and the rest of your home.

Ductless mini splits have much more control over individual rooms. You can install as many or as few as you like. They are also great compliments to central air for rooms where ductwork does not reach.

Efficiency is important. Always be sure to check the SEER rating of your system especially if you have an old model. The size and power of your air conditioning systems is influenced by the size of your home or the room you want to cool. Misfit systems can lead to issues.

Upgrades are worth your consideration. You do not have to settle for ordinary. Add-ons to your system can maximize your home comfort whether it is a quieter system or a built in reminder to change filters.

If you are still unsure which system to go with in your home, your trusted Bill Howe Comfort Advisor would be happy to assess your home, explain all options available to you, and provide an estimate to fit your home’s needs and budget.


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