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Buying Guide to Choose the Right AC for Your Home

February 28, 2024


In the heat of summer, a reliable and efficient air conditioner becomes a lifesaver. It provides comfort and relief from the oppressive temperatures, but it’s crucial to select the right air conditioner for your home. Factors like room size, energy efficiency, and specific features should all be considered to ensure that you get the most suitable air conditioning system for your needs.

Here’s a comprehensive buying guide to choose the right AC for your home from the pros at Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating.

Understanding Home Air Conditioning

Air conditioning can refer to a number of systems designed to control temperature and humidity in your home. In general, air conditioners can be grouped into duct or ductless systems. Ductless air conditioning uses small units scattered throughout your home, while ducted systems consist of a larger unit that distributes cool air from a central unit.

Here are the types of air conditioners:

  • Central air conditioning: Central air conditioners are what most people think of when they hear “air conditioning systems.” These are a whole-home solution designed to cool your entire house effectively.
  • Heat pumps: Despite the name, heat pumps can operate in reverse and provide both heating and cooling by transferring heat between the indoors and outdoors. Beyond that, heat pumps distribute heated or cooled air in the same way as central air conditioning.
  • Window air conditioning units: Many people have window air conditioning units, which are a budget-friendly option for targeted cooling of specific rooms. These air conditioners are installed in a window, draw air in, and blow it back into your home. The rear of the unit directs condensation outside.
  • Portable air conditioning units: Similar to window units, portable units are designed to cool a single room at a time. They typically have wheels and need to be drained of water like a dehumidifier.
  • Mini-split systems: Mini-split systems are strategically placed throughout a home to provide custom heating and cooling using a small heat pump. These can be ducted or ductless, allowing for zoned cooling and individual control over specific areas.
  • Evaporative coolers: Also known as swamp coolers, evaporative coolers have some key differences from traditional air conditioning. They add moisture to the air to create cool dampness, and they push air into the home instead of recycling what’s in the house.

Factors to Consider in Choosing an Air Conditioner

Cooling Needs

The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is one of the most important factors in choosing the right air conditioner from your home. The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured in British thermal units (BTUs) and represents the amount of heat the unit can remove from a room each hour.

While you may think that bigger is better, it’s crucial to choose an air conditioner with the right cooling capacity for your home. If the unit is too big, it will cool your room quickly and short cycle, which is when the system powers on and off before completing a full cycle. This often leads to excess humidity. Conversely, a unit that’s too small will have to work harder to keep your home cool, leading to high energy bills and excess wear and tear.

You can assess your cooling capacity, you can measure the square footage of your home – or individual room – and use a BTU calculator. There are other factors to consider as well, such as your home’s sun exposure, areas of shade, insulation levels, and the climate. The best way to ensure you get the right air conditioner for your home is by consulting with an HVAC professional.

Energy Efficiency

Many homeowners are becoming more concerned with energy costs and eco-friendly appliances. There are two ways to assess an air conditioner’s energy efficiency:

  • Energy efficiency ratio (EER): The EER is calculated by dividing the cooling capacity in BTUs by the power input in watts. Higher EER signifies better energy efficiency.
  • Seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER): SEER measures the efficiency of an air conditioner throughout the cooling season. A higher SEER rating indicates better long-term energy savings.

Another consideration is Energy Star certification, which indicates compliance with energy efficiency standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Energy Star-certified air conditioners consume less energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Noise Levels

Air conditioners may make a little noise, but some are louder than others. If you have people in your home who are sensitive to sound, it’s important to consider the noise your preferred unit produces. Air conditioners are measured in decibels (dB). Many models include a noise rating to help you make an informed decision.

Keep in mind that you may want quiet operation in different rooms, such as the bedroom. Staying cool while you sleep is important, but so is quiet. Look for units that have lower noise ratings or a “sleep mode” feature that adjusts the temperature and fan speed for a cooler and quieter night.

Smart Features

Smart technology is becoming more popular in nearly all appliances. Many air conditioners offer advanced smart features and connectivity options, including features that you can control through smartphone apps or smart home systems. There are a lot of benefits to smart features, including adjustable settings, scheduled cooling times, and energy usage reports.

Smart features may make a unit more expensive but consider the long-term benefits of an improved user experience and energy savings. The features may be worth the investment for you.

Upfront Costs and Energy Savings

When it comes to costs, you have to consider the upfront costs of your air conditioner and your potential energy savings over the life of the unit. It’s important to evaluate the long-term savings and your monthly energy bills, which may offset the costs of purchase and installation.

You should also consider any warranties and the unit’s reliability. Having a reliable air conditioner and a warranty that protects your unit may be worth a higher upfront cost in exchange for long-term value.

Installation and Maintenance

Air conditioning units can vary widely in their installation and maintenance needs. window air conditioners are simple and straightforward to install, whereas central air or mini-split systems are best left to the professionals. Make sure to consider the cost of professional air conditioning installation in your overall costs.

As far as maintenance is concerned, there are air conditioners that have filters that are easy to clean and replace. Regular maintenance is important for the overall operation and longevity of your system, so make sure you’re comfortable with the process. Some units come with features to remind you of important tasks, such as cleaning or replacing your filter.

Air Quality Features

Some modern air conditioners have advanced features to improve your indoor air quality. If you struggle with allergies or respiratory conditions, getting an air conditioner with features for air quality like built-in air purifiers, filters with high efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings, and features that can remove allergens and dust, may be worth the added expense.

Zoned Cooling

If you have hot or cool spots in your home or a family that has different cooling needs, an air conditioner with zoned cooling can make a big difference. Ductless mini-split systems allow for individualized temperature control in specific rooms, providing you with more personalization and energy efficiency.

Heating and Cooling

As mentioned, some air conditioning units also have heating capabilities with a heat pump, so you need just one system for year-round comfort. These systems are ideal for heating and cooling in moderate climates that don’t have extremely cold winters. Heat pumps are also more efficiency than some other heating options, since they don’t generate heat from burning fuel or using electricity, so you get all-around cost savings.

Do I Need Professional Air Conditioning Installation?

While window air conditioners and portable air conditioners can have a DIY installation, it’s best to leave the installation of a heat pump or central air conditioner to the professionals. There’s a lot of complexity and technical aspects to setting up an air conditioner, so professional installation is the safer and more reliable choice.

In particular, handling refrigerants, which are crucial components of air conditioning systems, require expertise to prevent leaks and ensure the safe and effective functioning of the unit. Air conditioner installation also requires electrical knowledge and adherence to local codes and regulations, which can be a lot to take on for the average homeowner.

In addition, many air conditioners come with a manufacturer warranty that may be voided if the installation isn’t performed by a certified professional. Hiring a professional HVAC technician for your AC installation ensures that it’s done according to the manufacturer’s specifications, protecting the warranty coverage.

Upgrade Your Air Conditioner

Selecting the right air conditioner for your home involves a lot of considerations, including your cooling needs, energy efficiency needs, budget, and more. Taking the time to make an informed decision will pay off in the long run.

Ready to replace your air conditioner or get an upgrade? Contact the pros at Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating to schedule a consultation!

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