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Tips for Choosing the Right Central Air Conditioner

Apr 17, 2012

Around 80% of new homes built in the United States are equipped with a central air conditioning unit. In addition, many homeowners are installing central a/c in older homes, or replacing their older air conditioning units. As a result, the prevalence and sales of central air conditioning systems is very high.

Why is Central Air So Popular?

Central air conditioning is the most efficient way to get cool air flow to multiple rooms in a home. Window-mounted units are economical when the intent is to cool a single small space or room, but when looking to cool an entire home, central air conditioning is the most feasible.  Central air is also quieter than window mounted air conditioners.

Different Types to Consider

When installing a central a/c system, the entire unit can be installed outside the home, or it can be a split device where the condenser and compressor are installed outdoors and the evaporator or blower is located inside on the furnace.

The latter is the most economical. With this configuration, the furnace’s blower delivers the cooled air to your rooms through the furnace’s air duct system. If a home doesn’t have ducts, a separate blower can be installed to distribute the cooled air.

Proper “Sizing” is Critical

When determining the size of air conditioner your home requires, remember that bigger is not always better. In fact, an air conditioner that is too big or too small can use excessive amounts of energy, run loudly and break down prematurely. Factors of your home that need to be taken into account to properly “size” your air conditioner include:

  • Square footage
  • Orientation and layout
  • Quality of insulation and air sealing
  • Architectural features
  • Construction materials
  • Sun exposure/Shade cover
  • Window size, number, type and direction

Beware of Sizing by Rule of Thumb

Sizing of your air conditioner should be done by an experienced professional.  Proper sizing requires taking several measurements in the home which are used, along with the features listed above, to determine the appropriate size needed. Beware of any contractor who uses a simple rule of thumb such as square footage to determine the size. Find a RESNET Qualified ENERGYSMART Contractor.

Start With an Energy Audit

Before installing an air conditioning system, it is a good idea to have a home energy audit to assess the quality of your insulation and air sealing, and to test your ductwork for leaks. By taking remedial actions you will save energy by making your home more energy efficient, and potentially save even more money by requiring a smaller, less expensive air conditioning system. Find a RESNET Certified Energy Auditor