Buying Guide for Central Air Conditioning
Summer is coming, now it’s a good idea to replace your central air conditioning or to install a new one. In the USA more than 75% of homes are using air conditioning, and 90% of new homes are using central air. Thus, eco-conscious consumers know that the present air conditioners are energy-efficient, which means we can enjoy the day comfortably and cool by spending less amount on the air conditioner. True that it is very expensive to install or replace central air with a new one. So you want to make it right. In this article, we are going to discuss the Buying Guide for Central Air Conditioning to make your task quick and easy.
There are so many differences in air conditioning systems. They are, home size and design, how the system is installed and construction of the ductwork, so Consumer Reports can’t test Central air conditioning systems.
As a solution, we ask the opinions of the members about their systems. According to the recent central air conditioning survey conducted around our members with 24000 new central AC systems they bought and installed between 2005-2020. We found that they are so happy with their purchase, about the cost for the repairs, the numbers of system breaks and which parts break more often.
According to the information gathered from the survey, we can assume that 36% will break or experience issues in the AC central systems at the end of the eight-year of their ownership. Here gather the details from our reliability survey and learn about the types of air conditioning systems available and how to select the best one for you and use them. In addition to that find a good contractor to do the work.
In our reliability survey, we targeted traditional air conditioning systems. Because they are more available in areas with wide temperature changes. For areas with more moderate cooling and heating, heat pumps are a really good selection. (Find their reliability in our heat pump buying guide).
Check the Reliability ratings for central air
Central Air Conditioning categories
The common type of central air conditioning is the split system. It is a large, boxy condenser outside the home with a fan and coil system inside connected by pipes carrying refrigerant. The air supplies through ductwork. Anyway, not all homes are able to accommodate the ductwork required to install central air. For such homes, split-ductless systems are good, as it doesn’t need ductwork.
About Central Air Conditioning
A central air conditioning system use ducts to supply air throughout the house. In a “split system”, the common design, refrigerant circulates between an indoor coil and a matching from the same brand, outdoor condenser with compressor (see the picture below). The refrigerant cools the air, dehumidifying it in the process, a blower spread the air from the ducts inside the house. The thermostat manages the temperature of the setting you choose. The change is the “heat pump”, the system that works both as a heater and an air conditioner.
About Split Ductless Systems
Split ductless systems consist of an outside condenser and compressor, one to four or more indoor blower units called air handlers, mounted high on the wall that supply air. The indoor and outdoor sections are joined by a thin conduit that houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing and condensate drain. The conduit is going through a 3-inch hole hidden behind each air handler. All the air handlers cool the room where t’s installed and set the temperature with a remote controller. Moreover, this air conditioning system is more expensive, and a professional installation is recommended. It’s not technically central air, the cooling they offer is more like a central air system.
How an Air conditioner runs
To distribute cool throughout the home, the air conditioner transfers heat from the home interior to the outside.
Put your air conditioner ducts in a row
If you are installing an air conditioner system from a break, your contractor should calculate the size of the cooling appliance you want using valid methods such as taking a guide from your Residential Load Calculation Manual, aka Manual J, from the contractors of America (ACCA). If you have ductwork for the heating option, adding an AC system doesn’t cost much.
Sometimes the ducts used for heating may not be positioned in the right place or in the right size for optimal cooling. Therefore, your contractor must check whether the duct sections are correctly sized and they are enough supply registers to carry enough air to the right place. Undersized ductwork may be inefficient and make lots of noise. Read below to find how to make it humming.
Don’t forget to clean the grills and filters monthly. Also, clean the debris and dirt in the condenser and see whether there are blockages in the drain pipe. When you replace the filter, follow the filter manufacturer’s recommendation to know how to swap it out. In addition to that, the thicker the disposal filter, the less you need to change it. (The filters test last for 3-12 months).
Seal and insulate the duct properly.
If you don’t insulate or seal your duct properly, air may go out wasting the energy used to run the system about 20-30%. So sealing your duct properly will make you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. That’s why it is named duct tape and not duck tape.
Check the outdoor parts
The compressor needs sufficient space about 2-3 feet space between the unit and any plants or structure for good airflow to operate properly. Also, there should be 5 feet of space between the top of the unit and the trees above. And make sure to keep enough space for you or the technician to check or to service the unit.
Do seasonal checks
At least once a year make a licensed professional restore all filters, clean, and flush the coils, drain the pan and drainage system, and clean the blower compartments. The contractor must check the system is properly charged with refrigerant, and whether there is any leak also there are no shortcomings in the mechanical components.
Consider these factors when choosing a Central AC
The size measures in British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr.) or in “tons”. One ton of cooling is 12,000 Btu/hr. Go to the Energy star website to have the sizing guidance.
This means the how much number of watts of electricity use for cooling the unit delivers. Efficiency can be defined as energy efficiency rating or SEER. The minimum SEER for a split-system central air conditioner today is 14, so check the units for SEER ratings with 15 or above. The higher the SEER, the more you can reduce the energy cost.
Your Central AC systems require to maintain optimal performance regularly. When you arrange installation better to arrange a service plan as well which includes regular check-ups with discounts for repairs and a labour warranty sum to the overall price. Those prices may vary widely.
Adjust programmable thermostat to the right temperature
Setting the smart or programmable thermostat at the right temperature will lower your cooling cost by 10%.
The right temperature varies so start checking it from78 degrees Fahrenheit until you find the right one for you. According to the Department of Energy, you can save about 3 % from your utility bill if you increase the set temperature of your central air system. And keep in your mind that the ceiling fan or box which doesn’t cost much can make you cool 3 degrees Fahrenheit to 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Upgrading the current central air system
If you want to upgrade the current central air system, you don’t need to choose one of the same sizes. All the changes you will do to your central air system to save energy, like upgrading windows and providing more insulation, can reduce the usage of the Central air system. But if you add more rooms you may need more cooling.
Check whether your contractor follows the recognized method, such as Manual J from the ACCA. So, the contractor check-ups should include seeing whether ducts need to be resized, sealed, and insulated or replaced. And make sure your indoor evaporator coil and outdoor condenser are compatible with each other, if not the performance, efficiency and capacity won’t meet the expectation.
Undoubtedly new systems are 20 or 40 % efficient than the minimum efficiency ones made 10 years ago. The price may change and can depend on the factors such as whether you require ductwork installed and the size and configurations of your home.
Installation Process: Find the suitable contractor.
Although you replace an old air conditioner or installing one for the first time in your life, you must choose a trustworthy good contractor to install and service an air conditioning system are the main things you should concern about. Follow the steps below.
Ask from someone.
Find referrals from your neighbor, family member or friend, or any business associates. It’s better to get price quotes from at least three contractors.
Check their qualifications
The contractors who bid on your work must show the necessary verifications. For example verifications of boding and insurance, and any needed contractor’s licenses. Also, don’t forget to check their records in the local better business bureau and consumer affairs office for any complaints. It’s good if the contractor is certified by a trade organization, like North American Technician Excellence or HVAC Excellence, for residential heating and cooling. Those programs are similar to other programs that prove the technician’s knowledge of types of equipment and their service methods.
Check the ability
The contractors who bid on your job should calculate the needed cooling capacity using recognized methods like the one in ACCA’s Residential Load Calculation Manual, also named Manual J. An additional reference for ductwork requires in Manual D. The calculation meets the detailed analysis on a room by room of cooling needs. Tell them to submit a document including all the calculations and assumptions and ductwork design. Be careful of constructors who calculate everything based only on house size or the rules of the thumb.