What to Look for When Buying a Central Air Conditioner

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A brand-new central air conditioner is one of the biggest and most important investments you can make in your home. As you shop around for your new unit, you’ll likely be faced with a multitude of choices, including system size, amenities, purchase price and installation costs. To make your search for your next air conditioning system that much easier, here are a few things to consider before finalizing your purchase.

Size Matters

Size is an important factor when it comes to finding the right central air conditioner. When HVAC experts talk about “size,” they’re actually referring to an air conditioner’s cooling capacity or how many BTUs of heat it can remove from indoor spaces within an hour. Sizing is all about finding the right air conditioner that can handle a home’s cooling load or the amount of heat energy it has to remove in order to maintain comfortable temperatures without wasting energy.

Unfortunately, many homeowners and even a few contractors tend to choose central A/C systems that offer too little or too much cooling capacity. Both mistakes can have drastic consequences in terms of comfort and efficiency:

  • Oversized central A/C systems offer poor humidity control, causing indoor spaces to feel clammy and uncomfortable. Oversized units also suffer greater wear and tear, as well as higher energy consumption and shorter lifespans.
  • Undersized central A/C systems take longer to bring indoor temperatures under control, resulting in wasted energy and poor indoor comfort. These units also experience greater wear and tear than properly sized units.

Finding the right size air conditioner means assessing your home’s exact cooling needs. Fortunately, your HVAC contractor can perform a specialized load calculation using the latest in industry standard software. A proper load calculation takes into account several aspects of your home, including insulation quality, window size and quantity, sun exposure and square footage, just to name a few. Once your contractor has a clear picture of your home’s cooling needs, it’s easier to find a central air conditioner that offers the perfect match.

Efficiency Matters Too

Energy efficiency is also important, especially if you’re replacing your old central air conditioner to save money on energy costs. The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) is the measurement of choice when it comes to finding energy efficient central A/C systems. You’ll find its SEER rating on the yellow EnergyGuide sticker that’s required on every new air conditioning system sold.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s efficiency standards for central air conditioners vary by region. For example, central A/C systems sold in Nebraska and other states included in the North region must be rated at a minimum 13 SEER. In comparison, similar air conditioners sold in the Southwest are required to meet a minimum rating of 14 SEER.

The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient your air conditioner will be under normal operation. In other words, it’ll use less electricity throughout its working life and save you plenty of money on your energy costs. Finding the most energy efficient A/C system within your budget can offer a significant return on your investment throughout your ownership.

Features to Look For

Shopping for the right central A/C system also means finding one that offers the latest features. Many of these features can pay extraordinary dividends when it comes to overall energy efficiency and cooling comfort:

  • Variable-speed blower. Instead of running at full blast, a variable-speed motor uses an electronically commutated motor to operate at multiple speeds, resulting in quieter operation and lower energy consumption.
  • Two-stage compressor. Instead of operating at its full output, a two-stage compressor can reduce its output by nearly half according to reduced cooling demands. This system helps save electricity that would be otherwise wasted by a single-stage compressor.
  • Thermal expansion valve. Thermal expansion valves are designed to meter the flow of refrigerant through the evaporator and condenser coils according to changes in your home’s cooling load. This valve keeps liquid refrigerant from flooding the compressor, which could lead to severe damage.
  • Filter indicator light. Sometimes it’s easy to forget when your air filter needs changing. A filter indicator light reminds you when your air filter needs to be changed, sparing your central air conditioner plenty of wear and tear caused by clogged filters while improving its overall efficiency through proper maintenance.

Another feature worth looking for is a smart thermostat, which offers a significant upgrade over the average programmable thermostat. A Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat gives you the ability to adjust temperatures and other settings via smartphone or tablet app. Not only can you access your climate controls anywhere you go, but you can also get feedback on energy consumption, receive updates and alerts and even incorporate your smart thermostat as a part of your home automation system.

If you’re ready to find the central air conditioner that best fits your home, you can always turn to Controlled Comfort for your residential HVAC needs. Call us at 402-333-2775 or use our convenient online form to schedule an appointment.

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