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Features to Look for in a Central Air Conditioner

Published on: February 6, 2013

A central air conditioner is a major investment for the home. The homeowner must make several choices when selecting a central air unit. Choices include brand name of the equipment, energy efficiency of the system, desirable features and the size of the unit. Additionally, the homeowner must select a reputable and qualified HVAC company to perform the installation of the unit.

HVAC technologies have advanced considerably in the past decade. New features that improve energy efficiency, new advanced control features and other extras are available for new HVAC systems. The informed consumer who knows the features to look for in a central air conditioner will be equipped to select the best central air unit to fulfill his or her needs.

Types of Central Air Systems

There are basically two types of central air systems available:

– The Packaged AC Unit

The packaged system is the traditional ducted central air system. New features are now available on packaged units that will save you money. Variable speed blowers and more precise controls are two of the features available on packaged AC systems that will provide energy savings. Saving energy to operate your central air unit is always a welcome windfall.

– The Mini-Split System

The mini-split system is a newer concept and does not require ductwork for the air conditioner installation. Local air conditioning contractors can provide you with advice regarding which type of system works best for homes in your region and climate. For example, a mini-split system may be an option to air condition a garage, a room addition or a workshop where ductwork is not easily installed.

Energy Efficiency Ratings

Each air conditioning unit is evaluated in terms of how well the unit utilizes energy to condition the air. These evaluations are expressed in number form by the SEER rating. The term “SEER” stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The lowest acceptable SEER rating for an air conditioner sold today is 13. However, certain manufacturers of mini-split systems, such as Mitsubishi, produce ductless air conditioners with a SEER of up to 26.

The higher the SEER number, the more you will need to invest initially in your central air system. You will save money over the life of the unit, however, with lower energy costs. Though the savings depend on several factors, some energy experts estimate that for every two point increase in the SEER rating, a savings of $15 to $25 per month on energy costs is possible.

When considering the purchase of a new AC unit, the SEER is one of the most important factors because you will likely have the AC unit for many years. As energy prices continue rise, you will appreciate the savings with a highly energy efficient system. Most HVAC professionals will recommend that you purchase the unit with the highest SEER that will fit your budget. To discuss the implications of the SEER and how you can save money, ask your local HVAC professional.

Other Available Features

– Quiet Operation

Some homeowners may be concerned about the noise produced by the AC unit. If you need a system that will operate quietly, choices are available for both packaged and mini-split systems. Mini-split systems tend to be more quiet and unobtrusive. However, packaged units are now produced with features that reduce the noise of operation.

– Advanced Controls

Today’s AC units offer advanced control features, such as zone control. One of the most popular features of mini-split systems is the zone control feature. Each room or zone is controlled by an individual internal air handler, which will save energy and lower your utility bills.

– Variable Speed Systems

New features on packaged systems include variable speed blowers. The variable speed blowers operate at a lower speed when demand on the system is low. When demand is higher, the blower operates at full speed. The lower speed operation saves energy and lowers utility bills during the times when cooling demands are low.

AC Equipment Size

Probably the most important feature when selecting a new air conditioner is the size of the unit. Bigger is not necessarily better when purchasing HVAC equipment. A unit that is too small will not effectively cool the home when the temperatures are high. A unit that is too big will constantly cycle on and off, creating undue wear and tear on system components. A general rule for the size of AC systems is 1 ton of equipment per 550 square feet of living space. However, your HVAC professional will be much more precise in their estimate of the equipment size your home requires. In fact, AC contractors use a mathematical formula to determine the right size of HVAC equipment for a home.

Features to look for in a central air conditioner are those that will save money and reduce energy consumption. When you are considering a new air conditioner installation, be sure to evaluate all the features that are available. Determine which features you value most and make your decision based on the needs of your home and the climate where you live.

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