What to Know Before Buying a New Air Conditioner
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Posted June 1, 2017
Buying a new air conditioning system is a big decision, not just because it’s expensive, but because it determines whether you are comfortable at home or not. Everyone expects smooth and efficient air conditioning when they buy a new unit, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
OVER HALF of all new HVAC systems are improperly installed, which leads to reduced efficiency and shortened lifespans. Not only that, comfort problems can develop as well, such as high humidity, airborne pollutants, and poor air circulation (ENERGY STAR). The most important day of an air conditioner’s life is the day of its installation.
Regardless of where you live, air conditioning is a necessity in most homes. Even in places where the climate is fairly moderate year-round, an A/C unit is essential for both the comfort and health of a household. In addition to keeping an interior cool, air conditioning keeps the air circulating, helps reduce humidity, and can help filter out harmful airborne toxins.
New units last on average 15 – 20 years, so it’s an important investment that should be thoroughly researched before making a decision. Even if your A/C is working, you might be able to save more money by replacing your unit due to the increased energy savings of new units. If your air conditioning system is 10 years or older, speak with an HVAC professional to determine if it makes more sense to replace rather than repair.
If you are thinking about buying a new air conditioning system, there are several things to consider. Whether you’re replacing an old unit or need to purchase a new home, we’ve compiled some essential tips for your search.
HVAC Buyer’s Guide:
What to Know Before Buying a New Air Conditioner
- Get a Professional Contractor – It is imperative that you research the best contractor/company for the job. Your air conditioner’s efficiency is determined by its installation. A recommendation from a friend or family member is always the best route, but local home service referral sites like Angie’s List are fine as long as you check their BBB rating as well. Make sure you choose two or three different contractors and have each offer a detailed quote. If they are responsible for providing the unit, get the make and model to ensure it’s the right one for your needs. Last but not least, most manufacturer warranties contain certain stipulations, including professional inspection and installation, signed off by a licensed HVAC contractor. So, make sure you conduct a thorough vetting process. Use this Heating & Air Conditioning Installation Bid Comparison Checklist by ENERGY STAR to screen your HVAC installers.
- Buying a Unit Online – There are a couple different ways to proceed with your A/C installation. The first is all-inclusive where the contractor provides both the unit and the installation. But you might opt for buying a unit at wholesale and hiring a contractor for the installation. Depending on the kind of brand you want, this may save you a considerable amount, but you will still need to find a professional contractor to install it. You will need a licensed contractor to follow local and state codes, obtain any necessary permits, and give you a record or professional installation. If you do decide to buy your heating or air conditioning equipment online, check with a professional first, because they might not do the installation for a number of reasons. Many contractors will only install HVAC units they have supplied themselves because manufacturer warranties go through the company and your unit may be damaged, the wrong size, lack proper paperwork, or improperly matched for your existing home. It may cost more, but it is highly recommended that you choose a licensed HVAC professional to size you home and calculate the exact furnace or air conditioner for your home’s needs. It will probably save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
- A/C Size – Choosing the correct size unit for your home is essential. While your contractor will help you with this part of the equation, it’s important to know in advance why this is important. If a unit is the wrong size for the square footage of your home, several problems will result. If the unit is too small it won’t be able to properly cool your home. If the unit is too big it will cycle on and off frequently – wasting energy and inflating your utility bill. Even if you are replacing an older model, your contractor will want to perform what is called a load calculation.
- Load Calculation – If you are buying a new air conditioning unit, you will want a load calculation performed. A load calculation helps to determine the appropriate size of the A/C your home will require. Your HVAC technician does this by matching your home’s thermal characteristics with cooling capacity (in BTUs). A typical calculation takes into account the size of the house, climate zone, roof material, directional orientation, number of appliances and other pertinent information. Check if your HVAC contractor conducts energy audits as well. You can often pair energy audits and load calculations together for a discount.
- SEER Rating – An air conditioning unit’s efficiency is measured by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) raised their minimum SEER requirement from 13 to 14. Keep in mind that a rating of 14 to 22 is considered to be an energy-efficient classification. So search for a model that is rated at least a 14, but try to find one that is even higher on the efficiency scale. Learn more HVAC terms here.
- High-Efficiency Models – A high-efficiency A/C unit (rated 14+) will cost a bit more, but it will ultimately save energy (and money) down the road. Look for the ENERGY STAR label when selecting a new air conditioner as it pinpoints the most efficient units on the market.
- Annual Maintenance – After your new unit is installed you will also want to speak to your contractor about a maintenance plan. Annual tune-ups will ensure that your A/C runs at optimum efficiency – and that your warranty remains valid. Your contractor should be able to help you choose an appropriate maintenance program. Most professional home service companies have deals on yearly A/C maintenance.
- Off-Season Shopping – Shop for a new air conditioner in the cooler months when more brands are likely to be in stock – and on sale.
Shopping for a new A/C requires a bit of work, but finding the right one will ensure consistent, dependable comfort for years to come. If you are in the market for a new unit, start your search with Hiller. We offer quality HVAC service, stock all the popular brands and have an affordable maintenance plan to keep your system running efficiently.