Time for a new air conditioner?
With warmer weather right around the corner, now might be a great time to look into buying that new air conditioner you've been thinking about. Whether you need a new air conditioner, need to replace an older unit or are looking to upgrade to central air conditioning, there are some things you need to know.
How do I know if I need a new air conditioner?
Air conditioner manufacturers generally make rugged products that can last for up to 15 years. However, an air conditioner's components (the filters, coils and fins) require regular maintenance in order for the unit to function properly over the years. Neglecting regular maintenance will limit the effectiveness of the air conditioner and hinder the overall efficiency and lifespan of the unit — while also driving your energy costs through the roof.
If your air conditioner is more than a decade old or isn't cooling as well as it used to, you might want to consider investing in a new unit. When properly installed, a new EPA energy star high efficiency system can save up to 40% on your annual heating and cooling costs. Your investment in a more efficient system can keep your family comfortable even during the hottest or coldest days, while also reducing energy usage.
Room Air Conditioners vs. Central Air Conditioners
There are two basic types of air conditioners: room air conditioners and central air conditioners. For efficient cooling of smaller spaces, a room air conditioner is a great choice. Today's energy-efficient models can also handle larger areas with ease. If you're looking to cool all areas of a larger home, a central air conditioning system may be more cost-effective and convenient than purchasing, installing, running and maintaining multiple room air conditioners.
Room Air Conditioners
Room air conditioners cool rooms rather than the entire home. If they provide cooling only where they're needed, room air conditioners are less expensive to operate than central units, even though their efficiency is generally lower than that of central air conditioners. However, if the room air conditioner isn't properly sized, you might not be able to maintain a comfortable temperature.
Central Air Conditioners
With a split-system central air conditioner, an outdoor cabinet contains the condenser and compressor, and an indoor cabinet houses the evaporator. In many split-system air conditioners, this indoor cabinet also contains a furnace or the indoor part of a heat pump. A split-system is generally the most economical central air conditioner to install.
In a packaged central air conditioner, all unit components are housed in one cabinet, which usually is placed on a roof or on a concrete slab next to the foundation. This type of air conditioner is also common in small commercial buildings. Air supply and return ducts come from indoors through the exterior wall or roof to connect with the packaged unit. Packaged air conditioners often include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace. This combination of air conditioner and central heater eliminates the need for a separate furnace indoors.
So which one is right for me?
The type of air conditioner you select depends in large part on your climate and cooling loads. In small homes and spaces with modest cooling needs, room air conditioners often make the most sense. If you are considering room air conditioners, you will need to decide between units that mount in the window and those that are built into the wall. Wall-mounted units are often a better choice, both for aesthetic and practical reasons. Usually, a hole has to be cut into the wall to accommodate a mounted unit. But once in place, it is much easier to seal and insulate and it blocks no natural light or ventilation from entering through the windows.
Central air conditioners have their own set of advantages. They are out of the way, quiet and convenient. Central air conditioners are also more efficient; and if you already have a forced air heating system, you may be able to tie into the existing duct work. In addition, central air systems provide conditions that are more comfortable. Room air conditioners can only cool a small area of the house; however, central air conditioning distributes the air evenly through the house, eliminating the need for multiple room air conditioners and fans. Although window air conditioners have a much lower initial cost, they are much more expensive to run than central air. The combination of lower utility bills, comfort and the increased resale value of the home makes central air conditioning with a programmable thermostat a worthwhile investment for many homeowners.
Choosing, Sizing and Installing a New, Efficient Air Conditioner
Whether you're planning on purchasing a room air conditioner or a central air conditioning system, proper sizing and installation are crucial. Too large of a unit will not adequately remove humidity. Too small of a unit will not be able to consistently achieve comfortable temperatures. Improper unit location, insulation and installation can greatly diminish efficiency. Regardless of the type of air conditioner you've decided on, you're best bet would be to consult a qualified professional to help you select, size and install the unit properly, thus ensuring many years of efficient use.