How to choose Central air conditioning

From Consumers reports 2006:

What’s the best way to ensure that the central air-conditioning system you choose is
installed properly, and will provide the most efficient and reliable cooling for your home?
The pointers below can help you to find the right hardware and the right technician to
install your system, whether you’re replacing an older air conditioner or installing one for
the first time. The information comes from our experts.

And while there’s no one money-saving strategy that will work for everyone all the time,
there are simple steps that you can take, as we show in keeping costs down. In some
cases, you may be able to cut back on air-conditioner use considerably without
seriously inconveniencing your family.


In a “split system,” the typical design, refrigerant circulates between an indoor coil and a
matching outdoor condenser with compressor. The refrigerant cools the air,
dehumidifying it in the process; a blower circulates air through ducts throughout the
house. A variation is the “heat pump,” a type of system that functions as heater and
cooler. When used as an air conditioner, a heat pump discharges heat from the house
either into the air or deep into the ground. In the winter, a heat pump extracts heat from
the ground or the air to warm the house.


This describes how much cooling the unit delivers for each watt of electricity. Efficiency
is expressed as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, or SEER. At present, a SEER of
10 denotes a low-efficiency unit; medium efficiency is 11 to 14; high efficiency is above
14. New federal regulations that took effect in 2006 set the minimum SEER for a central
air conditioner at 13.


A synonym for the air conditioner’s cooling capacity, size is measured in British thermal
units per hour (Btu/hr.) or in “tons.” One ton of cooling equals 12,000 Btu/hr.

Get the right contractor

Finding a trustworthy contractor to install and service an air-conditioning system matters
the most. Here’s how to choose:

Ask around

Seek referrals from neighbors, family, or business associates. It’s wise to get price
quotes from at least three contractors.

Check the background

Contractors who bid on your installation should show you proof of bonding and
insurance, plus any required contractor’s licenses. Check with your local Better
Business Bureau and consumer affairs office for complaint records. It’s a plus if
technicians are certified by a trade organization, such as North American Technician
Excellence or HVAC Excellence, to service residential heating and cooling equipment.
These and other similar programs assess the technician’s knowledge of specific types
of equipment and its proper service methods. We believe that a contractor who has
made the effort to get certified and has practiced this trade and learned from several
years of service and installation experience, will be a better service provider.

Get specifics

Contractors who bid on your job should calculate required cooling capacity by using a
recognized method like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s Residential Load
Calculation Manual, also called Manual J. An additional reference for assessing
ductwork needs is Manual D. The calculations produce a detailed room-by-room
analysis of cooling needs. Ask for a printout of all calculations and assumptions,
including ductwork design. Be leery of a contractor who bases estimates merely on
house size or vague rules of thumb.

Expect maintenance

A service plan that combines regular inspections with discounts on repairs and a labor
warranty is worth negotiating into the overall price. Prices for such service vary widely.
At a minimum, regular inspections should include these steps:

  • Check for and repair refrigerant leaks.
  • Detect and correct duct leaks.
  • Inspect and tighten the electrical connections, checking for damage.
  • Clean the coils, drain pan, and drainage system.
  • Vacuum the blower compartment.
  • Replace filter monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Choose the right unit

If you’re replacing an old central-air system, you can expect to pay around $3,000 for
the equipment. If you need ductwork installed because you’re starting completely from
scratch or are upgrading a forced-air heating system, expect to pay $6,000 or more.
Improving the system’s air-filtration capabilities is also easiest to do as part of a general

Brand plays some role in the selection.

Here are other factors that may affect reliability:

  • Matching new equipment with old. If you replace only the condenser, you have a “field-matched” system that can be less efficient than advertised and that may require more repairs because of undetected incompatibilities between the two.
  • Damper-zoned cooling. A large or multistory house is often divided into several heating and cooling zones to improve temperature control. However, this type of system is complex and has many more moving parts and controls and so may require more repairs.

Why Is My Furnace Leaking Water?

As the temperature begins to dip, one of the last things you want is to have issues with your furnace. If you begin to see water forming around the unit, you may start to worry and wonder what’s happening. Usually, this signifies that something...

Why Is My Furnace Leaking Water?

As the temperature begins to dip, one of the last things you want is to have issues with your furnace. If you begin to see water forming around the unit, you may start to worry and wonder what’s happening. Usually, this signifies that something...

Reasons Your Furnace Isn’t Blowing Out Hot Air

It’s the middle of winter and you’re trying to warm up. You check to make sure all the windows are closed, there are no drafts or cracks allowing cold air to escape in. It’s still cold in your home. What’s the issue then? The...

Why Isn’t My Hot Water Hot?

One of the worst feelings is stepping into a shower–only to find out there’s cold water pouring out. Without reliable hot water, you can’t shower, wash your dishes, or carry out any number of other activities that involve water. Here are a couple reasons as...

Common Furnace Malfunctions

The only time you need your furnace is when the weather cold (or frigid!). At those times, the furnace may stop working at 1:00 am, you wake up with goosebumps, become desperate for warmth, and you don't know how to troubleshoot the furnace problem. Common furnace...

Why You Should Inspect Your AC Unit At The End Of The Season

Central air conditioners are connected to many homes for cool air during summer or warm air during the winter. Therefore, the cooling and heating systems require regular maintenance to check for any malfunctions before you begin the next season of air conditioning within your...

Common Boiler Malfunctions

Many people do not give much thought to the central heating system.  People expect it to work when they need it and for it to continue pumping out a continous supply of hot water. However, if there is a fault, or the boiler is malfunctioning, it...

Why Does My AC Keep Running?

When an air conditioning unit is constantly running, it is not only blowing money, but it's a sign that something isn't right with the unit. An air conditioner should kick on and off automatically unless there is an issue. An air conditioner that runs...

What Are The Most Common AC Malfunctions?

Your home air conditioner is one of the most important appliances in your home. While air conditioners that are well-maintained can last for a long time, it always seems as if they malfunction at the worst possible times. Fortunately, many of the reasons for...

Why Is My AC Unit Not Cooling Down My Home?

If you are experiencing higher temperatures in your home than set on your thermostat, it can make your stay frustrating and uncomfortable. The problem might be simple or it might mean you need a new AC unit. Why is your AC not cooling the...

How To Safely Clean Your AC Unit

One of the easiest ways to extend the life of your AC unit as well as to ease the task of maintenance is to make sure the AC unit is clean. A clean air conditioning unit will also allow your home to be cooled...

Common Air Conditioning Malfunctions

As the temperature rises on the outside, you want the temperature to drop on the inside. One of the worse things that can happen on a sweltering summer day is a malfunctioning AC unit, causing you and your family discomfort. Below are just a few issues that...

HVAC License-Dangers and Risks

Are you putting your family in Danger?
Do you know if your contractor has an HVAC License?  You would think the question of possessing the proper HVAC license would be an easy one to answer.  Ha!  Not here in Michigan, just visit-  LARA –...

Breath Better, Live Healthier with quality air filters

Furnace or Air Condition Filters for Health and Savings
When you have a central furnace and air conditioning system, air quality often becomes an issue, affecting how you breathe, your health and the basic quality of life indoors.  These types of systems use...

Is Your Air-Conditioning System Ready for Warm Weather?

Is Your Air-Conditioning System Ready for Warm Weather?
This is the focus I’ll be tackling here on this post, enjoy.
While cooling is essential for facility comfort and productivity, it accounts for nearly 15 percent of the electricity used in residential homes...

Ductless Split-System Heat Pumps (Mini-Splits)

 This article is reproduced from the U.S. Department of Energy Website.??Ductless split-system heat pumps (mini splits) make good retrofit add-ons to houses with “non-ducted” heating systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). They can also be...

Moisture, Mold and Mildew Control in the Home

Key Points

Mold and mildew can cause discoloration, odor problems and the degradation of building materials.
Moisture control is the most important strategy for reducing the growth of mold and mildew.
Thermal bridges, windows and wall cavities are common areas...

Ten Ways to Improve Heating System Performance

Key Points

Optimizing heating system performance can save on energy costs and improve building comfort.
Regular maintenance and efficiency upgrades can keep your system operating at peak efficiency.
If your system is 15 years old or older, consider installing...

Refrigerant Battle of the 21st century

R22 vs R410, Why the Big Scare.
Today 5/9/2017
I would like to start by saying this is an update from 2012. Since this article was posted a few thing have changed. The biggest change has been the cost of the R-22, it...

Heating Tax Credits for 2011

$500 -- 2011 HVAC Energy Tax Credit
Although not as aggressive as the past two years of energy tax credits, the new round of tax credits are here for 2011.
When an aging or unreliable comfort system is due for repair, it...