Buyers Guide to New Products / Available Systems

When looking to install a new heating and air conditioning system, you need first to make sure that you have considered your home’s size and design, and how the air-conditioning unit is installed.  A significant variable affecting the performance of any unit is the quality and construction of the duct distribution system carrying the hot and cold air into your home. Poorly designed or installed duct work can cause improper cooling, noise, and even equipment failure.

While we will examine a few of the air conditioning units available, and the benefits and differences between them, you will also want an HVAC professional to examine your duct work to ensure that any new system will work effectively with the existing duct system, or you will have to look at getting an estimate for that as well.

A buyer should look at three things when deciding which air conditioning unit to purchase: design, efficiency, and size.

Design:  The design is a choice between a split system, where a refrigerant circulates between an indoor fan-and-coil, and a matching outdoor condenser with a compressor. The refrigerant cools the air, dehumidifying it in the process; a blower circulates the air through ducts throughout the house.  An alternate design is a heat pump, a type of system that functions as both a 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 your home.

Efficiency: Efficiency is how much cooling the unit delivers for each watt of electricity.  Efficiency is expressed as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating or SEER. The minimum SEER for a split system central air conditioner is 13.  If you are trying to determine whether to repair or replace your unit, you may want to consider its energy costs.  Up until 2006, 10 SEER was standard. Today, the minimum allowed by federal law is 13 SEER, which translates to 30% less electrical consumption and 30% lower cooling bills than equipment installed prior to 2006.

Size: Size is 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.  For example, a one-ton air conditioner can remove 12,000 BTUs while a three-ton system will remove 36,000.  The size of the unit is determined by both the size and the layout of your home.