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Selecting the Right Air Conditioner

Being able to stay cool in hot temperatures is a genuine relief.  An air conditioner purchase can often end up costly and wasteful if certain steps are not followed before you buy. In other words, there is some homework to be done before you cool off!

To properly cool an area, an air conditioner must do three things properly: lower air temperature, remove air moisture, and filter the air. Additionally, your rooms will be comfortable and your system able to perform all of the above functions if the air conditioning unit is the right size.

Types of Air Conditioners

  • Portable units
  • Window units
  • Through-the-wall units
  • Central whole home units

The most popular type of air conditioning unit is the window unit: they are the easiest to install, to use, and to remove. They are typically put in a window and vent outside.

Portable air conditioning units are designed for movement and windowless spaces.

A through-the-wall air conditioning unit is large and heavy with a supported sleeve inserted through an exterior wall. These units require more amperage and during installation the electric circuitry must be examined.

Central air conditioning units cool the whole home at once. These systems are often combined with heating (HVAC) and require expert installation.

As you shop for an air conditioner, remember not all air conditioners are created equal.  A BTU calculator is a great tool to figure out exactly how many BTUs your air conditioner is going to need to properly cool the room. Also, consider these factors:

  • Will you be installing the unit by yourself?
  • What features are important to you?
  • Is the unit energy efficient?
  • The size of the room where the unit will be installed.

Room size is the most important determinate in buying an air conditioner. Once you know what room (or rooms) you need cooled, also factor in this:

  • How many windows are in the room?
  • The quality of the room’s insulation.
  • The room’s exposure.
  • What other appliances are in use in the room?

The next key decision to be made in selecting an air conditioning system is energy efficiency. Manufacturers are usually required to disclose Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings (SEER) on all their air conditioning products. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient and more costly the unit, but that extra cost in the initial purchase equals lower energy bills over time. Air conditioners can be expensive appliances to run (especially older units); this is why unit size is critical.

The best time to invest in an air conditioning system is in the off season. During the hotter months, air conditioners are high in demand and sell for premium prices. Some manufacturers offer great rebates if you buy in off season too.  Remember to get the warranty in case of a faulty unit.

If you choose to go with larger units, or decide on central air conditioning, make sure to delegate that installation to a reputable, licensed contractor. An established air conditioning contractor will have you cooled off before the heat can begin!

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