Columbus Homeowner’s Guide: Choosing a New Air Conditioner

AC Buying Guide

An old air conditioner isn’t something that can last forever. If it’s no longer satisfying the cooling needs of your home efficiently, you’re due for air conditioning replacement with a new air conditioning system. Air conditioning system units aren’t all the same – there are central air conditioners, heat pumps, and even ductless air conditioners.

Your air conditioning choices don’t stop there! After you figure out what type of air conditioner you want, you must determine what size air conditioner you need. Sizing air conditioning units involves precise calculations, not just the home’s square footage or going off the capacity of the old unit! Then there are decisions to be made about the air conditioner’s efficiency and its ongoing impacts on the energy costs you pay over the years. SEER ratings stand for seasonal energy efficiency ratio and they will inform you if the air conditioning unit is energy efficient or not. There are minimum SEER rating limits set by the government, but tons of higher SEER rating AC units are available. A single stage unit typically has a lower efficiency rating than a higher efficiency unit with components like a variable speed blower or compressor.

You’ll face a lot of choices as you look for a unit for your home. This makes it hard for many homeowners to find the right AC unit on their own. You don’t have to shop for new units on your own – trust the HVAC system pros of Buckeye Heating & Cooling for help. We’re happy to share our knowledge regarding air conditioning equipment and our NATE-certified technicians will perform professional installation for any central air conditioning products you choose. Below, our homeowner’s guide tells you more about central air conditioner options, how to choose a new air conditioner, and the central air conditioning system factors to consider.

Air Conditioning Unit Types

The air conditioning unit has been a part of the average Columbus home for decades now, and many air conditioner types have been made available for residential use. In our area, homeowners tend to prefer central air conditioners that are split systems, though other cooling system options are used. Split systems are made up of indoor and outdoor components. Central air conditioner systems move cool air from a centrally located unit, though many people use the term ‘central air conditioning’ to mean the same thing as whole house cooling.

Here are the three leading types of air conditioning units used in Columbus homes:

Central Air Conditioner

The conventional central air conditioner is the most commonly used and widely known type of air conditioning unit. An air conditioner serves as the outdoor unit, which connects to indoor equipment that is either a furnace or air handler. Here in Columbus, central air conditioner systems are often paired with furnaces, as many homes have forced air heat – the air conditioners simply use the paired furnace’s blower to send its conditioned air into the house. An evaporator coil can be installed alongside the furnace so the air conditioning process can take place.

Heat Pumps

With just a quick glance, you probably wouldn’t see much of a difference between a conventional central air conditioner or heat pump cooling system, as there are many similarities. The outdoor unit is a heat pump instead of air conditioning units, which connects inside the home to the indoor air handler. Both of these types of air conditioners cool homes in the same manner, by moving heat from one source to another. The key difference between them is that the heat pump has the ability to produce heat while a central air conditioner can only cool.

Heat pumps are able to reverse their function to move heat indoors for the cold months and serve as the home’s heating system. Different kinds of heat pumps exist. Air source models move heat back and forth between inside and outside air. Geothermal air conditioners conduct heat transfer between indoor air and the soil below ground using a component called the ground loop that is buried nearby the home.

Ductless AC Units

Ductless air conditioners are not a type of central air conditioning system, but they are able to function similarly. Instead of one indoor unit and one outdoor unit, they have an outdoor unit paired with multiple indoor air handlers. The outdoor unit can be a heat pump to heat and cool the home or an air conditioner for cooling only. As the name suggests there is no need to install ductwork to use this type of air conditioning, which makes the system ideal for use in homes without this infrastructure.

Choosing the Right AC Unit

Restricted in their choice of air conditioner system has most homes will allow for the installation of more than one type. As you determine the right AC unit for your residence, here are some things we think you should keep in mind:

  • Central air conditioners and heat pumps are a common choice in homes that already have ducts in place and where the ducts are in good condition.
  • In a home with no ductwork, a ductless system is a popular cooling option as there is no need to install ductwork. This reduces the cost of the project.
  • If you have added living space to your home through addition or by finishing a space like an attic, you have a number of cooling system options. If you have a central air conditioner in place, it may be necessary to upgrade that unit to one with a larger capacity in order to meet the cooling demands of the new space along with the rest of the home. Plus, it will be necessary to install ductwork in this area. If you don’t want to do all that, adding a ductless system to the new space is a cost-effective choice as it can provide the cooling needed here alongside the central air conditioner running throughout the rest of the house.

Capacity for Air Conditioners

After picking the AC unit type you would like to install at home, capacity is the next important thing to determine. This has to be done precisely to find the perfect fit, or else the consequences can be severe. Many people assume they can find the right cooling capacity using the home’s square footage or even the size of the old unit, but you really shouldn’t do either of these things. It isn’t unusual for an oversized unit or a tiny air conditioner to be installed in a house, so your existing air conditioner might not be the right size. Beware of online calculators that ask for square footage only, as so much more information is needed to properly determine cooling capacity.

The right way to find the right size for your new air conditioner is to work with an HVAC system pro. A technician performs a load calculation that will state the amount of heat that must be removed from the living area in order to keep it comfortable, and this is the cooling capacity for your air conditioner. An air conditioner’s cooling capacity is sometimes called its size, and size is also measured in tons. Home air conditioners range in size from 1.5 tons to 5 tons, with a ton equal to 12,000 BTUs of heat removal.

SEER Ratings

After size, the seasonal energy efficiency rating is one of the most important numbers to look at when you go air conditioner shopping. The SEER rating is a measure of the air conditioner’s efficiency, representing its total cooling output versus its energy intake over an average season of cooling. SEER ratings for air conditioning systems will vary, as there is HVAC equipment of all types available. The minimum SEER rating for a new air conditioning unit is 13 SEER, and 14 SEER for heat pumps – these SEER ratings increase next year in 2023 to 14 SEER for air conditioners and 15 SEER for heat pump systems.

HVAC systems for an entire house can be highly energy efficient, generating a great deal of energy savings for the occupants. High efficiency central AC units go up to about 26 SEER, 24 SEER for heat pumps, and 30 SEER for ductless HVAC units.

Cost of a New Central Unit

When you buy a new system for air conditioning installation, purchase price isn’t the only cost you should consider. The energy efficiency of any AC unit you choose, as well as the size unit, will impact how efficient it functions over the years.

Purchasing an AC unit that is high efficiency usually requires a larger upfront investment versus minimum efficiency units. Many homeowners report recouping the difference through energy savings over the first few years of use.

Air Conditioning Installation in Columbus

Do you need a new central AC unit for your home? Call Buckeye Heating & Cooling today to request an estimate for air conditioner installation.

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