Finding the best air conditioner for your home can be tough, especially without the proper knowledge. Although you may think it’s a simple case of getting what you pay for, there are actually some other things you need to take into account when purchasing an AC system. There are different types of air conditioners, different sizes and BTU ratings, different SEER ratings, and a host of other features that can help you make your decision.
Don’t worry if this all sounds overwhelming—we’ve put together a list of tips for choosing the right air conditioner for your home.
It’s important to properly size your central air conditioner. This doesn’t actually mean physical size, but rather cooling power. Many people make the mistake of thinking a bigger, more powerful AC is always better, but that’s not the case.
Central air conditioners are measured in tons or BTUs per hour. A 1-ton air conditioner puts out about 12,000 BTUs per hour. Although there is more to precisely sizing an air conditioner, the general rule is that you should have 1 ton of cooling power for every 400 square feet. You may be able to use a smaller unit if your house is insulated well.
SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. Basically, the higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the air conditioner will be. Older models will often have lower SEER ratings that can raise your power bill.
Look for a model with a good SEER rating. All air conditioners manufactured after January 2006, are required by the U.S. Department of Energy to have a SEER rating of at least 13. For comparison, an air conditioner with a SEER rating of 13 is somewhere near 30% more efficient than one with a SEER rating of 10.
Another thing you should look for when buying a central air conditioner is the Energy Star-qualified label. If an air conditioner has this sticker on it, it’s around 15% more efficient than a regular air conditioner.
Aside from the more obvious features, you’ll want to look for, there are some smaller features that can really take an AC to the next level. Look for any of these features in your next central air conditioner:
Low noise level: Air conditioners can be really noisy, so finding one that runs smoothly and quietly is always nice.
Advanced controls: There are plenty of advanced control features in modern air conditioning units. Look for these features to save even more on your energy bill.
Variable speed: An air conditioner with a variable speed blower will run at lower speeds when higher speeds aren’t necessary, saving you money on your power bill when less power is needed.
High EER rating: The EER rating of your central air conditioner should be at least 11.6; this keeps your unit operating at high efficiency in hot temperatures.
Filter warning: A clean filter is essential, so look for a unit that warns you when your filter needs to be changed.
Good warranties are crucial to great air conditioning systems. Central air conditioners are a large investment, and the last thing you want is for your recently installed AC to fizzle out in the middle of a hot summer and drain your bank account. Make sure your warranty is good and that you fully understand the terms and rules that apply to it.
If you’re really not comfortable choosing your own central air conditioner, you can always ask for help from the pros. A knowledgeable professional will understand how to properly size your AC for your house and have a good grasp of which features to look for.