Buying an air-conditioning and/or heating system is an expensive investment so you need to take your time in picking the right model. You also need to educate yourself regarding what factors to look for so you can make the right choice.
How to Buy an Air Conditioner
The following are the key considerations when shopping for an air conditioner:
1. Energy Efficiency
The efficiency of an air conditioner is measured by the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) which is the ratio of the cooling capacity (BTU/hour) to the power input (watts). Efficient air conditioners have high SEERs and an increase of 1.0 on the SEER scale means an increase of 10% in energy efficiency.
Look for a unit with at least an SEER of 13 and it should have an Energy Star label, which indicates that it has passed the strict guidelines set by the US EPA and the Department of Energy for energy efficiency.
The needed cooling capacity would depend on the size of the room. Most room air conditioners need anywhere from 5500 to 14000 BTU/hour. A common mistake that people make when looking for an air conditioner is that they buy one that is too big for the room thinking that the bigger it is, the better it can be in cooling their room. But this only wastes energy and makes the unit less effective. Here’s a table you can use as guide when it comes to the appropriate size of air conditioner to buy.
3. Other Factors
You also need to look for features such as a filter that can easily slide out when you need to clean it, a built-in timer, a digital readout for the thermostat, and easy to understand controls.
Heating Unit Buying Guide
Basically, the steps for purchasing a heating unit and an air conditioner are pretty much the same.
First of all, you need to know the heating requirement for the room or area you want to heat. That means you have to measure the size of the room, the quality of construction, fresh air requirements, desired indoor room temperature and the winter weather conditions in your city. Then you need to know the number of off-peak hours for each day. You can get this information from your power company. You also need to find out what the times are for the off-peak hours. Finally, you need to pick a unit that meets your heating requirements based on the corresponding off-peak hours.
Just like with air conditioners, it’s necessary to find a heating unit that is energy efficient. If you want to buy a gas furnace, it should have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency of at least 78%. For heat pumps, it should have a minimum Heating Seasonal Performance Factor of 7.4. The more ideal rating is 9.2 HSPF.
Choosing a Contractor
The proper installation and maintenance of your cooling and heating system is necessary for the equipment to work safely, reliably and efficiently. You can ask for recommendations from friends and family. Check if the contractor belongs to a reputable organization such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and if they have certifications from agencies like the North American Technician Excellence (NATE).
You’ll know they’re a well trained and professional contractor if they will do a survey of your home, give free advice and estimates regarding operating costs and the proper size/capacity of equipment your home needs.