Let's face it. Most people want to feel comfortable, day and night, through every season all year long. And truthfully, many people need
to feel comfortable in order to work more efficiently, think more effectively, rest better, play harder, and just plain relax. Indeed, staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer are standard expectations for many. This may be why most homes in this country depend on central air conditioning to keep their homes comfortable in the dog days of summer. According to the latest findings by the American Housing Survey
, almost two-thirds of all occupied U.S. households have central air conditioning. Another 25 percent use conventional window units to help beat the heat as outdoor temperatures climb.
You may already have a suitable AC system to cool your home. But, if your AC system is experiencing major component failures, needs frequent repairs, or if you're thinking it's time to buy an AC system for the very first time, making the right choice can be hard. There are many things to consider during the purchasing process.
Here are six things to consider when purchasing a new AC system:
1. How energy-efficient is the unit?
High-efficiency units may cost more upfront but they eventually pay for themselves through savings on utility bills. Always check the SEER
(Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). Higher SEER ratings mean higher energy efficiency. Since 2006, a SEER rating of 13 or higher is mandated by the federal government for all new AC systems. However, some systems have SEER ratings as high as 23.
2. What is the heating seasonal performance factor?
If you choose a heat pump to be part of your central heating and cooling system, in addition to the SEER rating, another very important measurement to take note of is the HSPF
(Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). A heat pump is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that is used to either cool or heat your home, depending on the season. The HSPF measures the heat pump's cooling
efficiency, but it does not measure the unit's heating efficiency. As with the SEER rating, the higher the HSPF rating, the higher the efficiency. The best HSPF rating will be between 5 and 7.
3. How quiet is the unit?
A condenser is the part of an AC system or unit that makes the noise. On portable window units, the condenser is the backend of the unit that juts outward from the window. On central AC systems, condensers are always installed outside, either in the yard or on the side, back or top of the house. Some condensers run quieter than others. Some systems have built-in noise reducing technology. To measure the noise level of AC systems, manufacturers give the machines a decibel rating. A good decibel rating for any AC system is 76 or less.
4. Licensing and Certification of your HVAC Contractor
Federal law requires that all contractors working in refrigeration be EPA 608 trained and certified. There are additional state-specific, county and municipal licensing and registration requirements for all contractors performing refrigeration work that requires a permit. Check with your state and local building departments for specific information and to verify your contractor's credentials.
5. Does the system have written warranties and/or guarantees?
Generally, a warranty is a "promise" or guarantee from a manufacturer, seller or contractor to stand behind the product and/or service. It is a statement about the quality of the product and about the commitment to correct problems should they arise. Most AC system manufacturers offer full or limited warranties on the appliance as a whole. Or, they may offer warranties exclusively on certain components of the system. Likewise, many HVAC contractors offer workmanship or satisfaction guarantees for specific, reasonable time periods. For example, a contractor might offer a five-year warranty on parts and labor. In many cases, consumers can lengthen a warranty by purchasing optional warranty extensions.
Very often, the consumer will be responsible for routine maintenance on the appliance in order for a warranty to be honored. Warranties vary, so check with your manufacturer and HVAC contractor for specific information and eligibility requirements.
6. What preventative/maintenance plans are available?
Purchasing a new AC system is a big decision and exciting home improvement investment. Having this investment properly installed is critical to ensure the system runs as safely, efficiently, and smoothly as possible. As the proud new owner of an AC system, it makes sense that you do your part in taking reasonable measures to increase the system's efficiency and longevity. Check with your HVAC contractor about any related service partnership plans or routine maintenance programs they might offer. Typical plans include special benefits to the customer, like: priority service, annual tune-ups and inspections, discounts on services and satisfaction guarantees.