What You Need to Know: Central Air Conditioning Buying Guide

Central air conditioning unit outside of a residential home

If you’re in the Northeast, discussing central air conditioning units before winter is even over may seem crazy. However, it’s never too early to do your homework before taking on a significant investment. Because upgrading or adding a central air conditioning system is an investment in your home—one you shouldn’t make lightly. That is why we at Garden Spot Mechanical put together this central air conditioning buying guide for homeowners.

Main Factors to Consider When Choosing a Central AC

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a central air conditioning unit is your home and its HVAC system. Your current home setup and HVAC system tie directly into other factors, such as size, system type, cost, and ductwork needed. We will discuss each of these in-depth as we continue through our central air conditioning buying guide.

System Type

Your home may already have an HVAC system in place that does heating or cooling—maybe even both. But do you know what type of heating or cooling system you have in your home? Many homes in the Lancaster, Pa. area are older and have a combination of systems in place.

You may have two separate systems, one for heating (furnace, boiler, or electric heat pump) and one for cooling (AC window units or ductless AC units). You may also have an HVAC system that does heating and cooling.

Knowing what type of HVAC system you currently have, and if your home can handle upgrading or adding a central air conditioning system, is an essential factor we can help you figure out. Reach out today!

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) Rating

SEER rating is a number that shows you the measured efficiency of an air conditioning unit. You will see this as a yellow tag or sticker on units—the higher the number, the better the output. You can even use a SEER calculator to input information about your home to determine the type of and appropriately sized air conditioner systems you should look for.

Cost and Reliability

As we already stated, adding or upgrading a central air conditioning unit is a significant investment in your home. This investment involves several components—the air conditioning unit, installation service fees, ductwork, or any other renovation work, and the cost to run the unit. Before you commit to an HVAC system, make sure you speak with a professional HVAC specialist to determine all of the potential cost factors.

Not every system or system type has the same reliability. You want to make sure that while you’re evaluating cost factors, you are also looking at reliability. Make sure you are getting a unit that fits your budget but is also a worthwhile investment.

Ask your professional HVAC installer about different unit types, but also do your own research by looking up reviews from other homeowners.

Duct Work Needs

You may already have a central air conditioning system with retrofitted ductwork that needs updating. Or, you may need to add in ductwork for your new unit. This may be a costly addition to any central air conditioning project. It is essential to make sure you hire a professional installation team so you do not lose money with poorly insulated or installed ductwork.

What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?

We spoke earlier in this post about system type, but let’s take a look at the unit size. Below we discuss two common methods used to determine the best size air conditioning system for your home. However, several factors contribute to selecting an appropriately sized air conditioning unit. These include:

  • Region/Location
  • Climate/Weather
  • Construction Materials of the Home
  • Size of the Home
  • Insulation Type

Square Footage Method

In this method, you use the square footage of your home to determine the BTUs needed to cool your home. BTUs (British Thermal Units) are a form of measurement used to determine how much energy it will take to cool your home. The higher the BTU, the stronger the unit. However, you shouldn’t purchase an AC unit solely because of a high BTU rating.

Use a BTU calculator to find a rough estimate of the BTUs needed to cool your home.

Climate Zone Method

Knowing where you fall on the climate zone map can help you determine a rough estimate of the BTUs you will need in an air conditioning unit. Each climate zone has an estimated BTU range. You still need to know the square footage of your home for this method.

Energy Efficiency Features That Matter

The SEER rating isn’t the only energy efficiency feature a central air system may have. In fact, doing all of your homework before buying a new unit may save you money later, even if it costs more upfront. Consider the following factors and features when looking at the energy efficiency of central air units.

  • Finding the right size AC unit will avoid energy waste—a unit too large or too small will not efficiently cool your home.
  • Look for Energy Star certified units—these will consume less energy and run more efficiently.
  • Check out the physical components—fans and coil sizes can impact the energy efficiency of your unit.

Does it Come With a Warranty?

Many units come with a warranty, and even some installation professionals offer a warranty on their services. Although this will vary by brand and professional, you still have the opportunity to research before you buy. Reviews from homeowners can give you insight into the process of requesting warranty services or working with a particular HVAC professional.

Choosing an HVAC Contractor to Install

Installing a central air conditioning system is a huge undertaking and can be a financial burden. Look for an HVAC installer you can trust, and one who can answer your questions. Also, make sure you find a local company that will be available when you need them the most.

At Garden Spot Mechanical, we understand how stressful it can be to need any HVAC or plumbing services. We pride ourselves on being your local, affordable, and dependable HVAC and plumbing professionals. We believe that trust is earned!

Other FAQs

Our central air conditioning buying guide is wrapping up, but we wanted to answer a few FAQs. Can’t find an answer in our air conditioning buying guide? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Garden Spot Mechanical so we can answer your questions and schedule an appointment with you.

What is the Average Lifespan of a Central Air Conditioning Unit?

According to energy.gov, the average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is roughly 15 to 20 years. This may vary based on location, manufacturer, and maintenance. Performing regular maintenance on any system in your house will prolong the lifespan of the appliance or unit.

How Much Does a Central Air Conditioner Typically Cost?

As we talked about previously in this post, the cost of installing central air depends on more than just the unit price. Installation costs could include ductwork and renovations you were not expecting. Always consult a professional HVAC installer before making any purchases or commitments.

How Expensive is it to Install HVAC Ducts for a Central AC System?

According to HomeAdvisor, ductwork alone can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. The cost depends on your home’s age, size, and type of unit you plan to install. Installing or upgrading ductwork may put this project outside of your comfort zone. You may need to consider a ductless air conditioning option if ductwork is not within your budget.

More than Just Your Central Air Conditioning Buying Guide

At Garden Spot Mechanical, we are a skilled and experienced team of professionals with over 50 years of combined HVAC and plumbing experience. Our team is ready to help you find a central air conditioning unit that fits your home and your budget. Call us today to schedule an appointment!