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Over the past decade, many improvements have been made to air conditioners to maximize efficiency, reliability and performance. If you are shopping for a new air conditioner, be sure to consider all these factors to make the best purchase for you and your home.
When considering how much to spend on a new air conditioner, it is wise to look beyond the sticker price. A more energy efficient system will likely be more expensive up front, but will save you money over its life through lower energy bills, fewer repairs and a longer time before needing a replacement. High efficiency units often qualify for rebates and other incentives that make them less expensive to purchase as well. A good rule of thumb is, after factoring in all the cost savings, purchase the most efficient air conditioner you can afford.
About half your energy bill goes toward heating and cooling costs, so choosing a new air conditioner that optimizes efficiency can have a big impact on monthly energy bills. Look for air conditioners with the Energy Star logo. Then check the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) numbers, which allow you to compare efficiency on different models — the higher the SEER number, the more efficient the unit is.
Don’t skimp on installation. How your unit is installed initially will affect its performance for years to come. Hire a reputable professional to install your new air conditioner. Then, have it maintained once a year, preferably in spring before you need to use it. Throughout the cooling season be sure to change the filter regularly (once a month), and make sure your outside equipment is clean and free of debris.
Proper sizing of your air conditioner also affects performance and efficiency. A unit that is the too big will cycle on and off more often. One that is too small will run longer. Both situations create excess wear and tear that will cause the unit to wear out faster and use more energy. Performance will suffer as well because the wrong size air conditioner won’t cool your home as well. Your home’s square footage is only one factor to consider when choosing the correct size air conditioner. Your HVAC professional should do several calculations, taking into consideration the size of your home, the layout, and other factors.
An air conditioner is a major investment for your home, and a strong warranty protects you in case something goes wrong. Be sure when comparing warranties that you are looking at comparable systems. Read the warranty carefully to see what is covered. Is the unit covered as a whole or does the warranty also includes individual parts? Find out what is required to keep the warranty in full force? Often professional installation and maintenance are necessary. Get any questions you have about the warranty answered to your satisfaction before purchasing.