Shopping for a new air conditioner may not be as fun as shopping for a new outfit or even a new car, but just like buying a car, you need to do your homework before you make the purchase. “Price is important,” says Keith Hill, manager of technical support at Minnesota Air, “but you want to get the right features.”
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who walked onto a car lot with no knowledge of the vehicles and walked away that day with the best deal on the best car. The same goes for an AC unit; don’t just walk into your local hardware store and pick. Do some research and consider these four things when picking out a new air conditioner.
1. Price/Cost Of Operating
This may seem like a no-brainer, but not all ACs are built the same. Some have better efficiency, better comfort features, and better overall performance. You get what you pay for, so don’t skimp if you really want the best. In addition, you need to weigh the upfront price tag with the cost to operate it once you bring it home.
“If operating costs are a concern, then take a look at high-efficiency units,” says Keith. “The higher the SEER rating, the more money you will save. Coil selection also plays a role here. It’s the outdoor unit matched with the indoor coil that is required for the SEER rating.”
Keith says that if you choose a unit with a high enough efficiency (higher SEER rating), you may also qualify for a utility rebate. He says to check with your electric or utility company for more details.
2. Comfort Features
In addition to keeping your home at a cooler and more ideal temperature in the summer, your AC unit’s main job is to control humidity. If your AC unit is more than 10 years old, it may be time to replace according to ENERGY STAR. There have been leaps and bounds made with HVAC equipment technology in the last decade.
“There are more options for comfort than ever before,” says Keith. “Instead of the basic on/off operation, there are two-stage and modulating air conditioners that allow for longer run times which removes more humidity and runs quieter.”
Keith says the indoor coil plays a role in this, as well. Coil selection can be made for greater humidity removal and greater efficiency. A more efficient coil may be physically larger, which adds more to the cost of installation. But if humidity removal is important to you, it’s worth the money.
3. Sound Levels
Minimizing loud AC running sounds may also be worth the money. How noisy your new air conditioner is depends on the quality of motor you buy. Quieter motors are those that operate at slower speeds, have contoured fan outlets or other design considerations that can make a huge difference in dampening noise, says Keith.
“Most units are rated for sound levels – bels or dba (decibels). Be sure to compare if sound is a concern,” he says. “Low priced units are usually not quiet, so don’t assume that ‘new’ automatically means quiet.”
4. Ease Of Maintenance
Lastly, but certainly not least, ease of maintenance and service should be a big consideration.
“If it’s hard to clean, you may have to hire someone to get it done and even then it’ll take more time and cost you more over the life of the unit,” says Keith.
To prevent that, he says you want to look for these features:
- Is the top of the outdoor unit easy to remove for cleaning purposes? (Units designed for easy cleaning usually have easy to remove top grilles, instead of having to remove the entire unit top, Keith says.)
- Can the coil surfaces be easily cleaned?
- Can you even see the coil surfaces?
- How will I know when it needs to be cleaned?
- Do I need to remove panels to gain access to the coils?
Keep in mind that a new AC unit is more than just something to keep you cool – it’s a whole house comfort machine and all four of these things should be weighed when you are looking for the right air conditioning system.