Stay Comfy Blog

Keeping Cool: Comparing AC Systems for Your Home


With so many different options, brands, and types of air conditioners out there, you might lose your cool with all the choices before you pick one to keep you cool. We talked to our resident expert, Minnesota Air’s Keith Hill, to help clue us in on what we need to compare when looking at AC systems. 


You’ll hear the word ‘efficient’ over and over when looking for a new air conditioning system. It’s definitely important but there are also other things to consider overall when making a purchase (which you will see below.)

However, the most important thing to know about AC efficiency is that the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient a unit will be.

The SEER – or seasonal energy efficiency ratio – is an efficiency rating for air conditioners and air conditioning systems as determined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

The AHRI is a third party that does the calculating on different systems. Older AC models will have SEER ratings at 10 or below, but today’s models cannot be below 13 – and the best systems have ratings in the 20s. It’s also important to know that the entire system must be energy efficient to actually uphold the SEER rating.

“When comparing efficiency, make sure you are not just looking at the unit’s nominal efficiency. It takes a matched system to achieve the rated efficiency – matching outdoor unit and indoor coil,” says Keith. “As an example, there are units with a nominal efficiency of 16 SEER, but realize an actual efficiency ranging from as low as 13.5 to an even higher value of 17, depending on the evaporator coil it’s paired with.”

Keith says customers should make sure they know what they are buying by asking for the AHRI certificate that shows the matched rating of both the coil and the outdoor unit. 

Ease Of Maintenance 

Don’t just focus on efficiency. Having an AC that is easy to take care of is also a very important thing to compare. Keith says that ease of maintenance and serviceability shouldn’t be ignored when shopping for a new AC system.

“Whether you plan on doing the maintenance yourself or hiring a pro, if it’s easier to clean your AC unit, that will save you either your time or your money,” he says. “The size of the unit may also matter if you want to conceal the unit with landscaping.” 

Remember that where you plan on placing the outdoor unit is important not only in how easy it is for you or a technician to access, but also for its efficiency. 

You can read more about the importance of AC clearances here

Noise Levels

Finally, make sure you take into account the sound levels that the air conditioner makes when running. 

“If the unit location is such that it may be objectionable to listen to – such as outside a bedroom window, or near a patio or deck, or maybe your neighbors’ bedroom window – then low sound levels should be important to you,” says Keith.

Today’s models can run pretty quietly, but you get what you pay for. It’s usually the cheaper, bargain models that will run louder than the others.

For more answers to frequently asked AC questions, click here.

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