Questions to Ask When Buying a New Central Air Conditioner

Are you thinking about installing an air conditioner? If so, it’s probably been a while since you’ve last researched AC technology. Perhaps you’ve never done it before. The process may feel overwhelming to you — but fear not. We’ve created the following guide so you know what questions to ask to ensure you’re selecting the right equipment, the best HVAC company, and what steps you can take to achieve ongoing satisfaction with your new central air conditioner.

What to Ask Before Purchasing an Air Conditioner

Before purchasing a new central air conditioner, ask yourself a few questions:

How many BTUs do you need?

BTU is a measurement used to determine heating and cooling efficiency in household appliances, like air conditioners. In other words, you need to know how much power your new central AC should have to keep your home cool but still efficient. To determine how much energy your new central AC should have, you can use the Manual J Load calculation. This calculation helps you pinpoint the heating and cooling capacity your HVAC equipment should have. There are several online resources to help figure out your needs based on your home dimensions, like LoadCalc and the CoolCalc.

Where are you located?

Your geographic location and the climate will also play a role in the type of AC unit you should purchase. Specifically, your location will impact the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating you need for your new AC unit. The SEER rating measures how efficiently your AC unit pumps out cool air. We’ve seen SEER ratings as high as 25, but in most cases, you’ll need 14 SEER or less. However, if you live in an extremely warm or desert climate, you might consider a 16 SEER.

What type of AC unit are you looking for?

The average lifespan of an AC unit is between 10 and 15 years, and if it’s been that long since you last shopped around, you may be surprised at how much AC technology has evolved, and what the new advancements can do for your overall energy bill. Newer, high-efficiency air conditioners could reduce energy use for air conditioning by 20% to 50%. For find a high-efficiency AC, look for ENERGY STAR certified equipment, as these products are specifically designed to save energy and lower your energy bills.

Should you also invest in a new furnace?

If you’re looking to save money, it might sound counterintuitive to tack on another purchase, but often when you bundle an AC with a new furnace HVAC companies will cut you a deal. It’s also a smart investment as mixing two systems — like an older furnace and a new air conditioner — can decrease the overall productivity of your systems.

Questions to Ask an HVAC Contractor Before Working with Them

Now that you’ve defined what you’re looking for in an AC unit, you’ll need to find a company who can deliver on your needs. Finding a suitable HVAC company is perhaps the most essential part of the equation because the ongoing maintenance of your equipment may depend on it. Apart from shopping around for the best prices, consider the following questions to ask an HVAC contractor.

What brands do you offer?

First and foremost, does the HVAC company you’re considering have energy efficient equipment that matches the BTU and SEER ratings you need?

Are your technicians state-licensed?

When determining the HVAC company you work with, you’ll want reassurance that the job will be done right. Make sure that the company you work with has state-licensed technicians and don’t use subcontractors.

What do the service plans look like?

A new AC unit is a significant investment. To get the most out of your money, ask your HVAC company how they’ll guarantee your equipment. For example, is there a warranty? And, post-installation, will the HVAC company include annual servicing plans? You can also ask if the HVAC company offers financing so you can break up the financial commitment of a new central AC unit.

How long will it take to install my AC?

Double check that the HVAC company doesn’t have a waiting list, especially if you’re purchasing your AC unit for an immediate need.

What is included in your installation contract?

Will the HVAC company handle all of the necessary permits and approvals with the local authorities? Will they help you dispose of your old unit? And, will they clean up their work area (ductwork, walls, flooring) after finishing the job?

What to Ask While Installing an Air Conditioner

The HVAC company you work with should walk you through the installation process, but to know they’ve done an excellent job, consider the following:

Is there a concrete pad below your outdoor unit?

This step ensures your unit is level. Without a level AC, the machine can’t correctly distribute fluids that allow the AC’s compressor run.

Are distance requirements adhered to?

For example, the outdoor unit for your AC should be at least 1 foot away from the house. There may be other state or local ordinances that your HVAC company should adhere to as well.

Is the piping well done?

Your AC unit will have a copper piping that aids the flow of the AC’s refrigerant. Take a quick look to ensure the copper line running from the outdoor unit to the indoor unit is well taken care of. If done correctly, the piping should be insulated, with additional supports every four feet, and the line should be as short as possible.

Has your HVAC company lived up to their contract?

If your agreement indicated clean up, make sure the technicians have cleared scraps of trash from the installation area. And, if they promised to take your old unit, ensure they’ve done so.

Finally, is your AC in working order?

Before your HVAC contractors leave, run the system through a complete cooling cycle to ensure it works properly. Check the levels of refrigerant as well to verify they’ve left a sufficient amount.

By selecting the correct equipment for your home, and working with an HVAC company you can trust with the installation process and on-going maintenance of your new piece of equipment, you’ll be able to enjoy your new central air conditioner years to come.

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