How to Choose an Air Conditioner (AC) for Your Home

APRIL 4, 2018

Like many creature comforts, we only realize the importance of air conditioning when it stops working. That's when an air conditioner's real value is thrust into our hot, sweaty faces. But smart homeowners don't experience such sticky moments — they choose the right air conditioning system from the start.

Curious about how to find the perfect option Curious about how to find the perfect option for a new AC unit? Here are some questions that will help get the right air conditioner for your home.

How Much Cooling Power Do You Need?

The biggest factor in your AC’s effectiveness is its capacity to cool your home. An undersized unit will struggle to keep up with heat removal but one that's too large means you're paying for more than you need. Plus, an oversized unit will run too often, leading to more air conditioning repair calls.

First, find out how many square meters you need to cool. Refer to your home’s architectural plans or measure your living area. Next, determine the British Thermal Units (Btu) rating you’ll need to cool. As a general rule, an AC unit needs around 20 Btu for every square foot. So, a 1,500 sq ft home would need a unit that can remove around 30,000 Btu per hour. If you’re installing a window or portable AC unit, most brands will list a Btu rating on them.

AC units are often measured in “tons” — in this case, a “ton” measures cooling capacity instead of weight. A one-ton air conditioner removes around 12,000 Btu per hour. Generally, you should figure around 1 ton per 500 square feet of space. So, a 2,500 sq ft home would need a 5-ton unit. Square footage isn’t the only consideration. Ceiling height, sun exposure, and other factors affect the size of the AC system you’ll need for your space. Consider these when you estimate your Btu and tonnage requirements. For a more specific estimate, we recommend having an HVAC professional visit your home for an evaluation.

What’s Your Budget?

How much do you have to spend on cooling your home? If your budget can't handle a full AC installation, you’ll probably want to go with a portable and/or window AC unit. If you have an old AC unit, it’s best to replace it with a more efficient model. Look for the EnerGuide label on any air conditioner for its efficiency rating. Over time, a more efficient unit will pay for itself. Also, look for rebate programs. These government and utility subsidy programs help you afford more energy-efficient air conditioners.

What Type of System Do You Need?

Here are three types of HVAC systems popular for residential buildings. All have their pros and cons in cooling power, space requirements and cost.

Split System

The split HVAC system is the most popular cooling and heating system for homes. The system is “split” because it has indoor and outdoor components. Inside the home is the evaporating coil, ductwork, and blower for distributing hot or cold air throughout the house. The outside unit, called the AC condenser, contains a compressor and fan for removing hot air from the home.

If you already have a furnace and are adding AC, a split system is a good choice. You’ll need to add an AC coil, which sits on top of the furnace, and an outside condenser unit. The good news is the furnace ensures a ductwork and blower system should already exist in your home. Split systems in your home can run on gas or electricity.

Hybrid Heat Pump

Heat pumps are air conditioners that reverse their process in the winter to create heat for your home. Although Enercare doesn’t sell hybrid systems, we recognize that they’re an efficient and low-cost option for some people. But they have limits. When temperatures go below 5°C, heat pumps struggle. That’s why hybrid heat pumps are popular in moderate temperature regions.

Hybrid heat pump systems can also include a regular furnace to take up the slack. With a hybrid system, you can take advantage of the heat pump for cooling and heating your home. But heat pumps may not be the right investment if your average winter temperatures are below 5°C. Heat pumps run on electricity only. So you'll need to run electrical service to the pump if you haven’t already done so.

Ductless Mini-Split System

Like a regular split system, a ductless HVAC system has an external condenser or heat pump unit. But instead of distributing air via ducts, wiring and refrigerant tubing connects the condenser to several small wall-mounted units. These smaller units are strategically placed around the home.

Ductless systems have less installation and they can work with a furnace to also heat your home. They’re perfect for homes in need of heating and cooling that have little space and a significant budget to work with. Plus, individual units mean you can control temperatures for different rooms.

When Should You Get an Estimate?

Before you settle on an air conditioning type or hire a contractor, get an estimate that includes all the costs of parts, installation, and maintenance. We also offer air conditioner maintenance plans that will help you avoid expensive repairs. And don’t forget that the Enercare air conditioning system rental is a hassle-free, affordable option. Get in touch with us for a free in-home consultation and estimate. Our licensed HVAC experts can help find the right cooling system for your home without breaking the bank.