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  • Home air conditioning units come in a broad range of manufacturers and types. Homeowners planning...

    04/05/2011

Air Conditioning


Air Conditioning: Buying Guide

Home air conditioning units come in a broad range of manufacturers and types. Homeowners planning to purchase domestic air conditioning need to consider a variety of factors - from cooling capacity and seasonal energy efficiency ratios (SEER) to the choice of single, split or mini-split units, the ability to clean units, a suitable contractor to install components and, naturally, cost.

Cooling capacity
One key factor in choosing central air conditioning is cooling capacity, commonly measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) as the amount of heat a unit can remove from the air within one hour. Standard load calculations determine the required capacity of an air conditioning central unit by taking the size of the building, the amount of installed insulation, the location/ number of windows and various other factors into account.

A unit with not enough capacity will have to work too hard to achieve the desired temperature, while a unit with too much capacity increases humidity and wastes energy.

Ratings
SEER is a rating standard for air conditioning units. The lowest acceptable rating is 13, and the higher the rating, the more energy efficient a unit is. Although units with higher ratings are often more expensive, the savings made through their high efficiency will easily offset the initial outlay.

Air conditioners consist of two components: an evaporator coil and a condenser unit. These are configured in one of three ways:
1) A single unit , which is usually placed outside. Cold air transfers into the building through duct work. These are commonly used in commercial buildings.
2) A split unit , where the louder condensing element is outside, and the quieter evaporator coil is inside the building. If a warm-air furnace is present, the coil integrates into this (see illustration). Otherwise, a so-called air-handler distributes the cooled air through duct work around the house.
3) A mini-split unit , used in buildings without duct work. These units are usually much smaller and have a capacity of less than 60000 BTU.

Note: Ducted air conditioning using a split unit is commonly regarded as the best option.

Tips: Easy air conditioning cleaning and availability of replacement air conditioning filters should also be considered.

Costs
Costs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The most cost-effective way to purchase air conditioning is from a direct-to-customer outlet, also hiring a licensed, reputable HVAC contractor (prospective contractors should be screened and it pays to get several quotes before making a decision) to install it.

Ultimately, the choice of which air conditioning unit is most suitable depends on your personal requirements. Bearing these considerations in mind will also help you to make a more informed decision.

 
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