central A/C units attached to apartment building

What to Look For When Buying a Central Air Conditioner?

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A Professional Should Install Your Central Air Conditioner

Unless you have experience with brazing, electrical work, plumbing and framing and can handle refrigerant according to EPA regulations, it is unwise to install a central air conditioner yourself. Simply put, you can damage your home, break your expensive new AC unit or get injured. Professionals have the training, expertise and experience required to install your central air conditioner correctly, safely and securely.

That said, take time to research and find reputable contractors in your area. Browse through our website to see why we’re the best in the business.

Although professional HVAC installers can also give you recommendations on the right central air conditioner for your home, it helps to do a little research first so you can explain your specific needs.

Efficiency Ratings

While the initial investment in a central air conditioner is steep, it usually saves electricity and money in the long term. The easiest way to identify an energy efficient air conditioner is its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating as defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. Air conditioners with exceptional cooling performance that also consume very little electricity earn high SEER ratings. Naturally, units with high SEER ratings usually cost more, so it’s a good idea to compare the extra cost with your potential energy bill savings over time to see if it’s worth the investment.

The U.S. Department of Energy requires a minimum of 13 SEER or 14 SEER for central air conditioners, depending on where you live. Most models and brands we looked at far exceed that; the highest rating we came across was 26 SEER on a Lennox model. Although they don’t have the same high rating as Lennox, Amana, Trane and American Standard are also excellent choices for efficient central air conditioners.

Noise Levels

Today’s central air conditioners often have noise-reducing features such specially designed fan blades, compressor and pan base insulation, and variable fan speeds. However, since the unit sits outside your home, it’s important to choose one that won’t bother you or your neighbors. The best AC units produce noise levels under 60 decibels – as loud as a conversation in a restaurant.

System Size

Most central air conditioner models come in multiple sizes so you can get one that is appropriate for your home’s size. In fact, the best central air conditioners are designed for specific home sizes. For example, if a central AC unit is too small, it wastes energy and struggles to produce consistent cooling on the hottest days. If it’s too big, you paid too much when a smaller model would be more energy efficient, and it also won’t dehumidify your home effectively enough for cooling to feel comfortable. A properly trained technician can help you choose the perfect unit for your home, local climate conditions and budget.

Picking a Thermostat

Although the central air conditioner does the hard work of cooling your home, it’s best to pair it with a good thermostat. If you’re installing or replacing a system, upgrading your thermostat is probably a good idea. If you don’t already have one, get a programmable thermostat that lets you schedule when your HVAC system runs. To add smartphone controls and automatic scheduling options, consider getting a smart thermostat. Although many air conditioner manufacturers recommend using their thermostats, you can check with your contractor for suggestions as well.


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