Here is South Florida the hot weather is always just around the corner and if you have an older air conditioning system (over 10 years old) or your system is just not keeping up with your home comfort needs, replacement may be in your near future. Don’t wait until that really hot day hits and your air conditioner decides to call it quits. Plan ahead and do your research. Find out what your options are by asking the right questions such as, “Why is efficiency important to me?” and “What kind of service can I expect after the installation of my new system?”. You want to be able to pick the best air conditioner or heat pump, taking into consideration cost, comfort, efficiency, service after installation, and payback.
Below are some useful tips to help you start.
- Choose a reputable HVAC (heating, cooling & ventilation) Contractor. You should look for companies that have been around for at least 15 years. You want to make sure that if you should have any problems regarding the installation of your new air conditioner after the fact that you have a reliable company backing up their work. Some companies may work cheaper but won’t back up their work after the installation. Ask for referrals and check out your local Better Business Bureau.
- Expect a home evaluation. You should have an HVAC professional evaluate your home to determine the best air conditioner for cooling your home efficiently also known as a load calculation. This is calculated using the following factors, the amount of cooling needed in your climate, the amount of square footage you have to cool, and the condition of the “envelope”, which is the part of your home that comes in contact with the air outside.
- Importance of choosing the right size Air Conditioner. If you install an air conditioner that is too large, it will cycle on and off too often, which substantially reduces its efficiency. If it is too small, your air conditioner will have to work too hard and use up too much electricity. Either situation costs you more in energy costs.
- Get efficient equipment. Pay attention to the efficiency rating (SEER). The higher the SEER (measure of seasonal or annual efficiency of a central air conditioner) the lower the operating costs. You should try to get the highest SEER air conditioner that you can afford. Although the upfront costs may be higher, with the rise in energy costs seen across the country, consumers are seeing a much quicker payback with less electricity being used. You can go to the Energy Star website and download an Excel spreadsheet that will help you estimate your savings and payback by using an energy efficient air conditioner (located in the far right column, titled: “Savings Calculator”).
- Don’t wait until it’s broken. Know when it is time to replace your Air Conditioner. Don’t wait until you’re desperate to cool your house down in the middle of the hot summer. If you have a technician that regularly maintains your system, ask the technician when you might need to replace your system. If your system over 10 years old, you should expect it to start failing more frequently.
- Plan ahead and buy during non-peak season. If you plan ahead and purchase your system during non-peak season your HVAC work will be easier to schedule and you can more than likely receive off-peak season pricing.
- When replacing an older model air conditioning unit (10 years or older) replace all of the components not just some. All of the components of a central air conditioning system are designed, manufactured and calibrated to work together for optimum performance and efficiency. By replacing only some of the air conditioning components, your system will not work at peak performance or its highest efficiency.
- Be aware of any efficiency rebates or special offers from HVAC companies. Check out your HVAC’s website to see if they are offering any deals.
- Warranties/Guarantees. This is important to know before your installation. Know the guarantees and warranties offered by the manufacturer as well as the contactor installing your system.
- Annual maintenance agreements are a good value. This generally involves having the air conditioning checked annually. A regular check-up can help prevent repair or safety problems and will help to extend the life of your system. It will also help keep your utility bills down by insuring your system is working at peak performance.