The Ultimate Guide to Buying A CentralENTRAL Air Conditioner for Your Home
Summer seasons can go from uncomfortably hot to lock yourself in a freezer hot in a matter of days. What’s worse is, studies show that summers are bound to get even hotter with time thanks to global warming. So if you think it’s hot now, two years from now it will be crazy hot. While you have little control over this, the good news is, you have a say on how cool you will be during these torrid trying times. That said, if you, like the majority of people in the U.S and all other hot areas around the world are looking for a more permanent solution to beating the heat, you have come to the right place. In this guide, I will walk you through what is arguably the best air conditioning alternative (Central Air Conditioning Systems) and everything you need to know about them. So, ditch that noisy fan and get to reading as today, I help you chose the best Central air conditioner for your home.
What are these things and how do they work?
Central air conditioners are a type of cooling system usually installed in houses to distribute cool air throughout the whole building as opposed to room air conditioners. It is normally located away from the house usually outside or in the attic.
While explaining how central air conditioners work, I will try and do it as simply as possible without sounding like a geek, so here goes. In all honesty, this system is simpler than it looks, in fact, it pretty much works the same as a refrigerator. Basically, this electric appliance uses one or more thermostats installed in the house to turn the cooling system on or off. When the temperature rises, the thermostat signals the system to cool the air and this is when the magic begins.
The hot, humid air from different rooms in the house is drawn into the return air ducts where it is filtered to remove dust particles and any other pollutant. Some advanced systems can even filter microscopic particles, but you will have to pay a little extra for these. After this, the air is redirected back into the room through the air ducts. But this has not answered how the air gets cool. Right?
Typically, this system comprises of a condenser, evaporator, and compressor through which a refrigerant (Freon for example) circulates in copper tubing. This refrigerant is responsible for the cooling effect of the air such that it absorbs and releases heat from the air by changing from liquid to gas state with time. At the beginning, the refrigerant is cold hence in a liquid state and is distributed throughout the system absorbing heat from the air and making it cool. When the refrigerant absorbs too much heat it changes into vapor and through a process of compressions it is converted back to cool liquid. This way, the process runs over and over again until the whole house is cooled.
Central air Conditioners come in different types. Find out!
There are typically four types of central air conditioners based on the technology used in the device. They include:
This type of system is quite common in U.S homes because it is economical if you already have a central furnace as the same ducts for the furnace can be used in the central conditioner. It works pretty much the same the system described above such that it comprises of a compressor, evaporator, and condenser. The evaporator is placed inside the house and removes heat and moisture from the air while the compressor and the condenser are placed outside to pump the refrigerant and release heat respectively. Basically, the indoor components comprise of a series of ducts and blowers to circulate cool air throughout the house.
As the name suggests, these systems are basically used to pump heat into or out of the house. When it is cold, for instance during winter, the system extracts heat from outside and directs it into the house while the opposite is true for hot seasons. This makes them quite ideal for temperature regulation in both cold and hot seasons. However, a major drawback of these systems is that they do not function well in extreme temperatures that go on for a long time. This is especially noted in cold temperatures that are below freezing. In this case, geothermal heat pumps are considered the best option for extremely cold areas whereby heat is drawn from the ground as opposed to the air. But as expected, be prepared to pay a little extra and go through the hassle of finding a good contractor.
Packaged central air conditioners.
This type of system comes with all three components packaged in a single unit. It is mostly placed on the roof and at times near the foundation. The same duct technology used in the split system is used here to distribute cool air throughout the building. It can also be economical where it is combined with a set of heating coils or a heating furnace hence distributing heat in the cold seasons eliminating the need for a separate heat system.
Ductless mini-split systems.
The ductless system comprises an outdoor unit which houses the compressor and condenser while an indoor system is responsible for cooling. A tubing is used to connect the indoor and outdoor system and circulates refrigerants within the entire system. The outdoor unit can be connected to multiple indoor systems for each room hence the air conditioner for a specific room can be regulated separately. The beauty of this system is that it is ideal for houses and buildings that do not have ducts. This also makes it energy saving as the loss of energy due to ductwork is eliminated. Despite all these advantages, the ductless system is more costly when used to cool the entire house, if compared to the split system.
Keep an eye out for these features when choosing a Central AC.
Buying a central air conditioner especially for the first time is like buying a new car. Don’t just go for the most expensive one, instead, pick one that suits you and your house. That said, below are the features that matter when purchasing a central air conditioner.
The size of your AC.
Size, when it comes to selecting a central air conditioner matters more than most people think. A big AC for a tiny house is unnecessary and wasteful while a small one will require more cycles to effectively cool your house. Therefore, your conditioner simply has to be the right fit for your house. Size, in this case, does not mean the actual dimension of your AC but rather the cooling capacity usually measured in British Thermal Units (BTU). It measures the amount of heat a conditioner can remove from a room per hour. Consider the size of your house, your ceiling height and the climatic condition of your region when selecting the size of your conditioner.
Some A.Cs come with a maintenance package that involves regular inspections and discounts on repairs. It will be wise to go for a conditioner that has a maintenance plan in the price as it ends up reducing the long run maintenance cost. Moreover, a maintenance package on purchase will save you the hassle of looking for a professional inspector. I will be discussing more on maintaining your conditioner, so fret not.
A good system is efficient in that, it delivers cooling with little consumption of electricity. Efficiency is usually expressed in SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). The least SEER allowed for a split system is 13. So, when looking for a central conditioner, get one with a SEER of 13 and up. The more the SEER the more efficient the system.
Other features to consider include:
- The unit should operate quietly.
- The thermostat should be programmable to reduce the cooling cost.
- A filter check. This will remind you to check the filter after a certain number of operating hours.
THE BEST BRANDS FOR CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONERS.
Writing this section was quite tricky mainly because, an air conditioning system may be excellent and with great features but due to poor installation it starts acting up. Secondly, it may seem like there is a sea of manufacturing companies making central air conditioners while in fact, one company may be making four to five brands. For instance, Maytag and Frigidaire are two separate brands made by Nortek Global. So, after some serious legwork and digging through customer reviews, I came up with a list of noteworthy brands which you can bet on to deliver quality conditioners. Just make sure you get a legit installer.
These guys have been around since 1895 and started producing air conditioners in 1952. Air conditioners from Lennox have made their mark in the market mainly because of their policies on installation. As I said, a good AC installed poorly is simply a waste. This is why Lennox are quite selective with their installers. Some of the notable air conditioners from this brand are from the Dave Lennox collection responsible for launching the Dave Lennox Signature XC25 a conditioner that was rated among the top three in numerous sites and manages to keep this position up to this year.
Carrier is another noteworthy brand that produces above average central air conditioners. Their products have been in the market for a while with one of their best being the Carrier Infinity 21 24ANB1 from the infinity series. Most of their products come with a generous 10-year warranty which is good, but it does not come close to the life warranties provided by their competitors. Durability is one of the features that makes products from this brand stand out. For instance, this can be seen in the infinity series where it comes with a Weather Armor protection ensuring nothing gets into the system and destroys it. Affordability is another feature that plays to their advantage.
Another reliable brand for providing great conditioning services for your home is Trane. These guys have been in the game long enough to know exactly what you need and how to deliver. The Trane XV20i is one of their best central air conditioners and has received great reviews from users. Although it comes with a ten-year warranty, it compensates for this pretty well by having next level technology that allows you to control it with your smartphone.
This list could not be complete without mentioning Frigidaire. Having been in the game for decades, this brand has been able to produce products with excellent reviews especially due to their energy efficiency. A great example is the Frigidaire IQ drive that is quiet energy efficient and is pretty quiet while operating.
These are but a few of the brands that are making waves in the central air conditioner market. Other brands worth considering are American Standards, Maytang, LG and General Electric. Having listed the best brands, it is only fair to list those that are not so good, according to customer reviews. To rip it off like a bandage, these brands are Goodman, Amana, and York. Why? Well, simply because there has been a lot of customers complain about the need for a repair in less than five years after installation. But then again, as I said, it all boils down to installation. So we may never know if these brands are actually poor or a bunch of customers just got the wrong contractor.
Installation, Replacement, and Maintenance.
I cannot emphasize harder the importance of finding a reputable contractor when installing a central air conditioner. To do this, you can dig around for information from the internet or better yet, from your neighbors and friends. Be sure to check the records and reputation of contractors before hiring.
If for whatever reason you want to replace your old system, ensure that the evaporator coil is replaced with a new one that matches the condenser coil in the new unit. One of the signs that your conditioner needs replacement is inconsistencies in cooling and humidity control. This is usually caused by an AC reaching its lifespan usually after 10-15 years.
Even if your conditioner is running smoothly, you should conduct maintenance checks by a professional at least once a year, preferably in the spring. In the spring so as to ensure it is ready to operate at peak efficiency and will be able to cool your house during summer. You may be tempted to skip on maintenance checks to save some money but the lack of maintenance will result in energy inefficiency and in some cases, system breakdowns that normally cost more to repair in the long run. During a maintenance inspection, the following is checked: the drain line, the motor, temperatures, operating pressure, the coils refrigerant levels and leakages if any.