What you need to know about purchasing an air conditioner

It’s during this time of year that I get lots of questions about air conditioners; everything from what’s the most efficient to what size is best for my home.

Sunny house

Just like buying the perfect suit, dress or shoes, size is the most important factor in finding the air conditioner best suited to your needs. In this case, it’s the size of your home. I would suggest your first step is to contact a licensed heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional who can help gather the information needed to determine the system best for you.

large AC

Choosing the Right Size Air Conditioner

Choosing the type and kind of central air conditioning system to install in your home’s heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is complicated. There are many physical factors about your home’s cooling at play that directly affect the performance quality, efficiency, and the cost of how well a central air conditioning system will work in your home. You also must consider the wide variety of central air conditioning systems, as well as their size, efficiency, and installation requirements. So, it’s no wonder that homeowners can get anxious when they want to know what size air conditioner they need for their home.

lots of windows

Why Size Matters

Choosing the correct size of your air conditioner is a key a factor for setting up a home cooling system. Sizing an air conditioner requires a consultation with a professional Energy Management Consultant who looks at the factors that effect your home’s cooling:

  • Total volume of the home’s living space – not just the square footage.
  • The area of sun-exposed exterior walls.
  • The number, age, condition, orientation of windows – do your windows face south?
  • The amount of sunshine on your home.
  • The age of your home’s construction.
  • Degree of air sealing
  • The amount of insulation
  • Existing ventilation system and ductwork – are they right?
  • Amount of shade from trees and shrubs.

Likewise, it’s not a simple matter of dropping-in any air conditioning system. The size is very important because the correctly sized air conditioner should run a proper full cycle and ensure your home stays cooler longer.

An over-sized AC system will quickly over-cool the air in your home and shut off too soon. However, the building structure itself (walls, wood, furniture, etc.) will not be cooled adequately and allow heat and humidity to creep back in, and the AC will kick-on again and again. As a consequence, over-sized systems run for too short a time far too often. And it can cost you far too much.

An undersized system, however, will not effectively cool your entire home. It will run continuously, waste energy, and wind up costing you more.

Understanding Size: What Do TON and SEER mean?

Air conditioner sizes are rated in “tons” of cooling capacity. One ton of cooling is equal to 12,000 BTU’s (British thermal units) per hour. For example, a typical residential unit is a 2-ton unit that cools 24,000 BTU/hour and a larger 3-ton unit cools 36,000 BTU/hour.

While two air conditioners can be the same tonnage, they could be completely different in terms of their energy efficiency or “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio”(SEER) . Once you have found the right tonnage-size to cool your home, you’ll want to look over which ones have the best SEER rating as is practical within your budget. The higher the rating, the less energy it will use – roughly 5% less per SEER. So an older 12 SEER upgraded to a higher efficiency SEER 16 will be approximately 20% more efficient and will cost less to run. Systems that are Energy Star qualified range between 12 and 23 SEER.

Because air conditioning is one of the most expensive conveniences you can have in your home, it’s important to be able to rely on a trained professional that you can trust to listen to your needs and guide you through this complex process. Direct Energy’s central AC sizing experts have years of design and installation experience. They’ll inform you about the different cooling options for your home and design the right-sized energy efficient cooling system to work with your home’s heating system and help save you money.


The Most Important Day in the Life of Your Air Conditioner

Having air conditioning doesn’t just keep you and your family comfortably cool and dry. It can also protect your home. Since heat and humidity can swell wood furniture, flooring, molding, and structural beams, this can eventually cause damage to your home. Summer weather also makes basements damp and can spread mold or mildew. Thus, investing in a new energy efficient air conditioning system can be a complex process. Fundamentally, the best air conditioning system for your home is one that handles your home’s heat load efficiently for the least cost. However, a poor installation can cost you more in the long run, so you shouldn’t trust just anyone with the high voltage electrical and gas burning equipment in your home.

A guy with a truck might be cheap, but when it comes to the safety and quality of his work, your family probably can’t afford it. You want a professional job done right the first time.

Once your new system is installed, sit back and enjoy one final benefit of a new system; a reduction in noise – making your home a cool and relaxing sanctuary over the summer months.

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6 Responses to “What you need to know about purchasing an air conditioner”

  1. Maria says:

    I have a unit that’s 18 years old and we are thinking of getting a new air conditioner our home is 2000 square feet. We have the sun on our home on the back all day long. It’s a total brick construction. Can you tell me what tone/seer I should be looking at. Also, do you know how much enbridge would charge for a new a/c approx. I know they do payment plans, so if you have that info it would be great, if not just the first info would be great.


    Maria T.

  2. Denise says:

    Hi there,

    We had a new A/C unit installed and even the installation guy felt the size that was ordered was too big for our home size. Its so big that its impeding deck design actually. How do i go about having someone look at the size installed and confirming whether its the correct size or the wrong size for my home?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Denise,
      I have sent this off to our team and someone will contact you shortly. We can send someone out to look at your AC unit,

  3. Dave Campbell says:

    I called direct energy about a heat pump installation and I they showed no interest from Direct energy on looking at selling me such an item. The person that called me back had no knowledge about heat pumps at all. Why do you send me out this documentation if you are not interested in my business?

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