How to Choose an Air Conditioning and Heating System (HVAC)


What to Consider – Choosing your HVAC System can seem like a daunting task. There are a wide variety of choices and even with the help of a reputable contractor you may have to do some research to find the system that is right for you. If you have a contractor you trust (United Air Conditioning for instance!) it is a good idea to ask what system choice or choices he recommends. If not you may have to make this decision for yourself before you call for estimates. Selecting the proper equipment is crucial to keeping yourself and your family comfortable for years to come and will help save you money on energy cost and repairs.

Choose High Efficiency – One of the most important things to consider when purchasing a unit is the efficiency. The higher the efficiency of the unit the more it will cost you in the beginning but an investment in a higher efficiency system will return your investment many times over in cost saving over the course of the equipment lifespan. Air Conditioner efficiency is rated in SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. SEER ratings tell you how much cooling you get back for a unit of electricity, so the higher the number the more you get for your money. Before 1992 most units manufactured were at 6.0 SEER rating. Today the lowest efficiency unit you can buy is a 12.0 and high efficient units start at 13.0. If you replaced a unit that was rated at 6.0 with a 12.0 you would save half of the cost of the electricity to run the unit. Two speed units can run on low speed 80% of the time which allow them to get ratings as high as 16.0+ SEER.

Consider the Noise Level – Another important factor to consider when buying a unit is its noise level. If your unit has a low sound level, you will hardly notice it is operating while high levels may mean many sleepless nights and annoyed neighbors. Air conditioning and heating equipment is rated by a sound rating number or SRN which is based on American Refrigeration Institute tests and range from 6.8 bels which is the quietest to 13 bels which is the loudest. Most air conditioners operate at from 7 to 9 bels. It doesn’t sound like much but a unit operating at 9 bels is actually 10 times louder than a unit operating at 8 bels.

Don’t Forget the Ductwork – While you are replacing your system consider having your ductwork checked to see if it needs any repairs or it needs to be replaced. If some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold, if the insulation on your ductwork is peeling or if there is a buildup of contaminates inside consider having your ducts evaluated to see if they need replacing. Also return air grilles and grilles in each room should be evaluated to see if they are properly sized and working correctly. Grilles can be purchased online or from a reputable contractor (like United Air Conditioning !).

Consider a Programmable Thermostat – If your house is empty for part of the day consider investing in a programmable thermostat. This will allow you to set your unit to a higher temperature while you are gone and then have it drop back to a comfortable level thirty minutes before you get home. Some people also like to set a different temperature for when they are asleep than their waking hours. Most thermostats can be set for a particular day of the week so you can bypass your program or change it on days when you are home.

Consider your Comfort – There are other add-ons to your system that you might consider to increase your comfort level and help your system to keep you healthier. Air cleaners are great for those with allergies and will help keep your house cleaner. These range from simple electrostatic filters to more expensive electronic air cleaners and ultraviolet filters. Humidifiers can help with dry skin, sore throats, breathing problems, cracking wood and help with static electricity. Thermidistats are like a traditional thermostat but also monitors and controls humidity. Zoning systems divide your home into several separate zones or areas with similar comfort needs with separate thermostats and dampers that automatically adjust the temperature in each of those zones. This allows you to cool only the area where you need it so you save money. Also you can allow different people in the same home to adjust the comfort level to suit themselves.

Consider your Unique Needs – Since everybody’s home is unique you will want to enlist the help of a reputable contractor (like United Air Conditioning!) to sort through the options. A good contractor will be able to help you balance your budget considerations, utilities available, your needs for comfort, logistical consideration, climate in your area and other factors.