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Are You Upgrading Your Central Air?

Factors To Consider As You Make Your Choice

a/c options massachusettsWarm days are coming soon to the North Shore. Will your old home cooling system be up to the task of another hot New England summer?

If your central air conditioner is more than 12 or 13 years old, it may not be – and even if it is still working, it might be worthwhile to upgrade your home cooling system for reliability and efficiency improvements alone.

The question, if you’ve not been shopping for a home cooling system in a while, is how should you go about doing it? Let’s take a look at some of the most important considerations when investing in a new central air conditioner.

1. SEER Rating

Getting the most cooling bang for your buck is crucial, and the place to start when comparing the cooling efficiency of A/C systems is with the SEER rating.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures the amount of cool air your A/C unit produces compared to the total amount of energy it uses over the course of a whole cooling season (think of it as you would MPG in your car – the higher the rating, the more efficient your A/C is. Typical central air conditioning models today have SEER ratings between 16 and 20 (many ductless mini-split systems have even higher SEER ratings).

Higher SEER units cost more, with prices increasing by about 8-10 percent for every one-point increase in SEER on a similar-sized unit by the same manufacturer. In our Northeastern climate, it will typically take about three years to “payback” the added cost of an 18 SEER unit over a 14 SEER unit.

But beware: SEER doesn’t tell the whole efficiency story, despite what some A/C salespeople (especially at big box stores) say. A number of other factors will have at least as much bearing on cooling performance as the efficiency of your unit itself, such as how well your home is insulated, the condition of your ductwork, and how well matched your system is to your house’s cooling load – which leads us to point two.

2. Load Matching

Right-sizing and air conditioning system is also vital for getting the most for your cooling dollar. Buy an air conditioner that’s too small or too large and you’ll wear it out before its time (a unit that’s too small will overwork; a unit that’s too large will constantly turn on and off, over-taxing the compressor and fan controls, leading to more frequent repairs and lower efficiency).

Again, caution is needed here: right-sizing isn’t just based on the size of your house, so don’t let anyone sell your equipment based on a simple formula. You also need to take into the style of your home, the number of windows you have, the amount of insulation you’ve installed, the amount of shade your house is exposed to, and more – a big reason why right-sizing is best left to a professional who will consider all these variables by visiting your space in person for an estimate.

3. Other Considerations

Other factors come into account when shopping for a new central air conditioning system, including:

  • Manufacturers – Look for reputable models from leading, recognized brands.
  • Warranty – Compare warranties offered by different manufacturers – and make sure you keep that warrantee in force by getting A/C maintenance every year.
  • Installation and maintenance expertise – Always choose a company with experienced, NATE-certified HVAC technicians.

As you can see, making a smart decision when replacing a central A/C isn’t easy – a big reason why it pays to work with an HVAC pro when it comes time to make such a big investment!

In the market for a new A/C this spring? We can help you pick the right one for your home and budget. Contact Lombardi Energy & Gas today to get a FREE estimate on central A/C installations in the North Shore of MA!