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Practical Tips for Installing an Air Conditioner

Installing a central air conditioner in your home can be a daunting task, but with the right guidance and knowledge, it becomes a manageable project. In this article, we will provide you with practical advice...

Installing a central air conditioner in your home can be a daunting task, but with the right guidance and knowledge, it becomes a manageable project. In this article, we will provide you with practical advice on how to install an air conditioner effectively and efficiently.

Choosing the Right Type

The first step in installing an air conditioner is to determine the right type for your needs. There are two main types of central air conditioning units: split systems and package systems.

  • Split systems are the most common and affordable option for residential homes. They consist of an outdoor condensing unit and an indoor evaporator coil and air handler.
  • Package systems, on the other hand, have all three components installed in the same place. They are typically used in commercial buildings.

It is important to note that split systems are more efficient and quieter compared to package systems. Therefore, they are the preferred choice for most homeowners.

A woman is pressing the up button of a wall attached house thermostat with digital display showing the temperature Image: Grandbrothers/Getty Images

Consider Energy Efficiency

When purchasing an air conditioning system, it is crucial to consider its energy efficiency. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating indicates the cooling capacity of the system in relation to the energy consumed. Higher SEER ratings indicate better energy efficiency.

It is advisable to choose a central air conditioner with a SEER rating of at least 13. Older systems typically have lower SEER ratings, so even a slightly higher-rated new system can result in significant energy savings.

Choosing the Right Size

Size is another important factor to consider when installing an air conditioner. Contrary to popular belief, bigger is not always better. An air conditioner that is too large for your home can lead to improper cooling and higher energy consumption.

To determine the correct size for your home, consult with an HVAC professional. They will perform a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) load calculation, taking into account factors such as your home's square footage, climate, insulation grade, number of windows and doors, and number of occupants.

Man looking at air conditioning bill Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Set Clear Expectations to Lower Costs

The cost of installing a central air conditioning system can vary greatly depending on factors such as the size and design of your home. To get the best price, be clear about your expectations and provide a specific completion date for the work.

According to Tyler Zegarzewski, an HVAC Service Manager for AirCo, partial system replacements can cost as little as $2,000, while more comprehensive systems with complete duct replacement and other upgrades can cost up to $40,000. By demonstrating that you are a serious buyer, contractors will be more willing to work with you to find the best solution for your needs.

Inspect the Existing Ductwork

Before installing a central air conditioner, it is essential to have your existing ductwork inspected. Some ducts may not be able to handle the increased airflow of a new system, requiring modifications or replacements. It is worth noting that installing new ductwork can significantly increase the cost of the installation.

For homes without existing ductwork, split-ductless systems can be a better alternative.

Place It in the Right Place

Proper placement of the air conditioning unit is crucial for optimal performance. When choosing a location, consider factors such as exposure to direct sunlight, water, and obstructions. Placing the condenser on the north side of your home, where it receives the least direct sunlight, can help keep it cooler.

Avoid hiding your air conditioner behind bushes or large plants, as this can obstruct airflow and cause damage. It is recommended to leave two to three feet of clearance on each side of the unit to ensure adequate cooling.

Technician repairing air conditioner Image: bymuratdeniz/Getty Images

Do the Proper Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential to keep your air conditioning system operating at its best. It is also a requirement by manufacturers to maintain warranties. Schedule annual maintenance checks in the spring for cooling systems and in the fall for heating systems. Regular maintenance improves efficiency, saves money, and helps prevent costly repairs.

While you can perform some maintenance tasks yourself, it is recommended to hire an HVAC technician for professional inspections and more complex tasks such as adding refrigerant.

Hire High-Quality, Reputable Professionals

Installing a central air conditioner is not a do-it-yourself project for most homeowners. It is advisable to hire reputable professionals with the necessary expertise and qualifications. Before hiring a contractor, ask for references, certifications, and proof of insurance.

By following these practical tips, you can ensure a successful and efficient installation of your air conditioning system. Stay cool and enjoy the comfort of a well-designed and properly installed air conditioner in your home.