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Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide

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Are you in the market to buy a new air conditioner? Choose the air conditioner that best meets your central cooling needs.

The decision to buy one central air conditioner over another can be confusing – particularly if you aren’t aware of the different options available. Not to mention there can be added pressure to select the right central air conditioning unit because they are so expensive. From efficiency to noise, there are different aspects of your air conditioner that are going to affect your overall home comfort levels and the initial price you pay for the unit.

Frigidaire central air conitioning units

For example, instead of an air conditioner you may want to go with a heat pump system. While air conditioners are the most common choice for homeowners, you may want to explore the benefits offered by a heat pump. Heat pumps work exactly like air conditioners during the cooling seasons – delivering powerful cool air through your home without any worries. However, heat pumps can reverse the flow of refrigerant through the unit in order to provide electric heating power. During the fall and spring, electricity will be more cost effective than heating your home with a gas furnace (depending on utility costs in your area). And, if you live in an area with mild winters, you can address all of your heating and cooling needs with this single system. Heat pumps also come in packaged and split varieties, so if you do want a packaged unit, there are options available regardless of your system requirements.

Here are some things to keep in mind during the purchasing process that can help you select the best air conditioner:

Features of a New Air Conditioner

Other Things to Consider

If your air conditioner currently has an indoor and an outdoor component, you have a split system. Split systems are the more common type of central air conditioner found in homes. Split-system air conditioners come in two different layouts. You may have an outdoor condensing unit paired with an air handler, or you may have a system that is composed of an air conditioner, furnace and coil. System type varies by your location (typically homes in the South with warm winters will have the first type, while homeowners in the Midwest and the North will have the second system setup). Package units, on the other hand, contain all crucial heating and cooling elements in one box that resides outside of your home. Package units are generally used for homes without basements, crawlspaces and attics. However, any homeowner can benefit from a packaged system.

Cooling efficiency, rated in SEER, is one of the most important things to look at when comparing one cooling system to another. SEER, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a measurement of how efficiently your air conditioner runs over the course of the cooling season. If you choose a high SEER system, you can potentially save money on your utility bills each month. However, you can still get an added money-saving boost with a minimum- efficiency air conditioner if you are switching from an old unit. Today, air conditioners must meet a minimum efficiency rating of 13 SEER, whereas the minimum efficiency rating was only 10 SEER prior to 2006 – a significant boost. A good rule of thumb is to go with the most efficient system you can afford.

If you are looking for a quiet system, invest in an iQ Drive® air conditioner. These systems get down to some of the lowest noise levels in the industry – down to 59 decibels. Not only that, but these systems are the most efficient systems that Frigidaire offers. The 25.5-SEER iQ Drive air conditioner is the most efficient air conditioner on the HVAC market today. If you want to go with a quiet system that may be a little less efficient, look for units with compressor sound blankets and swept-wing fan blades.

For increased temperature control, choose a zoning system. With these smart systems, you can section off your home by room, or groups of rooms, and heat or cool them based on varied temperature settings. This way you can expect more even temperatures and potential energy savings. Do you have a room that is consistently hotter than the rest of your home? If your thermostat is located in or near that room, you could be spending more on utility bills to cool your home without a zoning system. But with a zoning system you can put that room into a separate zone. Your ductwork will be able to shut off access to other access to other rooms that have already reached temperature while still cooling that room. This way you can maintain even temperatures throughout your home without wasting energy cooling rooms that don’t need to be cooled.

There are two types of refrigerant that are currently associated with heating and cooling equipment – R-22 and R-410A. Recently, R-22 has been named harmful to the environment and is slowly being phased out, making prices rise as supplies dwindle. The other refrigerant, R-410A, does not contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This it does not deplete the ozone layer. Just keep in mind that because older systems used R-22, you may have to replace your lineset and indoor coil too. But, it is well worth it.

As stated previously, installing a new air conditioner can be expensive. This means it can be tempting to cut back on costs in other areas to save a little money on the overall installation. However, quality installation is absolutely critical for the overall performance of your air conditioner. If your contractor does not correctly install your unit, you could face a future full of costly repairs, inefficient performance and shortened system life. Make sure you find the contractor that will do your installation job right the first time. In addition, a quality contractor should check your ductwork, and the other aspects of your overall HVAC system, to make sure that your air conditioner isn’t the only thing that needs to be addressed.

Central air conditioner size (measured in tons or BTUs) is determined by your home’s square footage, the amount of people in your home, the type of windows you have, etc. When it comes to selecting a specific cooling system size, you don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. When your contractor comes to your home to give you a quote on a new air conditioner, they should perform a Manual J load calculation that takes all factors into consideration and determines which size system is right for your home. If your air conditioner is too large, it could cool your home too quickly – resulting in a home that isn’t properly dehumidified and riddled with hot and cold spots. In contrast, a cooling unit that is too small will constantly be running, resulting in high cooling costs and a potential system repair or replacement call. This is a big reason to avoid a contractor who gives you a system quote over the phone.

When you go to replace your system, make sure you replace the entire thing – both the indoor and the outdoor components. When systems are designed and manufactured, indoor and outdoor components are matched to ensure proper performance. Although it can be tempting to merely replace one part of the system, you could face a host of problems with an incorrectly matched unit. If the indoor components of your AC unit are old, they can negatively impact the performance and efficiency of your condensing unit. Not to mention, a system that isn’t matched correctly will not be covered under the Frigidaire parts warranty because proper performance and system life can no longer be ensured. The indoor components include the coil or air handler.

The price of an air conditioner is largely determined by your home. The main factors that affect cost include: efficiency, size, additional system modifications and contractor selection. But, the most important thing to remember is to not choose a contractor simply because they give you the lowest quote. With an air conditioner, you are going to get what you pay for. A contractor that who charges less, particularly for labor, may have to cut corners when it comes to training in order to offer a lower price. This can lead to improper installation and decreased performance.

Frigidaire offers a limited long parts warranty on all of their air conditioners when the unit is registered. A separate labor warranty can be purchased through your contractor – if they offer it. Heating and air conditioning repairs can be expensive, so make sure you have all of your bases covered. For more information on parts and labor warranties visit our warranty pages before you buy.

Frigidaire contractor and homeowner review central air conditioners

Before you have a new air conditioner installed in your home, consult your local contractor. Browse our dealer locator to find the Frigidaire HVAC professional in your area.

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