Choosing an Air Conditioner

natural air conditioned villaThe cool blast of air from an air conditioner seems like a miracle when it's a 97 degree day in July. Whether you're buying your first air conditioner or replacing an older model, there are a few things to keep in mind.

There are two different types of air conditioner systems. A central air conditioner normally sits outside and cools the entire house through a system of ducts and vents, usually the same vents that are used by the heating system. A room air conditioner is normally mounted in a window, but sometimes is installed in the wall. A room air conditioner usually cools just one room of the home, like a bedroom.

Energy Efficiency

When purchasing a new central air conditioner, look at cooling capacity and efficiency. Air conditioner cooling capacity is measured in British thermal units (BTUs). An air conditioner with too little BTUs will not keep the home cold enough, while an air conditioner with too much capacity will cost more money to operate than necessary.

Also consider the seasonal energy-efficiency rating, or SEER, when buying an air conditioner. The higher the rating, the more efficient the air conditioner, resulting in energy bill savings. The contractor who installs the air conditioner can help you choose the right size unit for your home.

Square Footage

The size of room is an important consideration when shopping for a room air conditioner. If the air conditioner is too small for the room, it won't be able to keep it cool enough. If it is too big for the room, the air conditioner will cycle on and off too often, making the temperature in the room fluctuate.

Check the air conditioner manufacturer's recommendations for the amount of BTUs required to cool your room. For example the air conditioner manufacturer might recommend that a 12000 BTU/hour air conditioner be used in a room that is about 400 square feet.

The government has standards for energy efficiency. An air conditioner that bears the EnergyStar label has been shown to be at least 10% more efficient than the minimum government standards. They are usually more expensive, but save owners money on electric bills over the long run.

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photo by H.Micael Karshis / CreativeCommons