Buying Guide for Your New AC or Heat Pump

outdoor ac unitsThe last thing you want when installing a new central cooling system in your home is for the work to be done hastily or without sufficient care. A new central AC or heat pump system is a significant household investment up-front, but also a decision that will bear consequences (either good or bad) for many years into the future.

You’ll reap both short-term and long-term benefits if you follow these helpful tips for buying a new central air conditioning or heat pump system.

Suggestions for Buying a New AC or Heat Pump

  • Make sure it’s sized correctly. Ask the installer what method he/she intends to use to determine the capacity of your new AC or heat pump. If the installer suggests it’s no big deal, or will use a “rule of thumb” method, it’s time to look for a new installer. The correct method is to start with a cooling load calculation on your home, which takes into account multiple factors in your home, starting with its cubic footage and layout. Other factors may include the number and type of windows, the amount of shade on the house, and how well sealed and insulated the home is. Once the cooling load is completed, that information is used to calculate the right size for your new cooling system. Both under-sizing and over-sizing an AC will result in problems with energy efficiency, performance and stress on the equipment.
  • Don’t accept an estimate for a central AC or heat pump over the phone. A competent cooling system installer should insist on inspecting your home in person, along with discussing your household’s energy use, habits and preferences, before recommending a certain system.
  • Central cooling systems are available in a variety of different efficiency levels, most of the time measured in terms of SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). A higher SEER number means higher cooling efficiency, which means you’ll get more cooling for the amount of energy that powers the equipment. Not surprisingly, while higher energy efficiency means lower cooling bills, it also costs more at the time of the system’s purchase. A helpful HVAC technician should aid you in choosing the most efficient AC or heat pump for your budget.
  • Some electric utilities and states offer rebates and tax credits for homeowners who purchase high-efficiency cooling and heating systems. Ask your HVAC contractor what sort of incentives are available when you buy a new central AC or heat pump.
  • No matter how good your new cooling system is, if you neglect to maintain it regularly, it eventually will lose efficiency and under-perform. Consider signing a maintenance agreement with your chosen HVAC contractor, which will ensure annual maintenance tune-ups. Don’t forget DIY maintenance, too, including such tasks as inspecting and changing the air filter when it gets clogged with dust and debris.
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