When it’s hot, you want it to work; Air conditioning. You also don't want to pay a fortune. How do you know what is the best deal over time for you and your home with all the choices out there? Don’t worry, we have you covered, and you may be surprised at what we found out!
Here are the best air conditioning options for your home and wallet!
Central Air Conditioning
This type of AC unit tends to need minimal maintenance once installed correctly and can last between 15 and 20 years. All new central air units must adhere to a standard of efficiency implemented in 2015 called SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings).
Even if a central air unit meets this rating, it could still be wasting energy. According to Energy.gov, 30 percent of space cooling energy loss is from ductwork, which moves the cooled air to the rooms where it's needed. A unit can waste even more if installed incorrectly!
The biggest drawback of central AC? The need for existing ducts or the installation of brand new ductwork in your home. If you don’t already have or don’t have the money required to install a duct system, there are still other good options.
Ductless Mini Split
A "Mini Split" is an alternative AC system that does not need a duct system. Since it doesn’t require ductwork, it can be cheaper and much quicker to install compared to a central air unit (we’ve heard as fast as three hours). It can also be a supplement to a central air system if needed.
Mini Splits are good for cooling individual rooms or sections of a home since each space gets a separate unit. Also, designing around a Mini Split is much easier than with other units. They can be installed into a ceiling or wall and only require about a 3-inch hole for a conduit.
The drawback? While the cost of installation is less than a central air unit, Energy.gov claims the cost of cooling capacity per ton is 30 percent higher for a Ductless Mini Split system. Also, the cooling capacity cost can be twice as much when compared to a window unit. Mini Splits systems aren’t exceedingly common, so finding someone to repair them can be an issue, although their popularity is on the rise.
Window units, like Ductless Mini-Split units, are suitable for cooling individual rooms and spaces. They are relatively easy to install and are available in different sizes and prices, depending on what size window you have and how much cooling power you need. Some units just plug into a regular 15 or 20-amp outlet while others can be hardwired into homes electrical system.
The biggest drawback of a window unit is the requirement of a window or a large enough wall opening for the AC unit. Also, larger units may require a higher amp outlet of their own. Additionally, units can be inefficient if cooled air is escaping around the edges of the unit. As always, proper installation is key to smooth operation and efficiency, and thus a lower bill.
Other Cooling “Hacks”
You may choose one of these AC unit options to cool your home, but they aren’t the only ways. You can use any of these with a combination of other methods like:
- Using a programmable thermostat, these have proven to save homeowners hundreds a year.
- Ceiling fans, but only use them when you are in a room because they only make you feel cooler, keeping you from turning down the thermostat.
- Insulate your home and AC ductwork properly. See your local building codes for the proper depths and options available. And yes, you can bury your ducts in insulation.
- Install energy efficient windows and window coverings, like blinds and curtains.
- Use ENERGY STAR rated AC units.
- Use that bathroom fan during showers!
- Take advantage of cross ventilation techniques.
To find the right air conditioning unit for you, talk with an HVAC specialist. Remember to consider what you're willing to spend for your AC unit and installation and if those costs outweigh the costs of operation and maintenance in the long run.
For energy efficiency, look for units that are ENERGY STAR products or have a high SEER rating. Check out this handy infographic for more ideas and visit our Energy Savings page for more tips on saving when building a home.