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Helpful Tips for How to Choose a New Air Conditioner in Cincinnati

AC Buying Guide

For many homeowners across Cincinnati, this year will be the year the old air conditioner stops working or fails to keep up with the family’s cooling needs. If your old unit can no longer cool the home efficiently, your best bet is to purchase a new air conditioning system and schedule an HVAC system company to perform air conditioning replacement. You can choose from a number of different types of air conditioning units for installation, such as a conventional central air conditioner, a heat pump, or a ductless air conditioning system.

After you choose which type of central air conditioning system you’d like to have at home, there are several more decisions to make about your new air conditioner. The cooling capacity of air conditioners refers to how much heat removal and cooling they provide, and it’s critical to get the right size air conditioner for your home. Installing small and oversized units cause big problems for occupants, from poor comfort to higher energy costs and more repair bills for HVAC systems. You’ll also have to determine the energy efficiency rating you want in a new air unit for your home. The energy efficient performance of an AC unit is represented by its SEER rating – choosing a minimum SEER rating single stage unit or a higher efficiency unit has effects on your family now and in the future, in terms of purchase price and energy savings.

Do you know how to choose a new air conditioner that is well-suited to provide cool air for your entire house? Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing helps local homeowners learn about different central air conditioners and the features that differentiate AC units. This homeowner’s buying guide will help you learn how to select a new air conditioning unit, whether you like heat pumps, conventional air conditioning systems, or you want to go ductless! Learn how the air conditioner’s efficiency impacts this purchase decision and why cooling system size is so important.

Air Conditioning Unit Types

There are many HVAC equipment choices installed in homes throughout the Cincinnati area, providing heating, cooling, and even improved indoor air quality! When it comes to air conditioners, most homes use a split cooling system – this means there are separate pieces of air conditioning equipment installed inside and outside of the home. The most popular split air conditioning systems are the conventional central air conditioning unit, heat pump systems, and ductless air conditioners.

Central Air Conditioning Unit

A conventional central air conditioner is made up of an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Outside sits an air conditioning unit and inside is either an air handler or a furnace. Because of our cold winters and the fact we rely on heating during this part of the year, many air conditioners in Ohio homes use the furnace blower to distribute cool air into living areas. An evaporator coil can be installed with the furnace to facilitate the cooling process.

Heat Pump AC Unit

Heat pumps are a central air conditioning option that has a lot of similarities with the conventional central air conditioner. Both of these air conditioning systems have an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. Outside sits the heat pump, which connects to an indoor air handler that distributes cool air in the home. Both of these air conditioning options cool homes in the same manner, by moving heat. The big difference between a conventional central air conditioner and a heat pump is the ability to deliver heating. Air conditioners only cool, while heat pumps can reverse their operation and provide the home’s heating over the winter months.

There are different types of heat pump systems. Air source heat pumps transfer heat between indoor air and the air outside. Geothermal heat pump systems move heat between the indoor air and the earth using a component called the ground loop, which is buried on the property during professional installation.

Ductless Air Conditioners

Ductless air conditioning units are also known as ductless mini splits. These air conditioners are a little different than the first two options, as they are not technically central air conditioners and their configuration is unique.  Ductless air conditioning units include an outdoor unit which can be an air conditioner or heat pump as well as indoor air handlers. The system can be configured with one air handler or multiple, allowing users to set up a ductless system to work similar to a traditional central air conditioner providing cooling across the entire house.

Instead of distributing cool air from one central air conditioner in the home, ductless systems distribute air via multiple air handlers installed in the house. The air handler is installed in the area it provides cooling for and can be independently controlled.

Which Air Conditioner Should You Choose?

In many homes, it doesn’t matter what type of old unit you have installed, as far as your new air conditioning choices go. Many homes can support the installation of multiple air conditioner types. As you ponder which type of central air conditioner you would like to install, here are some key points we recommend you consider:

  • Conventional central air conditioners and heat pumps require ductwork to move cold air throughout the home. If your home has existing ducts that are in good condition or need only minor repairs, air conditioner installation with one of these systems is a great choice.
  • If your home does not have ducts, it can be very expensive to install ductwork to support the use of a traditional air conditioner or heat pump. In this situation, many homeowners choose to go with a ductless air conditioner.
  • In situations where new living space has been added to the home through an addition or converting previously unused space, a ductless air conditioner is a popular choice. Ductless air conditioners can be installed in one area or multiple areas, and they can also be used alongside an existing central air conditioner to deliver cooling in the new area if the existing unit does not have a large enough capacity to do so.

Central Air Conditioner Capacity

After you figure out which kind of air conditioner you would like to purchase, the next step is to figure out the appropriate cooling capacity for the AC unit. The best way to do this is to work with an HVAC system expert who will perform a load calculation. This calculation is based on a number of home elements, not just the home’s square footage. It determines how much heat must be removed from living areas to keep them at a comfortable temperature. An air conditioner’s cooling capacity is its size, which is also referred to in tons. The average residential air conditioner ranges in size from 1.5 tons to 5 tons and each ton of cooling is equal to 12,000 BTUs of heat removal per hour.

We really can’t stress enough how important it is for you to do this step properly. If you install an air conditioner that is too small or an oversized unit, the air conditioner will not perform the way you want it to. It won’t be energy efficient, as it will either run long cycles or turn off quickly, which draws more energy consumption. When air conditioner sizing is not correct, the unit experiences more wear and breaks down more frequently, typically taking these air conditioners out of service years before a properly sized air conditioner would require replacement. The right AC unit for your home will be one that is correctly sized.

SEER Ratings for Air Conditioners

When buying a central AC unit for your home, the seasonal energy efficiency of a unit will bear some weight on your decision. Air conditioners and heat pumps use energy efficiency ratings known as SEER ratings, which stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. The seasonal energy efficiency rating of an air conditioner tells consumers the amount of cooling the air conditioner produced over an average season divided by the amount of electricity it consumed.

The SEER rating of an AC unit can vary. Minimum SEER rating AC units start at 13 SEER in Ohio, and 14 SEER for a heat pump unit. The minimum SEER rating increases in 2023 to 15 SEER for heat pumps and 14 SEER for air conditioners due to changes in federal standards.

If you would like a new AC unit with a higher SEER rating than the minimum, there are a range of options available. You can find a central unit available up to 26 SEER for air conditioners and 24 SEER for heat pumps, while ductless air conditioners extend to around 30 SEER. A new system with high efficiency HVAC units typically includes features for better control over energy usage, like a variable speed blower and variable speed compressor.

Air Conditioner Installation in Cincinnati

If it’s time to replace your central AC, call Thomas & Galbraith for the professional assistance you need! Our Comfort Consultants can share information on various HVAC units and cooling system types, while our NATE-certified technicians perform skilled installation work for all new units.

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