Choosing the Right Air Conditioning System: Factors to Consider

Has your air conditioner seen better days? Are you ready to install central air in your Maryland home for the first time? AC units aren’t one-size-fits-all. The key to selecting the right system for your home is to find one that suits your cooling requirements, efficiency expectations, and budgetary constraints. The right selection will ensure your family’s comfort and well-being for many summers to come. Whether you’re replacing an old unit or installing one for the first time, several factors affect your choice. Follow this guide to help you make an informed decision.

AC Size and Capacity

The first and perhaps most important consideration is your air conditioning system’s size. This requires a balancing act—too small, and your unit will struggle to cool your home on the hottest days; too large, and you’ll face excessive wear and tear and a less comfortable environment due to short cycling.

An air conditioner’s cooling capacity is measured in British thermal units (BTUs), which conveys how much heat the unit can remove per hour. One ton of cooling capacity is equivalent to 12,000 BTUs per hour.

The ideal size accounts for various factors, including your home’s square footage, ceiling height, window size, occupancy, and insulation quality, to name a few. A 1,200-square-foot home might need a 1.75- to 2-ton AC unit, while a 2,500-square-foot home might need 3 tons of cooling capacity.

A professional HVAC technician can conduct a formal load calculation to determine the optimal capacity. Taking the time to properly size your AC avoids future issues like excessive humidity, uneven cooling, or undue system strain, ensuring maximum comfort, lower energy bills, and a longer system lifespan.

AC Efficiency

Once you have the size nailed down, the next step is to consider the efficiency rating. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit and the lower your energy bills. Modern units offer advanced features like variable-speed fans and compressors, which adjust cooling output to match the demand, contributing to higher efficiency ratings. This reduces your carbon footprint and minimizes the wear on your system, prolonging its life.

The minimum SEER rating in Maryland as of 2024 is 15 SEER, but units with far higher ratings are available for purchase and installation. High-efficiency units rated 18 SEER or higher tend to be pricier upfront, but they lead to substantial energy savings. Investing in a high-efficiency AC unit is an investment that reduces your cooling costs and supports environmental sustainability.

AC Types and Special Features

Air conditioners come in different forms, so it’s worthwhile to consider each to find a style that best meets your needs.

  • Central air conditioners are ideal for cooling large homes efficiently. This is the most common system Maryland homeowners choose when upgrading from portable and window AC units.
  • Air-source heat pumps are dual-function air conditioners that cool in the summer and run in reverse to heat your home in the winter.
  • Geothermal heat pumps are also dual-function units, but they transfer heat to and from the ground for exceptional efficiency.
  • Ductless mini-splits are perfect for homes without ductwork or for cooling individual rooms. While some mini-splits are strictly air conditioners, many function as heat pumps for year-round comfort.

Beyond types, modern ACs are compatible with advanced features that can boost your comfort, energy savings, and control.

  • Programmable thermostats allow for scheduled temperature adjustments.
  • Wi-Fi thermostats offer remote temperature control via a smartphone app.
  • Zoning incorporates multiple thermostats and ductwork dampers to direct conditioned air exactly where you want it.

AC Price

While the upfront price is worth considering when choosing an AC system, it’s important to weigh the long-term costs, including energy consumption, maintenance, and estimated replacement date. High-end models might cost more upfront, but their efficiency and durability often lead to lower lifetime costs.

Before ruling out a high-end unit for its initial price, ask your HVAC technician to run a lifetime cost assessment, comparing a standard unit with a high-performance one. You may find that thanks to lower energy costs, fewer breakdowns, and a longer lifespan, investing more initially saves you in the long run.

As you shop around, get comprehensive quotes that include the cost of the unit, installation, and any additional features or services. Many HVAC companies offer financing options or payment plans to put that higher-quality system within reach. In addition, look for utility rebates or tax credits for energy-efficient models to offset the initial cost even further.

AC Installation Considerations

A correctly installed AC system is vital for promoting efficiency and longevity. The installation complexity depends on the type of AC unit you choose and your home’s existing HVAC setup. For instance, if you want a central cooling system, but your home doesn’t have ductwork, the installation will be far more complex than if air ducts are already present.

Keep in mind that central ACs, heat pumps, and ductless systems require professional installation. This ensures proper integration with your home’s electrical systems and ductwork, if applicable, to promote safe and effective operation and avoid common issues like improper refrigerant charge or poor airflow. An expert HVAC technician can also advise on the best location for the outdoor unit to maximize efficiency and performance.

family laughing and playing on the floorPartner with First Response Heating & Cooling

Since 1978, First Response Heating & Cooling has served families in Harford, Baltimore, and Cecil County with honesty and integrity. We’re proud to be a locally owned family business, backing everything we do with some of the best warranties in the industry.

We begin with a transparent installation estimate so you know exactly what to expect. Then, our technicians perform a professional installation to maximize your upgrade. Our commitment to excellent customer service ensures you get an air conditioner that meets your comfort and budget needs. For professional HVAC services you can trust, please call us today at 866-557-0089.

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