Last month we gave you some tips on whether you should consider purchasing a new AC unit. So if you decide it is time, here is some advice on how to go about buying a new system.
- Size. Like Goldilocks in the home of the three bears, you don’t want your unit to be too big or too small…you want it to be just right. Size is measured in British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr) or tons. One ton of cooling equals 12,000 Btu/hr. But size is based on more than the size of your home, such as whether there is a basement, attic, insulation, etc. This evaluation should also include whether your ducts need to be resized or replaced. Your contractor should do a load calculation and advise you on the right size.
- Efficiency. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) measures how much cooling the unit delivers for each watt of electricity. The higher the SEER, the more efficient and the greater the reduction in your energy costs. The government mandates that all units have a SEER rating of at least 13.
- Refrigerant. R-22 refrigerants such as Freon should not be used in new systems. Make sure the unit uses R-401A or a similar approved refrigerant.
- Maintenance. It is a good idea to purchase a service agreement that provides discounts on maintenance and repairs, as well as expedited service in case of emergencies.
- Programmable thermostats. A programmable thermostat can reduce your cooling costs by 20%. There are apps for many controllable thermostats so you can control them through your tablet or phone. Some can even be activated by Amazon Alexa or similar technologies.
- Customer ratings. Check reliable sources for customer references such as Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports or Angie’s List.
- Price. Get at least three bids. The lowest is not the best, especially if there are differences in the SEER rating, maintenance agreements, etc. Also beware of disreputable dealers that will low-ball and then add on.
- Tax credits and rebates. The federal government no longer provides tax credits for residential systems that are Energy Star-rated and aren’t part of a new home build. But Illinois does have a rebate program. Check with your contractor on the availability of rebates.
- Contractor. Make sure you hire an experienced, reliable contractor. Here are some tips: http://www.bishopheating.com/blog/selecting-an-hvac-contractor