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So, here’s a question I get on an almost a daily basis; “What is the difference between these air conditioners?”
Air conditioning systems are a lot like cars in that they have different levels of quality. I can buy a 1974 Ford Pinto or I can buy a 2019 Ferrari. They are both cars, both will get me from point A to point B. This is true of AC systems as well. There are several differences between our Pinto and Ferrari and there will be several differences between a top-of-the-line air conditioner and what I refer to as two shiny boxes that blow cold air.
In this post I’ll spend some time on the things to look at when choosing a new air conditioning system for your home. Let’s start with the basics. For our purposes here, I am only discussing split air conditioning systems typically used in single family homes and condos.
- SEER Rating
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The SEER scale is, depending on the cooling capacity of the unit, anywhere from 14, which is the minimum allowed to be installed per building code, all the way up to a staggering 25 which is as good as it gets in the world of efficiency. The higher the SEER rating the less electricity the unit consumes when operating. Obviously the higher the SEER rating the higher the equipment cost becomes. So, when looking at SEER ratings take into consideration how long you plan to be in the home. If you are moving in the next year or two you won’t be in the home long enough to recoup the additional investment in higher SEER equipment. If you plan on being in the home long-term (10+ years), I recommend going with the highest SEER rating possible.
- The Outdoor Unit
The outdoor piece of an air conditioning system is typically called the condenser. The main difference in outdoor units is how many speeds or stages the compressor in the condensing unit has. Again, this will range from 1 all the way up to 700 depending on the manufacturer. Single stage units are typically lower in SEER rating than the multi-speed units. Multi-speed units also typically offer longer equipment life due to the nature of the way they run and operate. Your friendly neighborhood HVAC tech should be able to discuss, in much greater depth, the operation of the outdoor unit.
- The Indoor Unit
The indoor piece of an air conditioning system is referred to as the air handler. It consists of three main components; the coil, the blower assembly, and here in South Florida a heat strip of some type. An air handler can be single stage which is referred to as constant torque, multi-speed in the air handler blower motor, or the blower motor can be a full variable speed. Your equipment with higher SEER ratings will be the full variable speed variety. The biggest benefit of full variable speed equipment when it comes to a home is the great job it does removing humidity. Variable speed systems tend to have longer run time times with more air movement across the coils, hence more moisture is removed.
The thermostat is the final piece of the puzzle when putting our new air conditioning system together. You can have a very basic digital thermostat that has just the ability to control the temperature within a degree or two of the set point all the way up to the world of smart thermostats that not only control temperature, humidity, but provide you with an outdoor weather forecast, and in some cases, can be utilized to control any smart device in your home. Explore your options to find what fits best for your lifestyle as we have come a long way since the days of the round, mercury-based thermostat of the past.
As always, I haven’t delved as deeply into air conditioning systems as you can go, however I do hope this provides you with a good jumping off point.
Until next time, in the category of things I think about when I can’t sleep, what if Douglas Adams was right and the answer to the universe really is 42?
House Whisperer out!!