Getting the best possible fit for comfort and the investment is important when adding central air to the home. The following questions may be of assistance in making an informed decision to achieve this goal.

1. What type of system is the best choice for this home?

Would a split system that provides both heating and cooling options be a good choice? This type could provide a secondary source of heat in colder climates or the primary one in warmer locales. Another factor to consider is whether to purchase a cooling system with higher than the minimum required 13 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, SEER, rating and heat pump with higher than the minimum 7.7 Heating Season Performance Factor, HSPF. Energy Star models with HSPF ratings greater than 8.2 and SEER ratings above 14.5 will require a larger initial investment, but will cost less to operate. An air conditioning professional can provide estimated annual operating costs for the different systems. From this, the approximate total lifetime investments in the units can be calculated to determine which would be more cost effective.

2. What size unit will be right for the home?

Both too large and too small can result in the inability to maintain proper temperature and humidity. Consulting an air conditioning professional for a load calculation evaluation or doing some research can yield answers to the capacity needed and proper air distribution for the home. Some factors to consider are; how well insulated it is, size of the home, where it is located, and how it sits in relationship to prevailing climatic factors.

3. Is there pre-existing ductwork in the home?

If so, is it compatible with the planned central air system? Already having ductwork could save money, but this is not always the case. Ask an air conditioning professional to access the existing ductwork and determine its compatibility with the new system, adequacy and condition. If problems with the ductwork are uncovered, can these be repaired or would it be better to replace it with ductwork that will enable the system to operate more efficiently?

4. Is the house adequately insulated? Are doors and windows properly sealed and fitted?

In addition to higher or lower energy costs, the answers to these questions may enable the homeowner to purchase a smaller unit if the house is sufficiently weather proofed.

5. Is a central air conditioning system really necessary? What about smaller units?

Mini split systems and window units are available, of course. However, although cheaper to purchase and install, they may be more expensive to operate. In addition, they will not cool the house evenly.

6. Does the system come with guarantees and a warranty? What do the guarantee and warranty cover and for how long? What is not covered?

7. What about an extended warranty?

In addition to asking what the warranty covers and the length of service, the cost of the warranty should be ascertained.

8. Is a maintenance agreement necessary? What services are included in the agreement and what will it cost?

The homeowner may do some maintenance themselves, such as keeping the outside unit clean and preventing obstructions to the flow of air to and from the system. However, lubrication of moving parts, checking the refrigerant charge, inspecting the system for wear and examining the ductwork for leaks are some of the tasks best done by professionals. Therefore, a check should be made to be sure there is a qualified service professional in the area that services the type of unit to be installed.

9. When is the best time of year to purchase and install a new system?

Prices are generally lower and installers will have ample time to assist in selection of the best system and options for a particular home during the off-season. On the other hand, if temperatures are already soaring and conditions in the house are sweltering, choosing to install a system as soon as possible may be the choice preferred by many.

Answers to the above questions will help identify the type and size of the central air conditioning unit best suited for a specific home so that temperature and humidity will be controlled evenly and efficiently.

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