Excessive heat and humidity can make for uncomfortable living conditions. In most areas, an air conditioner really is more of a necessity than a luxury. Finding one that helps you keep your cool during the hottest months can be a challenge given the overwhelming number of styles and models available. Add to that a desire to find a unit that is energy efficient, and the task can seem all but impossible. Understanding the different styles and features offered can help arm you with enough knowledge and confidence to keep your cool during the hottest months and the shopping process.
The first thing to consider is whether or not dehumidification is an important feature in your next air conditioner. If you live someplace humid (like the Deep South), finding a model that removes moisture from the air as it cools it is key. If you live someplace drier (out West, for instance), dehumidification really isn’t necessary; you just need a unit that will cool the air circulating through your home. The problem here is that most manufacturers don’t offer different models for humid and dry climates. It’s worth noting, though, because it means you will want to review and understand how well prospective units handle humidity. Spending more for a unit that’s great at dehumidifying doesn’t make much sense if you live in west Texas, but could be crucial if you live in south Louisiana.
When trying to decide how much cooling power you need, you’ll probably see AC units that measure their cooling capacity in tons. What, exactly, is a ton of cooling power? Believe it or not, it goes back to a time when buildings were cooled by large blocks of ice. One ton of cooling power is equal to the amount of cooling a ton of ice could do in 24 hours. How many tons you should look for really depends on a number of factors. If you live in a climate with extreme heat (whether dry or humid), you’ll need more cooling power than someone who’s summers are less intense because your unit will simply have to work harder to keep up. The size and layout of your home, and even your yard, factor in, too. Two houses with the same square footage in the same climate region might not need the same size unit. A few things that matter in addition to square footage include: volume of air being cooled (high ceilings versus low, for instance); number of windows and how energy efficient they are (how much does direct sunlight coming in through windows affect the temperature in the house); and whether or not you have any trees, shrubs, or other structures shading your house. A qualified retailer or contractor will be able to take info you provide about your home and make a recommendation that fits your needs. If you’re worried about being oversold, it never hurts to ask for a second opinion.
If you’re looking for a central AC system, you have to make sure that your ductwork is sound. Leaks at joints or holes in ducts will greatly decrease energy efficiency and overall performance. Additionally, leaks or gaps in ducts can allow dust, dirt, and even small critters to make their way into your cooling system.
Whatever type of air conditioner you opt to purchase, don’t forget about the filters. Filters remove dust and other particles from the air being cooled. Over time, filters become clogged, which will make your unit less effective despite working harder. How often your filter should be changed depends on conditions in your home. If you live in a drier, dustier area or if you have pets, you might have to change the filter more often than someone with less dust or no pets. Making sure your filters don’t get overloaded keeps the air in your home cleaner in addition to keeping your AC unit working optimally.
Understanding your basic requirements from an new air conditioner is the best first step to making the best investment you can. Air conditioners don’t have to break the bank, but are definitely pricey enough to be worth doing some homework ahead of time. Consider buying the best portable air conditioner model too e.g. for bringing to the porch, entertainment room, lending to your guests, and so on.