A lot of factors go into choosing the right size AC unit for your home. It’s one of the most common questions HVAC contractors hear. The answer isn’t as clear-cut as people might imagine. Bigger or more powerful can be just as problematic as an undersized unit. Our tips can help you find the best AC unit for your home.
Why Isn’t Bigger Better?
If you purchase an air conditioning system that’s too small for your home, it will constantly run and never shut off. It’s doing everything possible to cool your home properly. You waste electricity, and the components are always running, so they’re going to wear out faster.
A lot of homeowners know that and choose a unit that’s bigger than they need. The thought is that if it’s too big, it will do the job in less time, which makes it even more efficient. Wrong!
An oversized system is just as detrimental for this reason. When your system is too large, it will turn on and off routinely. These short cycles increase your electricity bill. It also fails to properly cool every area in your home. You’ll end up with hot spots.
There’s another issue with short cycles. While it’s turning on and off frequently, its cycles are not long enough to properly remove humidity from the home. This increases the risk of mold and mildew.
Finding the Right Size
Air conditioners have cooling capacity ratings listed as British thermal units (BTU) per hour. Consumer Reports came out with a quick guide on deciding the best BTU rating for your room. The formula involves taking your total living space in square feet and multiplying it by 20. This is useful for window air conditioners, and it does give you a starting point for other types of air conditioners.
While that formula is easy to use, it’s not fool-proof. You also need to consider ceiling height, whether the room gets a lot of sunlight or is well shaded by trees, how many windows you have, how many people are regularly in the room, and where the kitchen is in comparison to the AC unit.
For a central air conditioning system, a professional contractor should use the Manual J tool to determine the right size. This HVAC tool requires you to answer a few questions first, including:
- What region of Florida are you in?
- How many people live in the home?
- What is your home’s square footage?
- How high are the ceilings?
- How much sun does the house get?
- How many windows and doors are in the home? How well are they insulated and sealed?
- How good is the home’s insulation?
- What rooms are in the home?
Again, you have to consider ceiling heights, the number of people typically in the room, where the kitchen is, if there’s a lot of sun exposure, etc. Rooms with high ceilings take longer to cool than rooms with seven-foot ceilings. If the home has a sunroom or floor-to-ceiling windows without shades, it will drive up the amount the air conditioner runs.
That means you may need a higher BTU to address these factors. You may want to address poor insulation in an attic or around existing ducts before having a new central air conditioning system installed. Energy Star reports that existing ducts that are poorly sealed can lead to efficiency losses of around 30%. Having your ducts restored does a lot to lower your air conditioning bills and ensure your new system has maximum efficiency.
What Are Your Options?
Now that you know what sizes there are, and what they mean in terms of square footage, there are three main types of air conditioners. The type you purchase depends a lot on your budget and needs.
- Room Air Conditioners (Poor Option)
The first is a room air conditioner that you put into your window or a portable model that has an exhaust hose and frame that fits into your window. These aren’t the most efficient air conditioners. If you don’t carefully seal it up in the window, warm air will rush in through small gaps. It wastes electricity. Plus, the unit runs a lot and may not last as long as you hope. Room air conditioners have a general lifespan of about 5 to 10 years, but it can be shorter if the unit runs constantly or you’re not maintaining it and keeping it clean.
- Split-System Air Conditioners
The second is a split-system air conditioner. There’s a single air handler that attaches to an outdoor condenser unit and refrigerant lines. The compressor pumps refrigerant to the condenser where it is cooled, vaporized into liquid, and pushed to the air handler where it returns to a gas, which causes a rapid temperature drop.
It cools the home to the temperature you select on the unit. At the same time, the gas captures heat from the air handler and room and returns it outside. Ducts are unnecessary, but you do need multiple air handlers if you want to cool several rooms.
There are DIY split system air conditioners, but not every person can install them properly. You have to put holes in the interior and exterior walls of your home. For that reason, it’s best to choose a professional AC installer.
Mini-splits usually last 15 to 20 years. Again, it depends on how well you take care of it.
- Packaged Air Conditioner System/Central Air (Best Option for Florida)
If your home has existing ducts, or you’re okay with having ducts installed, a packaged air conditioner system is ideal. The exterior unit has the compressor, condensing coil, and evaporator coil in one. The cooled air goes into ducts where fans push it around the home to ensure all rooms are cooled. Warmed air returns to the outdoor unit to repeat the process.
While the cost may be more, central air conditioning can last 25 years or more. Regular cleanings and maintenance increase the lifespan. You get a lot more for your money with a central air conditioning unit in Florida’s warmer climate.
Benefits To All Year Cooling Installations
Before having a new air conditioning system installed, let an expert at All Year Cooling inspect your ducts. Duct sealing or duct restoration is helpful in eliminating any loss of cooling through leaking ducts. We also offer attic insulation services if you’re losing heat through inadequate insulation in the attic or exterior walls.
Air conditioner warranties vary from one brand to the next, but you want to make sure you’re covered. All Year Cooling offers an Extended Labor Warranty that covers you for ten years for less than $100 a year. This warranty covers an unlimited number of repairs for those ten years. Contact us to find out how it works.
Don’t let worries about having enough cash keep you from cooling your home. You shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable in Florida’s heat.
When you choose All Year Cooling to install your new air conditioner, we help you find the right financing package, if necessary. If one of our bank partners cannot help you, we have an internal financing program that ensures you can work out a suitable payment plan. There is no minimum credit score with All Year Cooling’s internal financing option. Call us to learn more.