Summer is almost upon us, and that means your home is going to start getting hotter. Air conditioning units can be very expensive, and picking out one that will work well is not always easy. How much will it cost to run your new AC unit? Are you allowed window units in your home? We’re here to help you navigate the confusing world of air conditioning and cooling.
The first and most important point is to find a unit that will fit your space properly. Air conditioners that are not powerful enough could leave you with a greatly inflated energy bill and a home that isn’t cool enough. Units that are too powerful will cool your space too quickly, which is still a bad thing because they won’t remove the humidity, so your house will get cool yet clammy. You could end up with a condensation problem, and the rapid cycling of the air conditioning equipment could shorten its useful life span.
Another consideration is energy efficiency. You want a unit with a good Energy Efficiency Ratio. The EER describes how well a cooling system will work when the temperature outside is around 95 degrees. The best systems have an Energy Star label, which shows that they are more efficient than the standards set by the government. Of course, to get the most out of your unit, even if it is energy efficient, you will need to make sure that your property is properly sealed and well insulated.
Here are a few tips for choosing an air conditioning unit that will work well in your property.
CENTRAL AIR UNITS
The most popular cooling system used in the United States is a central air conditioning unit. More than 75 percent of household cooling systems are central air based ones. However, homeowners in New York City tend not to have central air units.
There’s a simple reason for that. The building stock in the city is much older than that of most large US cities, with around 75 percent of buildings having been constructed before the 1960. This means that when the apartments were built, central air conditioning was not mainstream. It is hard to retrofit an older apartment block with central air because it requires installing a condenser outside the building, and fitting a fan and coil system and ducts inside. That takes up space in already cramped apartments and can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor.
Even if you, as an apartment owner, are willing to fit a central air system and give up the space required for it, the owner of the building may refuse permission for you to fit the condenser on the roof. The cost of getting ducktwork installed in the apartment could be staggeringly expensive. Even in the simplest scenarios where there is no requirement to have pipes run through a neighbor’s property, the cost for installing a whole-house system could be as much as $15,000 according to prices reported on TrustedPros.ca.
There’s another downside to central air systems. Many of them do not have per-room control, so cooling the bedroom while you’re asleep would require cooling the rest of the house too. The trade-off is that the ducts and mechanical components are hidden within the walls, so this type of air conditioning system is discreet and won’t ruin your home’s decor.
So, think carefully before you invest in a central air system. Make sure that it has a good seasonal energy efficiency ratio, so that you can be confident that over the course of the summer it will work well for you. Choose an installer that you trust to come up with a good and efficient plan for the ductwork – one that will minimize not just costs, but also ‘wasted’ space. In addition, budget for the costs of getting the filter changed and the coils cleaned so that the system works well. If it is well maintained, central air is quiet, efficient, and a convenient option.
DUCTLESS MINI-SPLIT AIR-CONDITIONING
If you can’t get central air in your apartment, another good option is ductless mini-split systems. These are wall mounted, and operated by a remote control. They will still need an outdoor compressor, but the need for ductwork is removed. The system uses refrigerant that circulates through tubes that connect the indoor unit to the compressor.
These units are less discreet than central air but they are very efficient, and offer per-unit control. The systems don’t just provide cooling, they offer heating too. They’re also less expensive, with costs starting at $1,800 and running up to about $7,000 for a 2,000 square foot property. The more walls you want worked with, the more expensive the installation will be. These units need annual maintenance, just like central air systems do.
WINDOW AIR CONDITIONING UNITS
The least expensive systems are window units. These are rapidly increaing in popularity because they are so affordable. Lowe’s offers units starting at $129 for a very small room, and reaching $599 for a 1,600 square foot space. To work out what size you need, measure the room and work out the total square footage. Check Energy Star to get the BTU (British Thermal Units) per hour rating required to effectively cool a room of that size.
Size is not the only factor. Sun exposure and occupancy also matter. If the room is heavily shaded, decrease the BTU requirement by ten percent. If the room frequently has more than two people in it, increase the BTU rating by 600 per person. Add 4,000 BTUs to the requirement for a kitchen, to account for use of appliances.