Adding central air conditioning to your home means a new level of comfort for you and your family. If your home has a forced-air heating system, the installation can be done in less than a day utilizing existing duct work. However, unlike other major home improvement projects, installing central air conditioning is not a do-it-yourself job. Because the installation of central air involves the handling of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) that damage the ozone layer, installation must be done by a qualified installer. What does that mean? It means the installer is certified by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Be sure to get the estimate in writing and check references. If the installation is not done properly, you’re going to have a problem.
When you call in an installer for an estimate, he/she is going to gather the following information about your home:
- Approximate square footage
- One or two stories
- Age of home
- Number of openings (windows and doors)
- Amount of insulation
- Age of furnace
Know your SEER
All of these factors can affect the efficiency rating of the central air conditioning system. Your objective is to get maximum cooling comfort for the least cost. How high an efficiency rated A/C system do you need? The efficiency rating of air conditioning systems is measured by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system, and the lower the cost to operate. What size system do you need? A rough estimate is one ton (12,000 BTUs) of air conditioning per 1,000 square feet of house.
After determining the tonnage your home requires, then, it’s a matter of choosing a unit with the appropriate SEER rating. In the upstate New York area, SEER 10 is the most frequently installed unit.
Efficiency ratings have steadily improved, and today you’ll probably install a unit with less tonnage than ten years ago. However, you do need to consider the style of house when selecting the unit. An older colonial style home of 1500 square feet with minimal insulation requires a more powerful air conditioning system than a comparable newer home. In a two-story house, the difference in temperature between the first and second floor can be as much as 10 degrees. Installing an attic fan can help. By removing the heat that builds up in the attic, your A/C unit won’t have to work as hard. To help get the cool air up to the second floor, you can close off the first floor vent dampers. Just be sure to remember to open them when the weather turns cold.
Count your openings
Other factors that affect the size of AC unit needed are the number of windows. The more openings you have, the harder the AC is going to have to work to keep the house cool. The same is true of an older furnace (20 years or more). A qualified installer should take all these factors into consideration. A reputable heating & cooling contractor should be willing to tell you if it’s impractical to add air conditioning to your home using the existing heating system. There has been a lot of improvement in the efficiency of furnaces over the last 20 years, so it might be possible to put in a totally new heating/cooling system and keep your energy costs around the same as when running the old furnace alone.
Total family comfort!
Running an A/C system usually means some increase in energy costs, and installing central air might seem like a luxury. However, once you put it in your home, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. At last you can work, relax, or sleep comfortably through all those hot muggy summer days and nights.