Air Conditioner Buyers Guide

With new innovations in efficiency, now is one of the most exciting times to purchase a new AC unit for your home. This guide will help you select the best AC for your needs based on quality, efficiency, performance, and value.Consider these factors before you begin to shop. They will help you identify what’s important to you, and what’ you’re willing to forego.

Efficiency: Central ACs are more efficient than ever, with several units in the 20+ SEER range. Most homeowners replacing an old model will increase efficiency by 60 to 120 percent, which also means big savings on energy bills. For example, if you replace a 10 SEER model with an 18 SEER model, expect to increase efficiency by 80 percent. Modulating models (see Performance below) are the most efficient followed by two-stage models and finally, single-stage models, which are the least efficient. Modulating units are the most expensive and single-stage are the most affordable.

  • Modulating units: 20+ SEER
  • Two-Stage units: 16 SEER-20 SEER
  • Single-stage units: 13 SEER-17 SEER

Performance:Modulating units have the best performance. They allow the unit to run on 40 to 100 percent capacity, adjusting in one percent increments. This allows for longer, gentler cooling cycles that create more balance in temperature and remove more humidity. These units have very little temperature fluctuation and remove more humidity through condensing it and draining it away. Modulating units are extremely efficient but do require a variable-speed blower. These models are quite pricey, but that will change with time. Single-stage air conditioners offer simple on/off functionality that may cause noticeable temperature fluctuations. They don’t remove humidity as well, run at full capacity all the time, and are louder. They are much less expensive.

Quality: Quality doesn’t vary much across the board. Top brands are only slightly better than most others. There are a few “bargain” brands that do appeal to cost-conscious consumers.

Please note that when it comes to quality, installation is key. Choose an installer based on the quality of their work, not their labor costs. Be sure to get at least three written estimates before deciding on an installer. Choose a qualified contractor with experience and skill.  When properly installed, you’ll get better durability, efficiency, and performance from your unit.

Budget: What’s more important to you, up-front costs or saving money of future energy bills?

Climate: If you live in a climate with mild summers, don’t pick the most efficient AC unit because it will probably take 5 to 10 years to recoup the costs. If you do live in a climate with hot summers, a unit with SEER of 18+ will serve you well. An inefficient AC in a hot climate will produce unnecessarily high energy costs.

Go Green: If lowering your carbon footprint is the goal, purchase the most efficient unit or system you can afford, regardless of climate. In sunny regions, consider the Lennox Signature Series ACs which are equipped to use with Lennox SunSource solar modules.