Central Air Conditioning Systems: A Beginner’s Guide

central air conditioning systems, HVAC

If recent  memories of warm days and air conditioning breakdowns resulting in sweltering indoor temperatures are fresh, now’s the time to make plans that’ll guarantee you keep your cool during the next heat wave. In the market for a central air conditioning system? Whether you’re due to replace an existing system or arrange a first-time installation, there’s quite a bit to consider.

Here’s where to begin:

Go with a pro. Though a seasoned do-it-yourselfer with a seemingly simple home layout may be tempted to take on the installation of central air conditioning systems, it’s definitely best left in the hands of a pro. A qualified HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technician has the experience and resources to properly evaluate a home’s air conditioning needs and structural challenges, recommend right-sized equipment, and handle the accompanying installations and adjustments.

They’re also bound by environmental and professional codes and concerns. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), a nonprofit association with the goal of bringing quality HVAC pros and homeowners together, offers helpful advice and an online contractor locator for your planning convenience.

Get a system that’s a perfect fit for your home. Proper sizing of central air conditioning systems is critical: if it’s too small, it won’t sufficiently cool your home, and if it’s too large, you’ll wind up with a constant racket and too-frequent cycling (turning on and off) that wastes energy and wears out the equipment.

To get to this point, an experienced contractor will go beyond knowledge of the basic square footage of your home to a load calculation that accounts for the heat gain to which it’s subject. This number takes into account such items as the amount, type and placement of windows, location and extent of insulation, and even the orientation of your home in relation to the sun; it can also assist in recommendations for efficiency improvements that’ll help you get the most out of your new system.

Prevent ductwork drains on efficiency. As part of your investment in a cooler home, all ductwork for central air conditioning systems should be properly sealed with metal-backed tape or mastic followed by an insulation wrap. Your contractor may also need to extend your duct system to reach new registers and grilles placed in previously uncool rooms.

Know when to replace existing equipment (hint: before it gives out). If your existing air conditioner is more than 10 years old, it’s time to start thinking about a replacement. Usage patterns and equipment condition will affect the exact timing of a breakdown, but you definitely don’t want to wait until that moment comes.

Also remember that it’s no big savings to replace only part of the machinery: all components in a central AC system are designed, manufactured and calibrated to work together for optimum performance and efficiency, and piecing together existing and new equipment will usually give you the opposite result.

Put it all together and your be able to select a properly sized, properly priced central air conditioning cooling system  that is perfect to keep your home cool and your budget comfortable.

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