How to Choose a Replacement Central Air Conditioner
LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is getting ready for the warm weather and looking to buy an A/C. How can we help?
DON: Yes. My central air conditioner is 22 years old and we’ve been doing a lot of looking on the internet. All the air conditioners are good; all the air conditioners are bad. How do you choose the right – a good one?
TOM: Mm-hmm. Very simple. Right now, what you want to do is choose one that qualifies for the federal energy tax credit. And the reason I say that is because that’s the highest efficiency standard right now. Not only will you get a good-quality air conditioner that’s very efficient, you will also qualify for the tax credit, which can refund you up to $1,500 off of the taxes you’ll owe the government in 2011, if you buy it before the end of 2010.
So as long as you stick to the Energy Star models that qualify for the federal tax credit, I think you’ll be assured of getting a good-quality unit.
DON: OK. And another thing what they’re doing – they’re pushing a heat pump over central air and we already have forced natural gas.
TOM: Well, you don’t need a heat pump then. The only reason you would get a heat pump is if you had electric heat and you wanted to spend a little bit less and a heat pump is going to be less expensive than straight electric heat. But if you already have a gas furnace, I would not get rid of …
LESLIE: Which is affordable and very good.
TOM: Yeah. I would not get rid of natural gas to install a heat pump. No way, no how.
DON: Well, that’s the – actually, they said they could tie it in where the heat pump could actually ride …
TOM: Why would you want to supplement a less-expensive heating source with a more expensive …?
LESLIE: With a more expensive.
DON: Well, that’s what we were trying to figure out.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Plus, here’s what you – here’s what they don’t tell you about heat pumps. As a matter of fact, Leslie just learned this because she’s got one in her basement right now.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah. I mean, totally.
TOM: Heat pumps don’t put out heat at the same temperature a gas furnace puts out heat. So, while the gas furnace may put out heat at, say, 115 degrees/120 degrees on the dot …
LESLIE: And you feel it and it’s all nice and toasty.
LESLIE: You stand next to the heat pump and you’re like, “Why is cool air coming out of here? It’s supposed to be warm.”
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. And the truth is it’s not really cool but it’s more like 90, 95 degrees, so it feels cool to you. So, I would never replace a gas furnace with a heat pump. I would just get a real efficient, central air conditioning unit.
You know who makes a really good one is Trane. T-r-a-n-e. Take a look at those and again, buy one that qualifies for the tax credit. All the manufacturers today will tell you which models qualify for the tax credit. But do it now, before the end of the year, because this is not going to be around forever. These tax credits are going to run out as fast as the clunker program did.
LESLIE: And you know what? When you’re shopping for an installer, make sure that they help you do all of that paperwork and research and get all of what you need to hand to the accountant, together. Because when we put in the central A/C, our guy handed us a booklet at the end and was like, “Here’s everything you need. Please give this to your accountant.” It made it completely easy.
DON: OK. OK. Well, that’s plenty to know. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Don. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.