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Choosing the Best Central Air System for Your Home

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/7/2007 | Home Improvement

Every year when the temperatures start to rise air conditioner companies get busy as families discover their air conditioning system is not cooling the house down like it did the summer before Those families find themselves in a very difficult predicament, especially if they have never experienced shopping for a reliable company or a good air conditioning unit.

First thing they need to do is learn all they can about what is available. As of this writing a 14 SEER or above is considered best. That number stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The higher the rating the lower the cost of running it.

But that isn't the only thing they need to know. The cooling capacity, which is measured in tons, is another important element in deciding which system to go with.

A good rule of thumb is one ton for every 1,000 square feet in a well-insulated house or one ton for every 400 square feet in a poorly insulated house. It's also necessary to take into account the amount of sunlight hitting the house (trees will help reduce the electric bill), the number of windows facing east and west, and the total area of the exterior walls.

Since it is cheaper to run a smaller air conditioner, having a house that is well insulated, shaded by trees, and that has few or no windows facing east or west will save a family a lot of money. It is also better to have a unit that is a little undersized for the home. Texas A&M University found that undersized units are more efficient and are better at removing moisture than oversized systems.

To spend less on electricity and still be comfortable, here are the things to consider:

1. purchase a unit that is a little undersized for the house
2. one ton for 1,000 square feet in a well-insulated house
3. one ton per 400 square feet in a poorly insulated house
4. plant shade trees on the south and west sides of the house
5. put in double pane windows
6. install a fan in the attic to blow the hot air out
7. get a unit that is rated 14 or more SEER

Yet another thing to consider is the need for a really good filter in the furnace where the air intake is. A dirty system will be unreliable and break down much faster. When investigating which air conditioning company to go with, ask them what filter systems they offer. The better the filter, the cleaner the central air system will remain and the longer it will last.

Finally, if someone in the family requires comfortable temperatures for their health, get a window unit that can act as a back-up for when the central air breaks down. It is a low-cost safety net that can make a big difference if the air conditioner should break down during a heat wave