Finding the best air conditioner for your Portland, OR home will help you get the greatest possible value from your new cooling equipment. Most residential air conditioners last between 15 and 20 years. Thus, the unit that you install today will still be your primary cooling solution more than a decade later. The following are several factors to consider as you shop your options in AC models.
Explore Different Cooling Equipment Types
Most modern homes are built with the HVAC ducting that’s necessary for supporting central air conditioning. Unfortunately, if you have an older home or a newer property that lacks these additions, you’ll need to retrofit the building with air ducts post-construction. These projects can be costly, complex, and all-around inconvenient. Moreover, ductwork that’s installed after a home has already been built tends to be both difficult to conceal and less efficient. Exposed ducting is prone to heat loss during winter, heat gains in the summer, and structural damage in high-traffic areas.
The good news is that ductless mini-split systems provide reliable, whole-house cooling without the need for ducting. Much like central air conditioners, these systems have outdoor condenser/compressor units and indoor air handlers. Installing a ductless mini-split system is far less invasive than retrofitting an older home with ductwork. Ductless mini-split systems also offer impressive levels of efficiency.
Whether opting for a central, ducted cooling system or a mini-split system that doesn’t require ducting at all, you can also choose between standard air conditioners and heat pumps. During the summer months, heat pumps and ACs are functionally identical. In winter, homeowners can set their heat pumps or mini-split heat pumps to operate in reverse. Rather than harnessing and transferring warm air out of homes, these units can bring warm outdoor air in. Opting to install a heat pump or a ductless mini-split heat pump will give you the benefit of year-round heating and cooling, less equipment to maintain, and a smaller carbon footprint. You can work with our licensed HVAC company at Apollo Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning to find out which cooling system type is best for your budget and your home.
Hire an HVAC Company That Uses the Manual J Load Calculation for AC Sizing
When choosing air conditioners, some homeowners base their selections solely upon square footage. Air conditioner sizes refer to the cooling power of individual units. The cooling output of an AC is measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units, and most homes need systems with about 20 to 25 BTUs for every square foot of livable area. There are many online charts, sizing guides, and other tools that consumers can use to estimate their requirements for cooling capacity.
Unfortunately, choosing your air conditioner on your own could leave you with cooling equipment that’s far too large or far too small for your intended service area. When licensed HVAC companies determine the best AC sizes for their clients, they use a complex calculation known as the Manual J Load Calculation. The Manual J accounts for ceiling heights, insulation amounts, building layouts, the number of household residents, and many other pertinent factors. This calculation provides greater insight into the actual cooling needs of homes, and it ensures that homeowners aren’t investing in cooling equipment that will always underperform.
If you buy an air conditioner that’s too large for your living space, the unit will never run a complete cooling cycle. Overly large air conditioners cycle on and then rapidly cycle back off. This results in insufficient cooling and poor humidity regulation. Conversely, undersize air conditioners run nearly nonstop. Worse still, they’re rarely able to create the indoor conditions that homeowners want. Improperly sized air conditioners also have significantly shorter life spans and frequent repair issues throughout their lifetimes.
Consider SEER Ratings and Their Impact on Operating Costs
The SEER rating of an air conditioner or its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Reporting value is the ratio of its cooling output over a complete season to the total amount of energy that it consumes throughout this time. SEER ratings give homeowners an idea of how much energy their new air conditioners will use, and how much they’ll ultimately cost over time. Higher SEER ratings denote higher levels of efficiency. They also qualify homeowners for some pretty impressive incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
All air conditioners throughout the nation are required to have SEER ratings of at least 14. The latest air conditioners and heat pumps are labeled with both SEER and SEER2 ratings. The SEER2 rating system also compares cooling output to energy use, but it additionally accounts for the impact of static pressure and other factors related to residential air delivery/distribution systems. Our HVAC technicians can help you find the right SEER rating for your efficiency goals and your budget.
Target SEER Ratings That Match Your AC Use
Choosing an air conditioner with higher SEER and SEER2 ratings will lower your energy use and give you the benefit of affordable AC operation. However, units with the highest possible SEER ratings typically have the highest up-front costs. Targeting these options only makes sense when homeowners use their air conditioners often and regularly set their thermostats lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a secondary cooling strategy for your home such as a whole-house fan, you may want to target options with average SEER ratings and far more moderate prices.
Check for Quiet Operation and Convenient Features and Functions
It’s also important to ensure that your new AC provides the level of convenience you want and need. If you’re extremely sensitive to noise, look for an air conditioner that offers whisper-quiet operation. This way, you won’t have to worry about being jolted awake each time a cooling cycle starts.
There are air conditioners with remote controls that have built-in nightlights for nighttime visibility. These eliminate the need to physically cross the room to turn your cooling system off and on. They’re perfect for homeowners who want the ability to adjust their indoor temperatures from their sofas or beds.
You can also look for AC models with variable fan speeds, particulate filters, and other efficiency-related or air improvement features. There are even models that can accommodate central HVAC system zoning. With the right central AC type, you can have your home divided into multiple service areas and install a separate thermostat in each. This setup allows building residents to cool their immediate areas independently of outside zones. It also eliminates the need to air condition spaces that no one is actively using.
Ask About AC Warranties
Most air conditioners and heat pumps come with five-year manufacturer warranties. These agreements cover the costs of all AC replacements and repairs that are the result of defective components or manufacturing. However, you may find that some product warranty terms are more agreeable than others or that certain product warranties last a bit longer. It’s also important to note that choosing an undersize or oversize AC, installing your air conditioner on your own, or failing to perform basic maintenance can automatically void any manufacturer protections you get.
We proudly serve residents of Portland, and surrounding areas. We offer heating, cooling, and indoor air quality services, including those for ductless mini-splits. We also provide drain cleaning and a full line of plumbing installation, inspection, and repair. If you need help finding the right air conditioner for your home, just give our experts at Apollo Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning a call!