Central Air Installation Costs and Best Units


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Whether summers are really getting hotter or we’ve lost our tolerance for heat as we grow older, lots of us are tempted to yank out noisy, dripping window air conditioners and replace them with quiet, efficient whole-house central-air-conditioning systems.

We don’t think this idea is worth further consideration. For those of you who have forced-air furnaces ducts, it is likely that any modification to the heating system will prove costly and inefficient. If you don’t already have ducts in place, it’s hard to imagine how they could be added without costing the house a lot. Central air is much easier and cheaper than you might imagine.

What is the cost to install central air?

Central air can be added to an existing forced heating system for $3,500-$4,000. It is usually done by two technicians in less than three days.

The cost and time required to install ductwork in a house will double. A contractor who is skilled in retrofitting can hide ductwork behind walls or in closets, and even up in the attic. There are very few cuts to the ceiling and very minimal mess.

How to Choose the Best Central Air Unit

Selecting the right equipment is the first and most important step in installing central air conditioners in your home.

Heat-gain calculation

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual J load calculation is a must for all cooling contractors. This calculates how much heat loss your house is exposed to. This calculation is easy and will tell you how big a unit you need. If the contractor you are considering is not able to calculate the size unit that will work best for your home based on their experience, it’s time to move on. Although your location is a strong influence on the size of the unit, there are many factors that affect it. These include the type and placement of windows, doors, and wall insulation, as well as the orientation of the home to the sun. This calculation will also show you the potential benefits of upgrading your insulation. You may be able reduce the size of your air conditioner by making your home more efficient.

What size central air unit is required?

These steps will help you determine how large a central air system is required for the size of your home.

Size the unit

Your contractor will use the heat-gain calculation to recommend an air conditioner size. This can be expressed in either Btu per hour (Btu/h) or tonnage. One ton equals 12,000 Btu/hour. What is the importance of choosing the right size unit?

A smaller unit will not be able cool the rooms completely during the hottest days. It will also cost more to operate as it must run for longer than a properly sized unit. A compressor that is too large will cost more to run because it requires more electricity. An oversized unit won’t reduce humidity effectively. It cools the air so fast that it shuts down before it has had a chance for the air to circulate past the coils and extract the moisture. This results in a room that isn’t as cool as it appears. The room can actually feel damp and clammy.

Unit efficiency

After you have determined the size of your unit, your contractor will talk to you about efficiency. This is measured by the seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER). The SEER is a measure of how many Btu your air conditioner will use for every watt of electricity consumed. The SEER rating is a measure of how much it costs to run.

Federal law requires new A/C units to have a minimum SEER of 13. These units are more cost-effective, offer better quality, lower operating costs, and have lower requirements for voltage. The SEER is generally higher than the unit’s initial cost.

Types of units

The next step is to decide which type of system you want. There are two types. There are two types. The “package system” groups the condenser which cools the refrigerant, and exhales warm air, with fan-and-coil which cools and blows air. The unit is connected to the ducting via a ducting. It is basically a large wall-mounted air conditioner with ducts. Package systems are uncommon.

Split systems have the condenser outside and fan-and-coil inside. They are connected by refrigerant-carrying pipes. The refrigerant pipes connected to the furnace’s cooling coil are used if you have a forced air furnace.

Sometimes, it can be used in the existing plenum. The contractor may fabricate a separate sheet metal plenum if that doesn’t work due to space constraints. The fan-and-coil system can be placed in your attic if you don’t have forced-air. It will then deliver cool air through ducts. The refrigerant is carried in pipes 20-30 feet long. They are disguised as a downspout.

Proper placement

Even the quietest condensers can make a lot of noise. Work with your contractor to locate a location far from a bedroom or home office window. The condenser will exhaust warm air from the top if it is placed under decks or enclosed completely. The unit’s efficiency will be affected if there is an obstruction to airflow. However, you can conceal the condenser by placing it in your landscaping as long as there is airflow around it.

No Ducts No problem

Split systems are common in central air conditioners. The fan-and-coil is located inside and the condenser is out. Pipes run up to the exterior of the house connecting to the condenser. You can disguise the pipes as part of your gutter-and-downspout systems. Ceiling registers are used to service second-floor rooms with ductwork. On their way to the first floor, ducts pass through closets.

Delivering the Air

Air-conditioning can be done with furnace ducts that heat air in the cold months.