Air Conditioner Buying Guide

Senior couple playing a board game
Note the Noise
Models that scored excellent or very good in our noise tests are so quiet that the only sound you might hear is the fan running. Air conditioners that scored fair for noise could disturb light sleepers when the setting is on low, and are distracting to all when set on high.

Factor In the Window Location
Window air conditioners generally do a better job blowing air in one direction. That can be a problem if your window isn’t centered on the wall. To uniformly cool a room, you’ll need to direct air to its center, so check whether your A/C needs to blow air to the right or to the left. Some have fan arms that swivel.

Install It Correctly
To get the most from your window air conditioner it must be properly installed. Most units are intended for double-hung windows. If you have casement windows, you may want to consider a through-the-wall air conditioner. Make sure your window unit is level so that it drains correctly. And move any heat-generating devices such as a TV or lamp away from the unit.


Choosing the Right Refrigerant

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Types of Refrigerant

Freon (R-22) refrigerant was used in most air conditioning models until it was discovered to be destructive to the Ozone layer. The EPA recently ordered that it be phased out.

Luckily, there are a few other refrigerant options to choose from. They include:

R-410A – Also known as Puron, R-410A has been approved for new air conditioning systems and doesn’t contribute to the destruction of the Ozone layer. It does, however, operate at a higher pressure than Freon, so your system will need to have components in place to handle this increase.

R-407C – This refrigerant is also environmentally friendly, and it is closest to Freon as far as operating goes. It does, however, carry a lower overall efficiency due to its lower pressures. R-407C features a high-glide, meaning that there is a high difference between evaporating and condensing temperatures.

R-134a – This refrigerant is widely used throughout the world and does not contribute to ozone depletion. It is also a no-glide refrigerant and was the first environmentally friendly refrigerant to be widely commercialized.

Now that you know the different types of refrigerant, which should you choose?

Well, it all depends on your system. Overall, most technicians recommend using R-410A because of its high efficiency and performance while still remaining environmentally friendly. However, it is mostly designed for newer air conditioners and parts—an older model will not likely be able to handle the higher pressure.

If you have an older system and aren’t on the market for a new one, it may be better to use R-407C or another option that more closely resembles the operating of R-22 despite the high-glide and lower efficiency overall. It’s important to note that choosing refrigerant that does not match your system’s capabilities can damage parts or cause the refrigerant to leak.


Choosing the Best HVAC System For Your Home


Choosing an HVAC system is not an easy task, but factors like climate and home layout can help you decide which is best for your home. Let’s take a look at the four major types of HVAC systems and the advantages of each one.

1. Standard Split Systems

Standard split systems can be configured in several ways to give you more options: furnace and A/C, heat pump split systems and hybrid (or dual fuel) heat systems. Standard split systems continue to be the most affordable and most popular type of HVAC system. If one component needs to be replaced, a new one can be easily installed without any major changes to the existing ductwork or other components.

2. Ductless Split Systems

If your home doesn’t have any ductwork or you’re building on an additional room, a ductless split system (or mini-split system) may be the way to go. This type of system has an air conditioner or a heat pump outside and a fan to distribute the air on the inside. These systems are very efficient and have the option of zone climate control, but they aren’t made for cold climates because a ductless split system cannot host a furnace.


4 Critical Parts of an Air Conditioning Unit

Two workers on the roof of a building working on the air conditioning unit.

Having a basic understanding of what parts make up your air conditioner and how those parts work together can help you better identify a problem or determine if your AC is running as efficiently as it should.

There are obviously more than four parts that make up your air conditioner, but so as not to overwhelm you, these are the four critical ones you should know about: the evaporator, condenser, compressor, and expansion valve.

The evaporator is located in the cold side of the air conditioner. Its main function is to receive liquid refrigerant and turn it into gas, which then cools and dehumidifies the air. The gas absorbs all of the heat from the air and takes it to the condenser.

The condenser is the counterpart to the evaporator and is located in the hot side of the air conditioner. It functions to bring that hot, condensed refrigerant gas back outside to vent the heat and turn the refrigerant back into a liquid form.

The compressor is a big electric pump that works with the condenser to turn the refrigerant back to liquid. It does this by pressurizing the refrigerant gas. The compressor is also located in the hot side of the air conditioner with the condenser.

Expansion Valve:
The expansion valve works with the evaporator, but is usually located in-between the evaporator and condenser. Its job is to regulate how much liquid refrigerant is moving into the evaporator, where it then changes into gas.

Knowing these four main parts of your air conditioner and how they function can often help you figure out where the source of the problem might be if your A/C is not working properly. Some initial investigation gives you the ability to decide if the issue is something that needs immediate attention by a professional A/C repairman or not.


What is the Best Central Air Conditioner Brand?


Residential Central Air Conditioning Units On Cement Slab

What if your central air conditioner broke down or wasn’t performing? You would call an HVAC contractor to advise you if replacement is necessary and if it is, which brand is best to purchase. That would be the wise thing to do since you don’t know yourself. The contractor is the expert since you may not be able to reach the manufacturer directly for the appropriate solution. In that case, the recommendation should come from the middleman who is the HVAC contractor. You could rely on reviews and testimonials from customers who have purchased the product, but they don’t have hands-on experience and knowledge of the makeup of the air conditioner unit and what it takes to operate it.

The Most Popular

While several brands of air conditioner units exist, most of them are manufactured by a handful of well-known companies and not necessarily a wide range of companies. The most popular brands of air conditioner units are:

  • Carrier
  • Trane
  • Lennox
  • Goodman
  • Rheem
  • York
  • Maytag and Westinghouse