How to be Smart About Your Next AC Unit Purchase
We can safely assume that every home in Arizona comes with an air conditioner just as surely as it comes with four walls and a roof. However, AC units have limited lifespans, which means longtime homeowners of Phoenix will likely have to replace their system at least once in a lifetime.
But, before calling an air conditioning repair service, do a bit of research. Or, let us do it for you! Here’s what we know about the best way to choose an air conditioner.
Five things to consider:
- Up front budget – The smallest, cheapest air conditioner you can find will run you around $200. Anything cheaper should be treated with very low expectations if not utter fear. The best systems can cost anywhere from $3000 – $7000, depending on the size of the building and if it has existing ductwork.
- Home size – If you are a family living in a 2,000 square foot home, a central system is a great option for cooling the whole house at once. Smaller homes can easily get by with a ductless mini split system that works for controlling air temperatures in each room individually.
- Rent or own? – Landlords may work with you if your rental needs a replacement system, whereas if you own, it’s entirely up to you!
- Long term budget – Thinking about long-term costs should be a huge factor when considering new AC systems. Some systems are costly to install but are so energy efficient, they have the potential of offsetting the costs within a year or two. Conversely, the easiest system to install could significantly increase your utility bill. Take a look at the last year or two of cooling costs, and make sure you’re moving in the right direction in terms of long-term costs.
- Unit size and aesthetic preferences – Some homeowners would rather not see their air conditioner, which takes ductless mini splits out of the running. Outdoor ducted units are great for this reason, as they are completely hidden behind walls, under floors, in ceilings, and the condenser itself is placed in an inconspicuous location either near the foundation or on the roof.
Quick Comparison: Air Conditioner Systems
|Initial Cost||Average System Lifespan||Yearly Energy Cost||Ideal For|
|Ducted Split System||$3,000 – $6,000 (Varies widely depending on home size and existing systems)||12-25 Years||$477 per year on average||Detached homes and offices|
|Ductless Mini Splits||$1,900 – $2,100||15-30 years||$600 per year on average||Small homes and condos|
|Packaged Central Air||$5,000 – $4,000 (Varies widely depending on home size and existing systems)||12-15years||$400-$500 per year||Detached homes and offices|
SEER: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio
Projecting prices of air conditioning systems is tricky because of the countless variables regarding home size, climate, and usage. So, take costs and efficiency ratings lightly until you factor in your specific circumstances. One term you’ll see used a lot is “SEER”. This rating is calculated by dividing the system’s total cooling output over the course of a season (measured in BTUs, or, British Thermal Units) by the total energy used during that same period.
For reference, a home in a hot, humid climate should use a system rated at least 15. Arizona residents are advised to use a system with a SEER rating of at least 14. If you have an older system (rated around 10 SEER) and are not sure whether upgrading will make any difference in long-term cost, consider that upgrades typically save users around 35% annually.
If you’re looking for more ways to save, check with your local utility company for rebates on new systems that meet energy efficiency standards. Most will offer significant discounts and incentives on installation, and some even provide financing on approved systems. Find out more about SEER ratings.