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Your Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide

Repairman installing air conditioner and giving thumbs-up

From the shingles you use to the type of faucets installed around your house, a lot goes into being a homeowner. And, while a fan or an open window can work wonders in a mild climate, you won’t want to forego something more robust if the temperature’s hot.

If you live in an area with a lot of sun in the summertime, a quality air conditioner is one more thing you’ll need to consider for your home!

And, since this can be an expensive purchase, knowing what to look for and what you can expect is important. Luckily, we’ve put together this handy air conditioner buying guide that can help you choose the right unit for your home.

For all your HVAC-related concerns in the Los Angeles area, be sure to reach out to the trusted professionals at SoCal Green HVAC.

Types of Air Conditioners

Knowing which type of air conditioner will work for your home is the key to making the right choice. After all, ensuring that it functions efficiently and effectively is all about having the right-sized unit. Learn more about the most common types so you can make an informed decision!

Infographic explaining how a central air conditioning system works

1. Central Air Conditioning

When people talk about air conditioners, they’re most commonly referring to what’s known as central air conditioning. This type of air conditioning is popular because it can cool even large family homes with ease.

A central air conditioning system functions by enabling the flow of cool air through supply and return ducts. These supply ducts, which provide the cooled air, are located in a number of spots throughout the home. Most likely, they’ll be found in walls and on floors.

After cool air is distributed and it becomes warm, it will flow back into the supply ducts and return to the central air conditioning unit. Then, the process begins all over again to continue cooling the air.

Before you check off the list of your central air conditioner buying guide, it’s important to ensure your unit is the right size. A unit that is too small will have to work harder to circulate air, which means your system won’t be energy efficient.

2. Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner

This type of A/C differs from the more common type of central air conditioning. Instead of a single unit that blows air through vents and ducts, a ductless mini-split air conditioner works by blowing cooled air into one room or area.

For this type of system, you’ll require an indoor unit with a coil and blower fan. You’ll also need an outdoor unit with a compressor, coil, and fan. The indoor unit will be located in one main area and affords a pretty simple installation process because it’s ductless.

While this type of unit may not be ideal for a larger home, it is perfect if you’re looking to cool individual rooms instead of the whole house. You’ll be able to adjust the temperature for each room depending on its purpose.

And, if you do require more cooling, you can install more indoor units for each room temperature control might be required in.

3. Window Air Conditioner

A window air conditioner is a familiar sight in large urban centres that experience heat waves through the summer. Much like it sounds, this type of A/C is a compact unit that’s installed in the window of a room or apartment.

Window units are simple in design, and function by blowing cool air into a room and pushing it back out through the window.

Keep in mind that the window air conditioner buying guide won’t check off any boxes for cooling large spaces. Because it’s meant for one smaller space, it doesn’t have the ability to cool a larger area efficiently.

4. Portable Air Conditioner

Like a window A/C, a portable air conditioner is designed for one room or a smaller space, like an apartment.

This type of air conditioner functions very much the same as a window unit in that it takes warm air in from the room and cools it before pushing it back out. The only difference is that instead of being installed in a window, an exhaust hose carries warm air to the window and then outside.

Fortunately, while this type of unit may not have the functionality of a more robust system, it does have benefits. Portable units are easy to install, can be put almost anywhere and are economical.

5. Hybrid Air Conditioner

A hybrid unit is the perfect option for a homeowner who wants to save energy – and money. This type of air conditioner works by switching between both electric and gas power depending on which is an optimal source.

For example, during the warmer months your system will function by removing heat from your home and pushing it back outside. In the winter, it will draw warmer air inside and move it through your home.

While this style of air conditioning can cost more up front, it can help to lower your utility bills by up to 30-50 percent. It can also be a good feeling to know that you’re lowering your carbon footprint and minimizing energy use.

6. Geothermal Air Conditioner

Geothermal heating may be more commonly known than geothermal cooling. However, just like many other options in the air conditioner buying guide, this type of cooling works in reverse.

With this type of cooling, heat is absorbed from inside the home and is moved away from the home. It is pushed through a series of loops – known as a geothermal loop – that can be horizontal, coiled, or vertical.

Instead of it being released into the air outside however, a geothermal heat pump releases it into the ground. Depending on the style of geothermal cooling, it may also be released into a body of water.

Like other energy-efficient options, this type of air conditioner costs more upfront. However, it doesn’t use fossil fuels and will instantly lower your utility bills. It also has a longer lifespan than traditional HVAC equipment, with the ground loop components able to last more than 50 years.

A/C Standard Sizes and Costs

The size of air conditioner you’ll require to cool your home will be determined by several factors. This will likely include the following items:

  • The square footage of the area being cooled
  • The amount of direct sun exposure
  • The heat-generating appliances in your home
  • The weather conditions in your area
  • The number of exterior windows
  • The materials your home is made of

It’s best to rely on a trusted provider to determine what size of home air conditioner will provide the necessary cooling capacity.

Below is an estimate of the costs you can expect depending on the type you choose:

  • Central Air Conditioner – This type of unit comes with a higher price tag and can be between $1200 and $4500. Air conditioner installation may range from $1200-2200.
  • Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner – This unit will cost between $1000 and $5500, making it among the more expensive options. Installation can set you back anywhere between $500 and $2000.
  • Window Air Conditioner – A window air conditioner comes at a relatively economical price, between $150 and $750. Fortunately, there is no installation cost as this type of unit can generally be installed by the buyer.
  • Hybrid Air Conditioner – It may save money in utilities, but the upfront cost of a hybrid unit is the highest and ranges between $2800 and $5500. Installation of the unit can cost anywhere from $1300 to $2500.
  • Geothermal Air Conditioner – This style of A/C has a high upfront cost at $3000-6000. The installation cost, because it occurs in the ground, ranges from $10,000-30,000.

Person marking off a checklist on clipboard

Types of Warranty Offered

Be sure to check the documents that come with your air conditioner to get pertinent information about what warranty you qualify for. The following is a guideline of what you can expect from the most popular air conditioning companies.

  • Rheem – 10-year limited warranty on every air conditioning unit.
  • Carrier – 10-year parts warranty on Infinity, Performance and Comfort Series models.
  • York ­- Lifetime warranty on Affinity model compressors with a 10-year parts warranty.
  • Trane – 1 to 20-year base limited warranty for compressor, outdoor coil, and internal components.

To get the complete warranty you’re entitled to, many manufacturers require product registration within a certain timeframe. While some warranties may only be applicable to the original buyer of the unit, others can be transferred to a new homeowner.

Many manufacturers also offer extended warranty. But, before closing the air conditioner buying guide, it’s important to have a warranty that will cover you in the event that air conditioner repairs or replacement is required.

Repairman fixing air conditioner

Most Popular Brands on the Market

  1. Rheem – Rheem has been in the business since 1925 which means they’re one of the most trusted names in the air conditioning world. In addition to their A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), this brand is popular for providing products that combine cost effectiveness and efficiency. Some models also offer smartphone monitoring which means Rheem is adapting with the times.
  2. Carrier – This company has been in the air conditioning business even longer than Rheem and started out in 1915. In fact, the founder of the company invented the modern air conditioning system as we know it! Carrier is rated A+ with the BBB and has 16 products available for every kind of air conditioning customer. However, they do have a higher upfront cost than many other air conditioner providers.
  3. York – Established in 1874 in York, Pennsylvania, this storied brand is responsible for many advances in the world of HVAC. Rated by the BBB as A+, York offers 10 models that are Energy Star rated. They even offer features like touch-screen thermostats and an automated zoning system. However, York comes behind Rheem and Carrier for reliability so this type of unit may be a problem in climates that are warm throughout the year.
  4. Trane – Though it was founded in 1885, Trane comes in last when it comes to the top home air conditioner brands. This air conditioning company has a B rating from the BBB which likely relates to the high price of its 9 air conditioning products. Fortunately, their units are durable and easy to use, and function the best in hot climates where reliability is a necessity.

Hand holding a remote in front of an air conditioner

What Are AC Refrigerants?

Known commonly as hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), there are a number of refrigerants out there that are used in air conditioners today. While some have been phased out due to their GWP (Global Warming Potentials), others have become more prominent options in recent years.

  • R22 ­- This hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) was once the most commonly used refrigerant around. However, because it was determined to be contributing to ozone depletion, it was discontinued in 2010 for all new air conditioners. It still exists in limited quantities.
  • R-407C – Known as Suva or Genetron, this HFC does not contribute to ozone depletion and has a GWP of 1774. This refrigerant most closely correlates to the functioning of R22 and is a lower efficiency refrigerant.
  • R-134A – This refrigerant has a GWP of 1430 and – like R-407C – does not contribute to ozone depletion. This single-component refrigerant is used commonly in air conditioners around the world.
  • R-410A – This refrigerant is commonly referred to as Puron, Suva 9100 or Genetron AZ-20. It has a GWP of 2088 and does not contribute to ozone depletion. R-410A is the most commonly used HFC for commercial air conditioning in the United States.

Use Our Air Conditioner Buying Guide to Find the Right AC for You!

Like many other investments around the home, choosing an air conditioner is about the needs of your home and family. In a one room apartment, you may be able to get by with something portable. But you may need to invest in central air conditioning if you live in a bigger house. Whatever you decide, cost, longevity and energy efficiency are important factors to consider before you make a final decision.

We hope our home air conditioner buying guide has helped you determine what might work best for you. For your HVAC needs, be sure to reach out to SoCal Green HVAC at (866) 396-2029 who bring air-conditioned expertise to everything they do!


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