Few experiences provide as much relief as walking into a cool room on a hot summer day. Air conditioning systems make such experiences possible, and a homeowners’ decision regarding which one to install in their homes is significant. In its simplest form, an air conditioner transfers heat and humidity from the home to the outside while cooling and circulating the inside air to provide a comfortable environment.

Large strides have been made in air conditioner efficiency in recent years. As a result, many homeowners purchase a new air conditioner not just for a more comfortable home environment and quieter operation, but to reduce their electricity bills.

Homeowners may not know where to begin with finding the right air conditioning system for their home. According to the Air-Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), the best systems provide steady, dependable performance for many years when sized correctly for the home. Correct installation and routine maintenance also can ensure homeowners’ air conditioning systems withstand the test of time.

When shopping for new air conditioning systems, consider a host of factors to ensure you get the best match. The home’s age, the number and quality of its windows, how well it’s insulated, the number of stories it has, and its square footage are among the factors to consider. Homeowners can benefit from working with trained technicians who can investigate each of these factors and recommend the correct system. The AHRI recommends homeowners ask a technician to perform an analysis to help choose their home’s perfect system.

Energy efficiency is an important consideration when purchasing a new air conditioner for a home. An energy-efficient unit can help homeowners save considerable amounts of money. A unit that adequately cools a home without consuming a lot of costly electricity should be every homeowner’s goal. Air conditioner efficiency is rated by the unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The higher the number, the greater the efficiency and the less it costs to operate the system. 

This rating is noted on the Energy Guide® label on each unit, and the higher the number, the more efficient the unit.

Three basic types of home air conditioners are typically used in Canada. There are “central” or “split” air conditioning systems that are built into the home, combined with a “forced air” heating system. There are ductless or “mini-split” air conditioners typically used in homes that do not have furnace ductwork, such as those equipped with a boiler or baseboard electric heat. And then there are “room air conditioners” that typically fit into a window opening. These are inexpensive, but they can be noisy, inefficient, and provide uneven cooling.

If you are having air conditioning installed in a home that doesn’t currently have it, it is important to know the alternatives.

SPLIT SYSTEM – The actual air conditioner, or “condensing unit,” is located outside the home, typically on a concrete pad/patio stone or mounted on brackets to the wall of the house. Temperature is typically controlled by a dual-purpose heating/cooling thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow the homeowner to pre-set the air conditioning to cool the home when people are active in the home and let it warm when the house is vacant can help reduce cooling costs.

MINI-SPLIT SYSTEMS – Like the split system, the mini-split has an outdoor condensing unit that removes heat from refrigerant coming back through refrigerant lines and sends cooled refrigerant back into the home. However, the indoor unit is self-contained with its own fan to distribute the cooled air. The indoor unit is typically attached to the ceiling or high on a wall and is often controlled with a remote.

HI-VELOCITY SYSTEMS – These compact units, which often combine heating and air conditioning, fit into a small space like a closet or an attic and use small diameter pressurized ducts that can easily fit within conventional wall framing to circulate cooled air throughout the home.

PACKAGED UNITS – These “single-packaged units” consist of all the components of a split air conditioning system in one unit. They generally mount through the wall or roof and, like the split system, move the cooled air through the home via sheet metal ducts.