- On April 24, 2020
Updated on Dec 28, 2021
In the intense Arizona climate, your air conditioner is your home’s best friend. Without it, those soaring summer temperatures are simply unbearable. For some, running out and buying the biggest, most powerful A/C unit for their home may seem like the best solution. After all, a bigger unit means better cooling, right? We’re here to debunk the average shopper myths and assure you that “biggest” doesn’t always necessarily guarantee “the best” when it comes to air conditioners.
The size, shape and other details of a building should be used to determine the best air conditioner to buy for any property. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to finding the right unit for your home. However, by working with professionals and educating yourself on all the details upfront, you can rest assured your Phoenix home is getting exactly what it needs to stay both cool and completely efficient throughout the scorching Arizona days.
Know Your SEER Ratings
A unit’s seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) measures the total cooling power it puts out throughout the year, divided by the amount of energy required to run it. These scores allow for closer regulation of how much pollution is being released into the air to run home A/C units, which are one of the biggest energy users in any home on a monthly basis. Though these regulations are constantly being upgraded by experts and lawmakers as new technology and information come to light, the score is an invaluable piece of information to homeowners across the United States, especially those living in hot areas where their air conditioning unit will be used more often.
The SEER rating is the first checkpoint you’ll want to inspect on any potential unit. It’s the most reliable way to evaluate the overall efficiency of any model you have your eye on and gives you an accurate read on what to expect from both cooling power and monthly costs for the foreseeable future. Considering many residents of hot, dry areas like Phoenix will pay up to 5% more for energy spent on air conditioning than the average American on a monthly basis, finding the efficiency and cooling you need is a big deal. Fortunately, looking more closely at the SEER will give you the info you need to make an informed decision.
Finding the Right Score
When you buy a new unit, you’re required to at least opt for the bare minimum SEER in accordance with federal regulations, which is currently 14. This is the lowest score allowed for new units according to federal regulation and is the baseline you should consider when choosing your new unit. However, the SEER scale ranges from the bare minimum of 14 all the way up to a whopping 25, leaving many homeowners in doubt of whether they should spring for a higher rating or not.
While 25 SEER units may seem like they should be twice as efficient as a SEER of 14, the truth is that bigger units don’t always necessarily deliver high energy savings. Your home’s Thermal Rating will ultimately determine an adequate SEER rating for your new system.
Your Home’s Thermal Rating
You can have the biggest, most impressive 25 SEER air conditioning unit around and still experience inadequate cooling and extremely high monthly energy costs if your home isn’t properly insulated and protected from leaks. The ability of your home to maintain a cool interior while keeping the outside heat at bay is known as its thermal rating. Your home’s overall thermal rating depends on a wide range of factors that determine how well it’s able to keep your cool air inside when your unit is running. The most important ones include:
- Sealing and insulation on your home’s ductwork
- Overall roof condition
- Proper attic space ventilation
- The efficiency of doors and windows throughout the house
- Insulation in the walls and ceiling
Each of these elements works in different ways to ensure the hot air stays outside, while the cool air being circulated indoors stays that way for your enjoyment. Ensuring efficiency in these areas has a direct impact on how well any A/C unit is going to work, regardless of the SEER.
SEER and Home Thermal Ratings
Imagine you’re living in a home that has a poor thermal rating. Perhaps your windows are old and inefficient and your roof is in poor condition. When you install a SEER 14 air conditioning unit, the unit works as expected to deliver cool air through the ducts of the house, reducing the temperature in the connected rooms. However, energy is likely to leak out of the more inefficient spaces, leaving you with a higher energy bill as the unit works hard to make up through the cool air lost through the windows and roof inadequacies.
Now, imagine doing the same with a 25 SEER unit. The unit uses less energy to create the cool air that’s sent through the ducts of your home, but the cool air is still being lost through inefficient windows and shortcomings in the roof. This leaves the 25 SEER unit working overtime, too, to keep your house at the specified temperature on your thermostat.
The issue here is the lost air, not the unit itself. Units with a 25 SEER are by nature more efficient than one with a 14 SEER, but if they’re working constantly to maintain the temperature in a house full of drafts and leaks, that efficiency goes to waste because it ends up working just as hard. Considering units with SEERs higher than 14 can cost up to 50 percent more to install in the first place, making them less economically efficient for many homeowners, especially if the homeowner doesn’t intend to spend more than 5 years in the home in question.
These numbers can be confusing to the inexperienced. It’s understandable – most people aren’t trained in the technicalities of how air conditioners work or how they’re regulated. That’s why it’s best to work with a professional who does know these details throughout the search for the perfect unit for your home. They can evaluate the overall efficiency of your home as it is, and either recommend upgrades to bump up your home’s thermal rating or recommend a unit that gets you the cooling you need without paying for higher SEERs that may not benefit your home or your wallet.
Types of Units
Now that you understand SEER and how the score impacts your monthly energy bill, it’s time to move on to the next big decision: what type of unit do you want in your home? While there are seemingly endless brands and models to choose from, but most A/C units can be broken down into one of two categories: central air conditioning and individual units. Of the millions of homes across the United States that have air conditioning, over 90 percent of them use central air, which is probably what you’ll want to focus on if you reside in Arizona.
Central air consists of two parts: the outside unit (usually a large, box-like metal structure) and the indoor unit. For many homeowners, the indoor units use vents and ducts throughout the house to deliver cool air where it’s needed. This is an example of a normal central air conditioning unit. The thermostat dictates the temperature air will be cooled to, while a compressor, blower, and refrigerant work together to create cool air and circulate it until that temperature is achieved.
However, some homes aren’t suited for handling the ductwork required to make a traditional central air unit function. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean centralized air is out of the question entirely. Owners of homes that can’t support ducts can instead opt for split-ductless systems, which, as their name suggests, do the work of central air without the ducts. Instead, indoor wall units (usually mounted high up on the wall) with blowers are connected to an outdoor unit. These are not technically central air units, but the work they perform is nearly the same and they serve as a great alternative for homes without ducts.
Choosing Your Unit
Most homeowners will opt for a traditional central air unit simply because it’s familiar, straightforward, and more or less the industry standard in the southwest. There’s no problem with that – these units are a favorite among homeowners for a reason. They come with a wide range of SEER options, too, allowing a more custom cooling experience for any home. Furthermore, with so many options to choose from, you can always rest assured you’ll find an option for both your immediate budget and your monthly energy budget in the years to come. If you already have ducts or wish to install them, then this is generally the way to go.
If you don’t have ductwork or the home or budget to install ducts, then the split ductless system is the way to go. Generally, they can be a bit more expensive than window units and other non-ducted options, but they provide the most effective and efficient cooling possible outside of a central air unit, which is a crucial detail when combating something as intense as the Phoenix heat.
Regardless of which you choose, ensure you’re checking on the SEER score along the way and working with a qualified professional to ensure you’re really getting the performance you expect, especially before dropping a huge investment on any unit. Responsibly upgrading your home’s unit starts with gathering information, and a trained, licensed professional can help you get all you need and more.
Some people may be tempted to choose a split ductless system over a central air unit simply because they believe they can skip out on the labor costs and perform the installation themselves. However, this is not the case. Even split-ductless systems have an outdoor unit and connect the interior blower field. Regardless of which type of unit you choose in the end, anything larger than a window unit needs to be installed by a licensed professional. It’s imperative for not only getting the performance you need out of your new unit but also for staying unit to the outdoor one can be a huge challenge, especially for those with little to no experience in this particular safe both during the installation process and in the months to come. At Howard Air, we believe the installation is the most important stage in maintaining the longevity and life of your comfort system, so we take extra special precautions and measures when performing a quality install. Have an installation quote or estimate in question from a licensed professional, but don’t know if you’re getting your money’s worth? Howard Air is here to provide FREE second opinions to any licensed contractor’s evaluation in question, guaranteed. Call us today or schedule a free second opinion with one of our factory-authorized team members today!
Find Your Perfect A/C Unit Today
Whether you have the most efficient home on the block or you’re dealing with basic builder’s grade materials, there’s an air conditioning unit out there that’s perfect for your house. Contact Howard Air to find out which, exactly, that perfect unit is and buy a new unit that caters to your home’s individual needs. These licensed professionals have all the know-how and industry experience to set your Phoenix home up with an A/C unit that works for you. Whether you’re simply looking to learn more about the SEER score of a certain unit or you’ve selected your unit and are ready for fast, professional installation, these pros have your back throughout the entire process.
*Image: By doomu