With an average summer temperatures over 25 C and and average humidity of 89%, Ottawa summers can get pretty uncomfortable. For seniors, anyone who works from home, or anyone just trying to get a good night’s sleep, an air conditioner isn’t a luxury anymore.
The good news is that air conditioners manufactured these days are much better in almost every way than even a few years ago. Advances in technology mean that air conditioners are much more energy efficient, much better for the environment, and also much quieter.
Before you buy your new air conditioner, however, here are some things you should keep in mind.
Energy efficiency in air conditioners is measured by the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio). The higher the number, the less electricity your air conditioner will use. In 1980, the SEER of an average air conditioner was 6. Today, you can’t buy an air conditioner with a SEER rating of less than 13 – which is more than twice as efficient. You can also get ACs at many SEER levels that are Energy Star rated.
But that’s just the beginning. Central air conditioners are available with a SEER of up to 21, and you can get ductless models with a SEER of 26. Many qualify for provincial or other rebates. Either way, you’re getting way more efficiency than with a window or portable unit.
As electricity rates are likely to keep going up through 2020, even after steep rises in the past few years, it will make sense to invest in a new air conditioner that’s as energy efficient as possible.
New air conditioners are available that are no louder than average conversation levels – around 55 or 56 decibels. That’s up to 20 times quieter than air conditioners available in the past few decades.
If you live in a home with a smaller yard, townhouses being the classic example, you may want to invest in the quietest model you can afford. This will not only be good for you, but your relationship with your neighbours as well.
Correct Installation is Key
- They don’t give you the right size air conditioner for your home. A small one won’t cool enough, and a big one will cycle on and off, or cause the indoor unit to freeze.
- They don’t size the outdoor and indoor units to each other. They need to match to prevent freezing of the indoor unit and other problems.
- They don’t have a proper drainage system. Air conditioners naturally reduce humidity, and that water has to go somewhere to prevent damage to your home.
- They don’t ensure the concrete pad below the outdoor unit is level. Even a small tilt can cause uneven wear and tear.
- They cram too much refrigerant into the system. Refrigerant is a gas, so it will compress, but it won’t cool as efficiently.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. Not just anyone with a wrench and a truck can do the job right.
A Pressure-Free Sales Process
If you feel pressured while talking to a company, it’s because you are being pressured. A reputable company will answer questions, put all costs in writing, and most importantly give you plenty of time to shop around and make sure you’re doing the right thing. If they don’t leave the quote paperwork in your home to review at your leisure, don’t buy from them.
Maintenance Makes a Difference
The outdoor unit of an air conditioner needs airflow in order to be able to release heat captured from inside your home. Keeping about two feet of clearance around your outdoor unit, and keeping it free of leaves and trash, will help it perform more efficiently. Regular tune ups by a licensed refrigeration mechanic will keep everything in perfect working order, and help your AC last as long as possible.
Do You Have Ductwork or Not?
If your home is older and doesn’t have any ductwork, don’t despair – you don’t need to pay for new ducting. Ductless air conditioners use slim lines to carry refrigerant between the outdoor unit and the indoor one.
Many of us are trying to do as much as we can to help the environment. If the environment matters to you, you’ll be glad to know that an energy-efficient air conditioner, used only on the hottest days, doesn’t make a big impact at all.
If you’ve heard air conditioners are bad for the environment, that’s no longer true. While air conditioners used to use an ozone-depleting refrigerant called R-22 (or Freon), today’s air conditioners use a way better one called R-410A (also called Puron).
Less is More
Because central air conditioners dehumidify your home while they cool, a little air conditioning goes a long way. Leaving your thermostat at a higher temperature and only running it when you’re home is one strategy that will help you save on cooling costs. Others, like closing drapes on the south and western sides of your home, will help prevent the “hot car effect”.
Feel Good When Buying Your New Air Conditioner
Getting a new air conditioner should feel like a positive step, not something you feel rushed about. If you don’t think you’re getting the right advice, do your homework and shop around.