How To Buy The Right Air Conditioner For Your Home


It’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when” your old air conditioning/heating unit kicks the bucket in San Antonio. It’s pretty common for a central AC unit to last 15-20 years however these HVAC systems almost never give fair warning when they break down. Installing a whole new system can be a huge decision, so you’ll want to get it right.

We want to help you pick the right AC system for your home—and maintain it, so you can get the longest life and best performance possible which is about 15-20 years in San Antonio. We’ll also tell you why our technicians at Caliente Plumbing Heating & Air are the best technicians to do the work.

Consumer Reports surveys from 2020 found that about 36 percent of central AC systems will encounter problems in the first eight years of ownership, so it’s very important to select a unit that’s more reliable.

New Technology Emerges With Central Air Conditioning Systems
If you’re buying a new central AC for the first time in a while, most AC units last at least a decade, you’ll find that today’s air conditioning systems are more energy-efficient, which means they use less electricity and cost less to run while keeping you comfortable.

Ductless “mini split” air conditioners are also more common and more mainstream than they were 10 years ago. These new systems can be a great option if you’re living in a home or an older home that does not already have ductwork.

Traditional Air Conditioners vs Ductless Air Conditioning

Central Air Conditioning Units
A true central air conditioning system uses ducts to move cooled air throughout your home. In a “split system,” the most common design, refrigerant circulates between an indoor coil and a outdoor condenser with compressor. The internal refrigerant cools the air, dehumidifying it in the process; a blower circulates air through ducts located in the attic throughout the house. An electronic thermostat monitors and maintains the temperature at the temperature setting you specify.

Split Ductless Air Systems Are Very Popular
Split ductless air systems use a single outside condenser and compressor, and up to four or more indoor blower units, referred to as “air handlers,” mounted high on the wall, that cool or heat air in each room of your home. The indoor and outdoor sections are connected by a small type of conduit that houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, and a condensate drain. All of the lines are run through about a 3-inch hole that’s behind each air handler. Each air handler cools or heats the room in which it’s installed, and you set the temperature with a remote control. Professional installation is highly recommended since proper installation can be a factor for warranty purposes. While not technically central air, they’re much quieter and more efficient than window ACs or portable ACs, and can be an easier, more space-saving option to install than a traditional central air conditioning system.

You Might Consider a Heat Pump in South Texas
You can also consider an air-source heat pump in place of a regular air conditioner system. Heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling. In cooling mode, they work exactly like air conditioners. And come colder weather, they’re the most energy-efficient system for home heating.

Heat Pumps come in different brands and have been common in San Antonio for decades, but now there are plenty of air-source heat pumps that can provide most or all of a home’s heating needs, even in cold weather. You can also use a heat pump in combination with an existing or supplementary heating system. Our installers at Caliente Plumbing, Heating and Air can set up your heat pump system so that the heat pump operates in the most efficient way possible during each season!

Believe it or not, heat pumps are available in ducted or ductless versions, which many people still haven’t heard about. (Some ductless mini split air conditioners are actually heat pumps) They tend to cost a little more than AC-only units but less than the combined cost of a new heating and cooling system. But get this…. since heat pumps are so energy-efficient, some state governments offer tax incentives or even direct cash rebates to homeowners who install air-source heat pumps, which sometimes makes them the lowest-cost option for home heating and cooling. Read our heat pump buying guide for more. That’s something to consider when making your decision, right?!?

Consider Your Home’s Existing Ducts Before You Buy a New Air Conditioning System
If you are installing an AC system into a home that’s never had one, such as an older home that previously had wall units, your contractor should calculate the size of the cooling equipment you need using properly recognized methods.

Also, it’s wise to make sure existing hvac ducts are sealed and insulated. Otherwise, air can escape, wasting 20 to 30 percent of the energy used to run your system – with the majority of the air leaking into your attic. Leaky air ducts can also cause certain rooms to be hotter or colder than the other rooms. Sealing your ducts will keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter as well as keeping a consistent temperature in your home and reducing your energy bills. Makes sense, right?

Here’s The Most Important Factors for Choosing a New Central A/C Unit For Your Home

Size or AC Unit Capacity
A way to measure the air conditioner’s cooling capacity and size is measured in British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr.) or in tons. One ton of cooling measures out to 12,000 Btu/hr. For general sizing guidelines, you can check the Energy Star website. But the best thing to do is have a Caliente Plumbing Heating & Air contractor perform a load calculation based on standardized methods.

It’s important to pick the correct HVAC capacity for the size of your home and the type of home you have. An HVAC unit that’s too small will struggle to keep your home comfortable and at a consistent temperature. An undersized Air Conditioning system may not be able to cool your home to your desired temperature during a heat wave that drives outdoor temps over 100 degrees, which rarely happens in San Antonio (yes, that’s sarcasm in case you didn’t detect that). But what about an oversized AC unit?? An oversized unit will cost you more to purchase to begin with, and, unless it’s a model with a variable-speed compressor, will cycle on and off more often than it should, stressing the components and struggling to control the humidity in your home. This can acutally cause your new system to age quickly and die prematurely. Less reputable companies will “pitch” you on a system that they have in stock that they need to “sell” instead of proposing the exact AC unit that your home needs. Consider that before you sign on the dotted line for a new ac unit installation!

If you’re replacing your central air conditioner you might look into whether you really need the same size system as your old unit, or if you can shrink it a bit. Newer HVAC technology may allow you to do that. Any changes you’ve made to improve your home’s energy efficiency, such as upgrading your windows or adding blown-in insulation, can reduce your cooling needs as well. On the other hand, if you’ve added rooms, you might need more cooling. You might actually consider additional home upgrades to install along with your new AC system to get the most out of your new system’s efficiency!

Did We Just Mention Efficiency?
HVAC efficiency is a term that specifies how much cooling the unit delivers for each watt of electricity. Efficiency is expressed as the seasonal energy-efficiency rating, or SEER. The higher the SEER, the greater the efficiency. Higher-SEER air conditioning or heat pump systems do cost more, but they pay for themselves over time through lower electricity bills and the savings can be seen almost immediately on your next bill after installation. The minimum SEER allowed for a new split system central air conditioner in the United States (modern day) is 14, which is at least 20 percent more efficient than minimum-efficiency models made even 10 years ago. That’s how much progress has been made with the newest HVAC technology. Systems that meet the Energy Star guidelines for efficiency have a minimum SEER of 15. The most efficient models reach a SEER of 26. Older AC units use WAY more wattage to keep your home at the temperature you set on the thermostat. This is because your current system uses older technology AND the system is older and less efficient. Newer systems use new technology that uses way less electricity to keep your home cool.

Consider Noise When It Comes To Buying a New AC Unit
Quiet system operation is a feature that is a known predictor for an owner’s overall satisfaction with their air conditioner. Most manufacturers publish the noise levels for their products, across a variety of outdoor temperatures and fan speeds, measured in decibels of course. A lower rating is best, especially if the AC will be installed near a bedroom window. Imagine if you install a less expensive but more noisy ac system right outside your baby’s bedroom window. You’d be signing up for some sleepless nights! So consider noise and outside system location when buying a new AC system.

New AC System Reliability
Reliability is highly desired with an air conditioner in San Antonio Texas especially with the hot summer heat in South Texas. Having a system breakdown when it’s hot outside is a nightmare for most families, so choosing a reliable system is definitely something to consider.

Consider Central AC Maintenance Before You Buy
Central AC systems need regular maintenance for optimal performance in Texas heat. When you discuss your installation, it’s always a good idea to get our Caliente Plumbing Heating & Air service plan that combines regular inspections with discounts on repairs and a labor warranty into the overall price.

Here’s what you’ll want our service technicians to handle on a regular basis: At least once a year, have them clean and flush your system’s coils, drain the pan and drainage system, and vacuum the blower compartments. Our Air Conditioning contractors also check to make sure that the system is properly charged with refrigerant, that there are no system leaks, and that all mechanical components are working properly and at the proper voltage.

You can also handle some of the maintenance on your own quite easily. Clean your outdoor system grilles with an ordinary garden hose to keep them clean and free of debris. Change your system filters monthly. Clear debris and dirt from condenser coils and check for blockages in the drainpipe.

Consider Having Caliente Plumbing Heating & Air Install a Programable Thermostat!
Setting your smart or programmable thermostat at the right temperature can reduce your cooling costs by about 10 percent on average but even more in the summer heat. The right temperature depends on your comfort level, but start by setting it at 78° F and experiment until you find a comfortable zone. You could save on your utility bill for every degree you raise the set temperature for your central air, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Also, installing a ceiling fan, which costs little to run, can make you feel 3° F to 4° F cooler.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when buying a new air conditioning system. Caliente Plumbing Heating & Air would love a chance to provide you with a quote on a new AC system. Call us at 210-330-3000 today.

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