Your Guide to Buying a New AC Unit

Need a new AC unit for your home? Use this guide to make sure you're covering everything you need to know for buying an AC.

New AC unit installation

Buying a new air conditioner isn’t the most fun shopping experience a person can have, but some common HVAC problem signs mean that replacing, rather than repairing, is the right way to spend your money. The best AC units are expensive, but they’re also quiet and efficient. And, as with anything else, you get what you pay for, so you don’t want to skimp on this major purchase.

How can you choose the right AC unit? If you want to run your central air conditioning without paying huge energy bills, an efficient new model is the answer. Make sure you get the right size unit, and know what air conditioners cost in your area. Get quotes from some different contractors to get the best deal, but be wary of offers that are significantly lower than all the others.

Understand SEER

Air conditioner efficiency is measured using the seasonal energy efficiency rating, or SEER. Federal regulations require new AC units to have a SEER rating of at least 13. If you want the quietest air conditioner with the most features, go for a unit with a higher SEER rating. The higher the SEER, the lower your operational costs. But, be advised that a higher SEER typically means a higher up-front purchase and installation cost. A SEER of 14 to 16 meets efficiency requirements without making up-front costs prohibitive.

Know What Tonnage You Need

When you’re talking AC units, tonnage doesn’t refer to the weight of the unit, but of the amount of heat that the unit can remove from your home in one hour. A one-ton unit can remove 12,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of heat from your home in one hour.

It’s important to get the right size unit because a unit that’s too small won’t cool efficiently, and one that’s too large will cycle on and off frequently, wearing out faster. A unit that’s too large won’t be able to efficiently remove humidity from your home, either. Both oversized and undersized units will drive up operational costs. Undersized units cost more to operate because they run all the time as they struggle to keep up with your home’s cooling needs, while oversized units simply draw more power.

What tonnage is best for your home? The answer to this question will depend on your local climate, the size of your home, the amount of insulation you have in your attic and basement, your home’s orientation to the sun and the amount and size of your windows, along with other factors. In order to evaluate your home’s needs, a technician should enter your attic, basement and crawl spaces in addition to examining every room of your home.

AC technician

Know How Much You Can Expect to Pay

A new air conditioner will cost between $3,700 and $7,200, depending on local market factors, the type and size of the unit, whether or not you need ductwork, whether you have a new furnace put in at the same time and other considerations. Do some research ahead of time to get a ballpark idea of what a new air conditioner costs in your area. If you’re considering a new HVAC in the near future, ask the technician during your next HVAC tune-up what a new installation would cost. You can also talk to friends and neighbors who may have had a new HVAC installed recently. If you do decide to purchase a new AC unit, a home warranty can help cover the costs of repairs for future breakdowns.

Get at Least Three Quotes

When it’s time to get your new AC unit, get at least three quotes. You may want to start by asking the company that does your regular AC tune-ups, especially if you like their work. Ask friends and family to recommend someone. Check out Google reviews for contractors in your area, but avoid sites like Yelp, where business owners are required to pay for good reviews.

A good contractor will have plenty of work lined up, so they won’t try to pressure you into committing to the job on the spot. The contractor will take a look at your ductwork, enter every room of your home, climb into your attic and check out your crawl spaces and basement to estimate what tonnage your home needs. A reputable contractor will understand your desire to get multiple bids and won’t give you a hard time about it.

You get what you pay for when it comes to home repairs, and you want to make sure that you’re getting quality work that will last. But you don’t want to overpay, either. If everyone else is giving you a quote for $5,000 to $6,000, steer clear of the contractor who offers to do it for $2,000. You can guarantee that company will be cutting corners. You don’t have to go with the most expensive quote either, but use your common sense.

If it’s time to replace your air conditioner, do your homework to make sure you’re getting the right unit for the right price. Then, protect your new AC unit with a home warranty from American Home Shield®. We help protect your systems and appliances no matter the age and we don't require inspection or
maintenance records. Learn more about our plans and pricing today.

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