Installing a new central air conditioning system can be a major strain on the family budget, so you want to ensure that you choose one that is reliable and will serve your family for years to come. While your home’s size, layout, ductwork, and how the system is installed can affect the performance of your air conditioner, considering a brand’s reputation for reliability and overall customer satisfaction is an important first step in choosing a new air conditioning system.
Consumer Reports® recently surveyed more than 14,000 homeowners who purchased new central air systems between 2009 and 2016 regarding their satisfaction with their system, any breakages that occurred, and the cost of repairs. The following takes a closer look at what they found.
Conventional Air Conditioning Systems
Most homeowners questioned said that they expected their central AC system to last at least 16 years. If the unit is properly maintained, this is certainly within reason for most brands. According to Consumer Reports®, no one brand had a significant advantage in terms of reliability. Two brands, however, did have a failure rate high enough that the organization has decided not to recommend them. Both York and Rheem had a failure rate of approximately 25 percent within the first five years of ownership.
The majority of homeowners who had owned their systems for five years reported that they were still satisfied with its performance regardless of the brand chosen. As might be expected, satisfaction rates were closely linked to the reliability of the system. A full two-thirds of homeowners with AC systems from American Standard reported that they were still satisfied with their system after five years. Homeowners with Goodman and Rheem systems tended to have the lowest overall satisfaction ratings.
Most Common Part Failure
Consumer Reports® found that the evaporator coil was the part with the highest failure rate during the first five years of ownership; however, less than 10 percent of all central AC systems were likely to experience this issue. York, Rheem, and Ruud were the brands most likely to experience an evaporator coil failure within five years.
Cost of Repair
Consumer Reports® only received reportable repair cost information on Goodman, Carrier, Lennox, Rheem, and Trane. There was not a significant difference in the median repair costs between these brands. Rheem had the highest median repair cost at $252 while Carrier was the lowest at $200. There was not sufficient repair cost data available on Ruud, Amana, Bryant, York, and American Standard to provide a ranking.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing an Air Conditioner
Installing an air conditioner that is too small or too large results in higher utility bills and decreased comfort. A unit that is too small will struggle to meet your home’s cooling demands. A unit that is too large will cycle on and off too quickly, which means the system will not have enough time to remove excess humidity from the air.
The capacity of a central air conditioning system is measured in tons. One ton is equal to 12,000 British thermal units of cooling capacity and air flow. The cooling load of your home is the number of British thermal units and cubic feet of air flow required per hour to maintain a temperature of 78°F. Most HVAC contractors use a calculation method called Manual J, which was developed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, to determine a home’s cooling load.
Efficiency is a measure of the amount of cooling provided per each watt of energy used. The efficiency of a central air system is reflected in its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, also known as SEER. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit and the lower its operating costs. Today’s air conditioners are required to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. Since increased efficiency means a higher purchase price, it is important to consult an HVAC installation expert to determine the right balance between cost and performance.
Tips to Keep Your AC Running Smoothly
Even the best air conditioner will break down more often and need to be replaced sooner if it is not maintained properly. The following are common sense steps that you can take to keep your central air conditioner in top shape:
• Keep your air conditioner clean. This means cleaning the filters and grills monthly. Be sure that all hedges and plants are at least two feet away from the outside unit to ensure adequate airflow. You should also clear any debris from the condenser coils and check the drain pipes for blockages at the start of each cooling season and periodically throughout the summer months.
• Leaking and uninsulated ducts can allow 30 to 40 percent of the energy used to escape instead of being directed to keeping your home comfortable. Sealing and insulating your ducts will improve your home’s energy efficiency and keep it more comfortable in both summer and winter.
• At Swan Heating & Air Conditioning, we recommend that Loveland-area homeowners have their air conditioning system inspected annually by an HVAC professional. We offer a seasonal AC tune-up package that covers multiple system features, including cleaning and flushing the coils, checking refrigerant levels, cleaning the blower compartments, and inspecting and testing all mechanical components.
• Enrolling in a service plan is an excellent way to protect your investment since it will allow you to save on routine maintenance, emergency repairs, and even new installations. We offer our Swan Club membership that covers annual tune-ups for your HVAC system and water heater as well as yearly plumbing inspections. A Swan Club membership can save you thousands on repairs and utility costs over the life of your unit and can even be transferred if you should sell your home.
How to Know If It Is Time to Replace Your AC
If you have had to pay for multiple repairs over the past couple of years, it may be more cost-effective to invest in a replacement system, especially if your AC is over 10 years old. Today’s high-efficiency systems are 20 to 40 percent more efficient than models manufactured a decade ago. This means that the upfront cost will be quickly offset by lower utility bills and fewer repairs. New air conditioners are also compatible with programmable thermostats that give you more control over your home comfort settings and reduce your energy use by an additional 20 percent.
Trust Swan for Quality AC Installation
As a locally-owned business, we are dedicated to quality service backed by a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Whether you call us for a repair or a new installation, we will provide you with the exact cost of your project in writing. All of our technicians are licensed and have North American Technician Excellence and Environmental Protection Agency certifications. We are so confident that our technicians are among the best in the industry that if you are not satisfied with your new system within the first year, we will correct the problem or replace the unit at no cost to you. Contact us today for more information about our AC installation services.