Indiana Homeowners: Your Guide to Buying an Air Conditioner

AC Buying Guide

The heat and high temperature days that come with Indiana summers make cooling serious business for Hoosier homeowners. Buying an air conditioner constitutes a major financial investment and central air conditioning system installation is a large home improvement project that requires professional service.

With help from Williams Comfort Air, cut the confusion from the process of purchasing a new air conditioning unit. The professional guidance below walks you through different types of air conditioners, finding the right new air conditioner for your home, and key features you’ll want to consider, as well as financing options.

Types of Air Conditioning Equipment

There are several types of heating and cooling equipment that can be used in the home. The term “air conditioners” is often used as a catch-all to describe a cooling system, when in fact an air conditioner is one type of cooling unit – and there are others as well. Before you start your search for a new air conditioning system, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the different types of cooling equipment available for your home.

Split HVAC System vs. Packaged HVAC System

Before we talk about different types of cooling equipment, let’s first discuss the categories these units fall into. When it comes to controlling heating and cooling in your home, you can choose from a split system or a packaged unit. A split HVAC system consists of both indoor and outdoor units. A packaged HVAC system is a single equipment cabinet that houses all parts needed to perform heating and/or cooling for the home.

Central air conditioning is the most common type of cooling system configuration in Midwestern homes. Split systems and packaged cooling units that can be used to deliver cooling from one central location.

Types of Cooling Equipment

Now that we’ve explained the basic cooling system configurations, let’s introduce the different types of equipment that can be used to make up a home’s cooling system.

  • Central Air Conditioners: Central air conditioners are a split central air conditioning system composed of an outdoor condensing unit and an indoor air handling unit – most Indiana homes with this type of system match the outdoor equipment with an indoor furnace unit rather than an air handler unit as heating is needed in our climate, but air conditioners can be paired with air handlers to provide central cooling in homes without forced air heating.
  • Heat Pumps: Heat pumps are a type of split central cooling and heating unit that use an outdoor heat pump unit and indoor air handler unit. Heat pump units can also be paired with forced air furnaces instead of air handling units in systems where gas furnace heating equipment is installed as a backup heating method – this is a popular solution found in Hoosier homes outfitted with heat pumps. Heat pumps may be air source, meaning they exchange heat between the indoor air supply and the air outside; geothermal, which exchanges heat between the air inside and the ground; or water source, exchanging heat between indoor air and an outdoor water source – geothermal and water source heat pumps require underground or underwater loop components to absorb and deposit heat within the energy source.
  • Ductless Mini Splits: Ductless mini splits are a split cooling system made up of an outdoor heat pump or air conditioner condensing unit and one or more indoor air handling units. A ductless mini split cooling system is not a central air conditioning system – instead of using one central air handling unit and ductwork to distribute warm or cool air, an air handling unit is mounted directly within the room or space it is meant to cool. Ductless mini splits can be configured with multiple air handler units to provide cool air in various areas of a home.

Choosing the Right Type of Cooling System for Your Home

When it comes to selecting between the above-mentioned cooling equipment types, more than one type of air conditioning system may work in your home. Determining which type of new cooling system is right for your home comes down to climate and characteristics of your home.

Climate and Cooling Systems

Humidity plays a significant role in cooling and the efficacy of different air conditioner systems. Central Indiana has a humid subtropical climate. Our area has a hot summer average temperature in the low to mid-80s during the day with low temperature averages in the mid-60s overnight.

Air conditioner equipment such as central air conditioners, heat pumps, ductless mini splits, high-velocity air conditioners, window air conditioners, and portable air conditioners are better suited to cool homes in humid climates. These system types provide some dehumidification to better control moisture levels inside the home, helping Central Indiana households stay cooler during the summer months.

Characteristics of Your Home

The characteristics of your home and its cooling needs will also play a role in determining the best type of air conditioning equipment.

  • For whole home cooling, choose central cooling system equipment. Ductless mini splits can also be configured for whole home cooling.
  • If only one room or a small space requires cooling, you can utilize portable or window air conditioners, or a single ductless mini split unit.
  • If your home has existing ductwork in good condition or space to install a new duct system, central split system and packaged air conditioners and heat pumps can be used.
  • If your home does not have ducts and you do not have space to install ductwork, or the old ductwork is in bad condition and cannot be replaced at the time, a ductless mini split system with multiple air handling units can deliver cooling across the entire home.

Sizing a New Cooling Unit

You’ve probably heard air conditioner sizing referred to in tons. In this case, tons do not refer to the weight of the system, rather its ability to extract heat from a space and cool it. The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is just how much heat the unit is able to remove over an hour’s time.

It’s extremely important that your new central air conditioner, heat pump, ductless mini split, window air conditioner, or portable air conditioner be sized correctly for the home or space it is intended to cool. Many people believe cooling units are sized according to the home or room’s size, in square feet – square feet area is only one consideration when it comes to determining the cooling load of a home or room and thus the capacity needed from an air conditioner unit.

To determine accurate sizing for a new air conditioner, an HVAC professional performs a Manual J calculation. Manual J calculates the cooling load of the home.

Energy Efficient Air Conditioner Ratings

As you search for a new air conditioning system, you’ll find many models from various brands with numerous features. The feature that is most important to many homeowners is the energy efficiency ratio of each model. How efficient or inefficient an air conditioner operates will impact the price you pay for energy over the course of the unit’s service life.

  • SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which is used to share the energy efficiency of central air conditioners, heat pumps, and ductless mini splits.
  • Currently, the minimum SEER for new residential central air conditioners and heat pumps installed in Indiana is 13 – this will increase to 14 SEER in 2023.
  • The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit.
  • Today, the highest SEER ratings available are 26 SEER air conditioner models, 24 SEER heat pump models, and over 30 SEER mini split models.

The Price of a New Air Conditioner

Cost is important to any homeowner during the search for a new cooling unit. This mechanical equipment comes at a price in the thousands of dollars for central cooling units, while portable and window units can be found at a price of a few hundred dollars and up. When you purchase a new air conditioning system through an HVAC professional, the total price of your project includes the equipment cost as well as the labor price for installation work.

Financing Your New Air Conditioner

Fortunately, many financing options are available for homeowners who wish to purchase new air conditioners. Reputable HVAC companies work with financing companies to provide favorable programs for their customers, with easy qualifying, low interest rates, and flexible repayment terms. For many, financing a new air conditioner is a viable purchase option, as it provides the necessary funds at the right time and allows the home to be outfitted with an efficient, new air conditioning unit, heat pump, or ductless mini split system.

When you shop for a new air conditioner, be sure to ask your contractor about the financing options available.

Buy a New Air Conditioner in Central Indiana

As you can see, there are many options available when it’s time to replace your air conditioner, and choosing the right model can be a challenge. Williams Comfort Air is here for you – our Comfort Consultants help you navigate equipment options and choose the best brand and model for your home, while our NATE-certified installation technicians perform flawless work to place your new air conditioner into service. Contact us today to request an estimate for air conditioner installation and learn more!

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