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Central air conditioning: SEER rating is important

Central air conditioning is when the air within your home is cooled and distributed by a series of ducts and supply registers. If you live in a part of the country where summer temperatures can reach the 90s and above, you're probably well aware of the benefits central air conditioning can provide your home and family on a hot, humid day.

Popular brands of split system air conditioning

The most common type of residential, central air conditioning is called a split system, which consists of an outside unit that contains the compressor and condenser, and an evaporating coil that is located indoors with your furnace. Split systems are sized by the amount of cooling they can provide in an hour. The unit of measurement used is called a British Thermal Unit, and higher BTUs normally signify a larger unit capable of cooling more space.There are a number of very good brands of central air conditioning systems, including these well-known names:

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  • Trane
  • Carrier
  • Bryant
  • Lennox
  • York

Energy efficiency, SEER rating and costs

Another unit of measurement that should be of concern when considering the purchase of an air conditioner is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER lets you know how much energy the unit uses to achieve a specific cooling level--the higher the SEER number the more efficiently the unit uses energy to cool your home.

Air conditioners that meet strict testing levels set by the U.S. Department of Energy concerning energy efficiency can earn a coveted Energy Star rating. A split system with a 14.5-SEER measurement or higher can qualify for the rating. Units with higher SEER ratings can be more expensive to purchase, but they are often a better deal in the long run when your potential energy savings are figured in.

Pricing for air conditioners can vary quite a bit depending on the size of the unit, the SEER rating, and where you live, but the average cost is about $3,500 for a three-ton, 13-SEER unit that includes the compressor, condenser, evaporating coil and installation.

Maintenance and new unit installation

Purchasing a high-efficiency air conditioner is the first step in reducing your your energy usage, but if you don't maintain the system, you are not going to get the savings you expect.

The conditioned air in your home is constantly recycled back to the central unit through return air ducts where it is continuously reconditioned. Filters located at the return vents or in the ducts remove dust and debris to protect the unit, but as they become dirty, they can actually block air flow and cause your air conditioner to use more energy.

Your filters should be cleaned or replaced every month to keep your unit running efficiently. A preventative maintenance program that inspects your air conditioner twice a year can also help your unit provide peak performance and last longer.

If you're thinking about installing a new air conditioner or upgrading to a high efficiency unit, using a qualified and reputable contractor can make the process much easier. The form on this page can help you connect with local contractors for comparison quotes on systems and installation.