Four Factors for Choosing the Best
Heating/Cooling System

By Barbara Pronin

Whether it’s time to replace your old air conditioning system or install one
for the first time, it’s a project that will result in year-round comfort for
your family. Installing a new system is not cheap. It will likely cost several
thousand dollars. But because the efficiency of most new systems has increased
so much over the years, the system you choose will likely save you money in
heating and cooling costs over the long run.

“Getting what you need at the outset,” says California system installer Ron
Hassebroc, “will ensure that you don’t need to purchase upgrades later on.”

Hassebroc offers four factors to consider when choosing a new central air
conditioning unit:

The BTU measure –
The British Thermal Unit (BTU) measure affects the
system’s ability to cool. The higher the BTU rating, the more powerful and
quick the performance. The BTU measure you need is based on the size of your
home, it’s insulation and other factors – so while a low BTU rating may not
efficiently cool your home, choosing the highest BTU may be a waste of money
and energy. Rely on the expertise of the salesman or installer to determine the
BTU measure you need.

The Seasonal-Energy Efficiency Rating – Known as the SEER rating, this
measure helps ensure the system will work at peak efficiency, providing the
best use of BTUs for the lowest price. DO look for the highest SEER rating
possible – and choose an Energy Star unit, since their SEER ratings are typically
14 percent higher than competing models.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) – a higher MERV rating means
your unit’s filter works better, trapping more dust and other airborne
particles. Ratings are on a 1 to 12 scale. While 12 is ideal, offering the best
air purification on the market, anything above 9 is still very clean.

Installation costs –
These can vary depending upon the existing ductwork in
your home and the size of the unit you have selected. Get estimates before you
purchase a new unit. When factoring installation costs, you may find that a
seemingly more expensive model will actually cost less overall if installation
is included in the price.