Home Life Check with a pro before replacing your air conditioning

Check with a pro before replacing your air conditioning


I can’t think of anything more uncomfortable than sitting in the Louisiana heat in July with no air conditioning.

So if your air conditioning unit is on its last leg, don’t just patch the problem and it will last for one more year. Invest in your family’s comfort and buy a new unit.

Another reason you might need a new system: If you’re adding onto your house, you’re adding space that will need to be cooled during the summer. Talk to your contractor to decide if your old one will be able to efficiently cool the new space or if you need to add an additional unit.

Either way, buying a new air conditioner might not be as simple this time as it was 10 or 20 years ago when you bought the last one. Air conditioning manufacturers know more about energy efficiency and the technology of comfort now that there’s more to consider than just price.

It used to be that the size of your house determined the size of your central air conditioning system. But today, that’s just one part of the equation.

Because new homes over the past decade or so have been built more energy-efficient, we’re actually able to install smaller air conditioners than we could 20 years ago.

To figure out how big your new air conditioning unit should be, you have to consider not only the size of your home, but which products the builder used to build it. You need to consider how thick your wall and ceiling insulation is; how many windows and doors your home has and whether the glass in them is single, double or triple pane. Which direction the windows—and the house—face are important factors. Whether windows, doors and other openings in the home are sealed up tight makes a difference.

And you must consider how cool your home has to be in order for you and your family to feel comfortable. After all, comfort is a matter of personal preference.

One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to buying a new air conditioner. And it’s barely possible for a homeowner to consider all of the factors involved in making the decision. So consult an air conditioning professional—or ask your general contractor to do it on your behalf—to get an exact measurement before you buy.

A professinal can evaluate whether your home is energy efficient or has lots of leaks around windows, doors, the attic and other places. He’ll ask you questions about the materials in your home, its age, your lifestyle and your preferences. Then he’ll do something called a load calculation. The evaluation will match your home and your needs to an air conditioning unit that will make your home comfortable and more energy efficient. It could also save you some money on energy bills.

Another tip for you: Don’t second-guess that calculation. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when replacing their air conditioning systems is to believe bigger is better—so they buy one that’s too big for their home.

When it comes to air conditioning, it’s actually better to stay smaller. A system that’s too big for your home will leave the air feeling clammy because it won’t regulate indoor humidity properly. High humidity indoors can lead to all kinds of problems—and not just with your comfort. Uncontrolled humidity can invite mold.

An air conditioning unit that’s just the right size for your home will run long enough to bring your home to the temperature you like, and it will cycle the moisture out of the air. A unit that’s too big for the home won’t run long enough to wring out the humidity. It will cool your home too quickly, and then cut itself off before it has time to deal with the humidity. So you’ll wind up with cool, clammy air.

That said, you don’t want to buy a unit that’s too small, either. An undersized unit will run all the time without ever making your home as cool as you’d like it to be.

So let a professional determine the right size for your new air conditioning unit. You’ll be more comfortable, and you’ll save money and energy.

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build, an Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner, in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.