If you’ve lived through a few July summers in Columbus, Ohio, you know that it’s not uncommon for the temperature to hit 90 F, with a relative humidity of 70% and higher. The Health and Safety Executive recommends that indoor relative humidity should be maintained at 40-70%.
It’s a formula for mugginess, for discomfort. It’s also lousy for your home. That excessive humidity can cause wood to warp, paint to peel, and can encourage mold, mildew, and dust mites.
People allergic to mold suffer doubly: The air is uncomfortable, and their allergies are triggered.
Old farmhouses especially were built without central air conditioning in mind. If you live in one, you’re relying on window or portable ACs to make parts of your home livable, or otherwise find yourself in your home and feel you are missing out on AC, this article is for you.
We’ll go over a few of the things to take into account when making this sizable purchase, why you may have to pay for more than just an air conditioner, and the costs.
Electrical Considerations for a New AC
One issue to consider is whether your electrical box can handle the demands of a new air conditioner. Older homes typically don’t have as large a panel or as many open spots. If you do have an older panel, it might be inadequate for safety purposes. An upgraded panel for more capacity will make the project more expensive.
The unit needs its own independent circuit. It needs a 220-volt circuit breaker, and, on average, a 30-amp two-pole circuit breaker. A licensed electrician should be the one to put in the breaker.
An AC Has to Match with the Furnace
If you’re looking to add an air conditioner, we have to consider the furnace. The blower fan in your furnace is what moves air throughout your home for both heating and cooling. You can add a new air conditioner with an old furnace, and you may never get the AC’s efficiency, quality, capacity, and it may not work very well at all. You may need a 4-ton air conditioner, but you have a furnace with a 3-ton blower.
Those in HVAC spend a lot of time talking about how equipment needs to rate. In other words, certain features of an AC have to match those same features of a furnace for the system to work as a whole.
You can invest in an AC with high efficiency, but the furnace’s blower sends that cool air into the ducts. A blower that’s 20 years old won’t be as efficient, no matter how well-maintained it is.
If you invest in a high-end air conditioner, one with a variable-speed fan and the ability to communicate, but you’re pairing it with a low-end furnace that doesn’t have those capabilities, you’re wasting your money. What’s worse is you might have a system that doesn’t work at all, and the manufacturer won’t warranty your shiny new air conditioner.
What Size AC Do You Need?
It’s easy for HVAC contractors to guess at the air conditioner size your house needs. They can simply look at your furnace’s size, and recommend the same for your AC. Maybe it’s right, but you won’t know for certain unless your technician performs a Manual J Load Calculation. That formula factors in the size and number of windows, the thickness of the insulation, the number of doors, square footage, and even which direction the front of the house faces.
This calculation is the only one approved by the Air Conditioner Contractors of America (ACCA), and every homeowner should have similarly thorough measurements before an estimate and installation.
What’s the difference between a properly-sized unit and one that’s not? One that’s too small will struggle to keep up with the thermometer. One that’s too big will do what’s called short cycling. It will cool the house quickly, then shut off just as quickly. That constant turning off and on will do a lousy job of mixing the air, leaving hot and cold spots. It will also wear out the HVAC system more quickly.
Neither outcome is efficient, and neither provides total comfort.
Air Conditioners Needs a Line Set
The fourth component to consider is where the line set has to run.
Most people don’t actually understand that the air conditioner has two parts. The indoor part, the coil, sits above the furnace, and then there’s the part outside. They are connected by a line set, which consists of two semi-flexible copper pipes to connect the outdoor air conditioner to the indoor evaporator coil. It runs through a small hole in the house that is subsequently sealed.
If the furnace is in the basement, it’s possible you can’t run the line set out the short way because the furnace is next to the garage. Or you want the air conditioner on the other side of the house. Or the electrical is on the other side, so it’s easier to run the line set that way than to run the electrical back the other way.
There are a number of variations when it comes to the placement of the outdoor unit. We can put that air conditioner literally almost anywhere where you want it to go and run enough line set to reach it.
To protect the line set and to give it an aesthetically pleasing appearance, Fire & Ice is the flagship installer and the only company in Ohio to use the Airex line of air conditioner line set protectors. These products solve a number of issues related to air conditioning installation, including:
- Cracked and corroded line set insulation
- Holes and cracks in your home’s exterior that can let bugs in and air out
- Degradation of line sets until they become unsightly and inefficient, reducing the resale value of your home and costing you money
The Airex system looks and performs better than a standard air conditioner refrigerant line, and it will protect your AC unit for years to come.
Best of all, the Airex system won’t cost you an arm and a leg. We include one with every new installation of an air conditioner or heat pump we do in 2022 and beyond.
Air Ducts and Air Flow
Often overlooked in the HVAC system are the things that carry the conditioned air from one place to the next. Air ducts need to be the right size for the home, like the furnace and AC. The air conditioner and blower can deliver more and more cool air, but if the ducts aren’t designed for it, it creates high static pressure. The air starts backing up because the ducts can move only so much air.
High static pressure is also rough on the blower. It has to work harder to try to force more air through. That will eventually lead to frequent repairs and maybe a premature breakdown.
It’s also the case that if the furnace isn’t getting enough return air, the entire system will suffer. The leading cause of this is a dirty filter. Changing it out on a regular basis will fix this.
If you’re thinking about adding an AC, you need to consider if the air ducts can evenly distribute the air. Your HVAC contractor can run pressure tests in your ducts to assess your HVAC.
Air Duct Cleaning in Columbus
Air Duct cleaning includes cleaning numerous parts in your HVAC system, including supply vents from your air handler, return air vents that circulate air from your home back into your heating and cooling system, vents and grilles, and can include the cleaning of internal chambers and parts of your HVAC system that facilitate airflow. These parts can include drain pans, blower motors, heat exchangers, and evaporator coils. Fire & Ice offers this service for Columbus and Central Ohio. Visit our air duct cleaning page to learn more.
An Air Conditioner Helps with Indoor Humidity
He who controls humidity controls comfort. Running the AC will remove humidity and that summertime mugginess. AC systems that are designed to run longer will remove more moisture. How much moisture it removes goes back to the match between the AC and the furnace, and the capabilities of the air conditioner.
ACs come in three different varieties. A single-stage runs at one speed: 100%. A two-speed model can operate at a slower speed, once the optimum temperature is reached, which allows the unit to run longer. When it runs longer, the air has more time to mix, thus eliminating hot and cold spots, and also reducing more humidity than its one-speed cousin.
The top of the line ACs are variable-speed. They can run at literally hundreds of speeds, giving you precise and constant temperatures and humidity levels. Your air conditioner can work in conjunction with your furnace if your furnace has advanced capabilities, which are all under the control of a high-tech thermometer. Everything is talking to one another in a universal language.
How Much Does an Air Conditioner Cost?
Air conditioning units fall into the following categories:
Entry-level air conditioners offer single-stage cooling. They’re a reliable cooling solution if you’re on a budget or if you don’t plan to stay in your home long-term. Entry-level air conditioners cost between $4,350-$8,000.
Mid-range air conditioners offer two-stage cooling. Because of their increased efficiency, mid-range air conditioners can be great if you plan to stay in your home long-term. Mid-range air conditioners cost between $6,200-$9,500.
High-end air conditioners offer variable-speed cooling. Because they provide you with the most control over your system, high-end air conditioners can be great if you want to address multiple problem areas in your home. High-end air conditioners cost between $8,200-$12,095.
Keep this in mind: Price isn't the most important factor when purchasing an air conditioner. The quality of the installation is the most important factor in whether or not you’ll have an efficient, quality system. This makes choosing the right installer more important than the sticker price. Getting the proper size, making sure corners aren’t cut during the install, and the support you’ll receive from your HVAC partner are all factors that will determine the long-term cost and long-term value of your system
Making the Decision to Buy an AC in Columbus, Ohio
The biggest thing to worry about when you’re thinking about investing in an air conditioner is to focus on what you’re really trying to accomplish. If you’re looking to move out soon but still want a summer or two of comfort, then a low-end air conditioner can be a perfect solution.
On the other hand, if you have no plans to move and are tired of sweltering, a higher-end model might be the solution. If you want ultimate comfort, then you’re looking at a top-of-the-line air conditioner and also replacing the furnace to match the capabilities of the air conditioner.
You’ll have a larger upfront cost replacing the entire system, but you’ll gain something back in efficiency, humidity control, and comfort.
Most important of all, you’ll need to pick the right HVAC company to do the installation. A bad installation will rob you of performance, comfort, run up your repair bills, and could lead to a premature breakdown of an expensive piece of equipment.
At Fire & Ice, we’ve installed thousands of ACs in Columbus, Ohio, and we believe that our thoroughness and professionalism make us an ideal choice for air conditioner installations. If you’re willing to talk to us about some of the possibilities, we’d love to hear from you. Enter your zip code in the graphic below to see if you’re in our service area. We look forward to hearing from you.