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Air Conditioner Buying Guide

What does “Ton” Mean?

Ton is the capacity of a cooling unit. Your home dictates the size required. You can be 1⁄2 ton bigger without causing any issues to performance or life span.

There are a few ways for calculating AC sizing. The most accurate being a heat gain (manual J). Ballparks/rule of thumb calculations can be achieved via counting the vents and/or internal square footage.

1 Ton of cooling can remove 12,000 btu/hr
OR
Cool up to 700 sqft on a traditional modern home.

Air conditioning requires 3-4 supply and at least 1 16” return run per ton of cooling.

What does “SEER” Mean?

S.E.E.R stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio/rating. Simply a scale like MPG on a car. It’s the maximum potential efficiency the unit can achieve. This is not guaranteed but potential performance.

In today's market, units range from 13-26 seer ratings.

In our region (Southern Alberta) 13, 14.5 and 16 seer are popular choices. 13 seer accounting for the most common choice.

Higher the SEER rating...
  • higher the purchase price
  • less electricity used
  • quieter the unit
  • more self-protection technology -usually bigger the unit
Facts to consider
  • Maintaining 20-21 degrees normally means 500 hours of run time over 4 months of summer in our region.
  • We only pay approx. 5 cents per kwh
  • Based on these stats. A 16 seer unit only saves us approx $2.50 a month or $10 a year!

14.5 SEER Confusion Explained

Alberta building code 9.36 ​states that any home built after Nov 1st 2016 must install a 14.5 seer unit or higher! This is a building code and not an electrical code.

Air conditioner installations require a city electrical inspection (insurance and home resale purposes). The only city currently enforcing this code is Airdrie.

Key Components To Your Air Conditioner

Evaporator Coil -​ ​ the part of an air conditioner system that absorbs the heat from the air in your house. It is located above the furnace.

Cased Coil for AC

Cased Coil

  • Designed to mate to your furnace
  • Guarantees max airflow
  • Achieves max performance out of furnace and air conditioner
  • Easier to access for inspection and cleaning
  • Cost $100-$300 more (depends on required size)
Un-Cased Coil for AC

Un-Cased Coil

  • Installed in ductwork above furnace
  • Must be installed correctly (requires skilled contractor)
  • Sealed inside with metal hatch
  • Cost $100-$300 less
  • Can be okay if done correctly
  • Can be difficult to clean and inspect in the future - increasing future service costs

Aluminum Coil for AC

Aluminum Coil

  • Avoids corrosion (*formicary)
  • Lasts longer
  • All manufacturers make them
  • NEW Industry standard
Copper Coil for AC

Copper Coil

  • Leaks within 3-5 years (*formicary corrosion)
  • Major issues. Class action lawsuits
  • 3rd party manufacturers still make them (Aspen, ADP)
  • Some local contractors still using them
  • OLD Industry standard

*Formicary corrosion​ is caused by a chemical reaction requiring three parts: oxygen, water, and an organic acid. If any of the three parts are removed there can't be any further ​formicary corrosion​. ​Formicary corrosion​ only occurs in copper based alloys.

thermostatic expansion valve for AC

TXV ​(thermostatic expansion valve)

  • Supplies optimum amount of refrigerant no matter the weather situation
  • Achieves max performance
  • Increases SEER rating
  • Can be 3rd party bolt-on or installed from factory (factory option better)
  • Costs $75 to $160
Piston (fixed orifice) for AC

Piston (fixed orifice)

  • Supplies only one quantity of refrigerant
  • Not ideal but okay
  • Less moving parts
  • Doesn’t achieve max performance out of equipment
  • Keeps upfront costs down

*All of our air conditioners are Aluminum-Cased with TXV, except the lower-priced Goodman GSX13 SEER units which is Aluminum-Cased with Piston.


Condenser Unit

The Condenser unit is ​located outside where heat from inside the home gets removed to the unit. The hot air gets expelled out the top or side of the unit. Air flow is crucial to its performance.

Condenser Unit for AC

Quality Units

  • Have heavy duty louvered shrouds and hail protection
  • Long lasting paint
  • Self diagnostic hardware components - lowering service costs
  • High/low pressure switches that protect the unit
  • Sound blankets installed at the factory
  • Quality/efficient fans
  • Scroll compressors
Condenser Unit Self diagnostic hardware components
Condenser Unit High/low pressure switches
Condenser Unit efficient fan
 

AC Condenser Pad

Condenser Pad

  • Okay when ground is level, and landscaping completed. (homes older than 3 years)
  • Unit can be manipulated and moved around a little
  • Unit sits in the snow
  • Can become uneven overtime affecting longevity and performance. (heavy clay concentrated areas)

AC Condenser Bracket

Condenser Brackets

  • A must with uneven ground
  • Solid application
  • Up out of the snow
  • No vibrations or sound when installed by professionals
  • Not always possible. Need 18 inches of concrete foundation

AC Condenser Optional Slim Units

Optional Condenser Slim Units

  • A must with uneven ground
  • Very quiet
  • Small footprint
  • No height restrictions above unit
  • Designed for townhomes, condos, infills and side by sides
  • Cost more than traditional units

AC Slim Ducting

Slim Ducting

  • Hides ugly line set and electrical conduit
  • When long exterior runs required
  • Used for interior applications too - when exposed pipes are necessary
  • Cleaner, nicer looking install
  • $150 per 10-20 feet

AC Site Glass

Site Glass

  • Makes the invisible VISIBLE. Quality assurance device
  • Proves we did a great job installing your AC
  • Blue is good
  • Pink is bad
  • Proper vacuum achieved and no moisture or contaminants in the system
  • Preventative maintenance tool
  • Run unit 10 mins. No bubbles good, bubbles bad
  • $15 part but invaluable to homeowner

Quality Installation

Quality of installation varies from contractor to contractor and installer to installer. Not all contractors are equal. Proper installation is more important than the brand of the unit, although, as you've read, that is important too. Keep in mind, the most common breakdowns for air conditioners occur because of improper installation.

The equipment will only perform as well as it is installed!