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Air Conditioners | 15 Min

Central Air Conditioner Buyer Guide 2022

Written by Nikita

How does your central air conditioner work?

In Canada, during summer temperature rises to 70-80℉, and it gets uncomfortably hot. An air conditioner is the only thing that helps you get through it. It keeps you cool by controlling the level of humidity and heat indoors. A central air conditioner provides utmost comfort in comparison to any other air conditioner, especially in big homes.

The Central Air Conditioner takes heat from a place, where it is not desirable, to outside where it doesn’t bother anyone. A step-by-step guide simplifying the working of a central air conditioner is given below.

A thermostat is a control system that regulates the temperature in your home. As soon as the temperature rises, the thermostat senses it and sends a signal to other components of an air conditioner to start working

central air conditioner

Now you know the science behind getting a desirable temperature in your home. Let’s discuss other details of central air conditioners – type, size, cost, brands, and more. This will give you comprehensive information for your next purchase.

What size central air conditioner do you need for your home?

A simple rule of thumb is 20 BTU (British Thermal Unit) per square foot. One ton produces 12000 BTU/hr. For 600 square feet, you need 12000 BTU (600*20), i.e. a one-ton central air conditioner. For 3000 square feet, you need 60000 BTU (3000*20), i.e. a 5-Ton Air conditioner. As per exposure to the sun, increase or decrease the capacity by 10%.
Recognized methods to find the right size central air conditioner

A thorough analysis by an HVAC expert is always better than a simple rule of thumb. An expert considers all the following factors before recommending a central air conditioner.

The right size central air conditioner for your home is neither too big nor too small.

HVAC experts use a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standard to determine the right size of equipment. The CAN/CSA F280-12 (R2021) “Determining the required capacity of residential space heating and cooling appliances” provides information on how to properly select the right equipment for your home.

How do you measure the capacity of a central air conditioner?

A general rule is that a one-ton air conditioner produces 12000 BTU/hr. There are 2 other ways to measure the capacity of your central air conditioner. They give you more accurate information.

Determine the size from the model number – If the tonnage capacity is stated then no further calculation is needed. Otherwise, refer to the part after 5 characters. It tells you the nominal size. For example, 036 means the air conditioner has a nominal capacity of 36,000 BTU/hour.

AHRI Directory – You can find the capacity of a central air conditioner by inserting all the information into the AHRI directory. It is a tad bit more tedious than other methods. You have to fill in all the details, otherwise, the search will overwhelm you.

Benefits of the right size central air conditioner

It is beneficial to buy the right size central air conditioner after considering all the important factors. A few of those benefits are given below–

What happens if you buy and install a central air conditioner of the wrong size?

As read above, you need to buy a right-size air conditioner after considering all the important factors. It not only ensures comfortable living but also lowers electricity bills. The wrong size can go either way, either too large or too small.

Disadvantages of oversized central air conditioner

Apart from increased power consumption, an oversized central air conditioner has other disadvantages.

Disadvantages of undersized central air conditioner

You will never have a cool and comfortable house if your central air conditioner is too small. There will either be temperature issues throughout the house or in certain parts. Other disadvantages are as follows

Signs your central air conditioner is of the wrong size

We read how important it is to have the right size central air conditioner. But, how can you identify that your existing air conditioner is of the wrong size? If you are facing any of the following issues, you have a wrong-size central air conditioner.

What type of air conditioner do you need?

Based on family size, square footage, ducting systems, and budget, every family needs a different air conditioner. Here’s a quick glimpse of which type of air conditioner is the right fit for different needs.

External Central Air Conditioner unit

A wall-mount mini-split heating and air conditioning unit installed in a new house. A modern heat pump, this unit heats a house in winter and cools in the summer. This type of system eliminates ductwork which is a primary source of inefficiency in a conventional system making this about 30% more efficient. This particular unit has an eye sensor which pans the room looking for hot or cold spots and directs the airflow accordingly.

And old styled air conditioner on the wall.

Portable Air Conditioner in room on the wooden floor, 3D rendering

Types of Central Air Conditioners

Before you buy a new central air conditioner, you must have questions like

Here we answer all these questions.

Difference between single-stage, double-stage, and variable speed central air conditioners

Single-Stage Central Air Conditioners Double-Stage Central Air Conditioners Variable Speed Central Air Conditioners
Work at one speed Work at two speeds (high and low) Work continuously in a complex way
Short cycles – turn on and off frequently Cycle longer than single-stage, but shorter than variable speed Long cycles, rarely turn off
Poor dehumidification Dehumidify air better than single-speed air conditioners Dehumidify air successfully
Lower initial cost Costs more than single-stage air conditioners High initial cost
Poor energy usage Better energy use Use energy judiciously
Great for smaller homes Good for multi-story homes Good for large homes

Factors to consider before buying a central air conditioner

As far as comfort goes, a central air conditioner has no comparison. Once you have decided on the type of air conditioner, consider the following factors before locking down any model of a central air conditioner.

Energy Efficiency

An efficient central air conditioner consumes less energy. Therefore, it is less costly to operate. Energy efficiency is measured in two ways:

You can find Energy Star products in the Non-AHRI and AHRI directory.

Size

Instead of relying on a rule of thumb, trust an expert who uses CAN/CSA F280-12 (R2021)Determining the required capacity of residential space heating and cooling appliances” to measure the cooling loads and needs of a house. For more sizing information, refer here.

Ductwork

For installing a traditional central air conditioner, you need proper ductwork. If your home already has HVAC ductwork in place or you have the budget for it, take the advantage. Otherwise, choose a ductless air conditioning system.

Sound

The sound rating of an air conditioner is measured in Bels. The lower the sound rating, the lower noise emitted by a unit. It’s better to choose a central air conditioner with a sound rating of about 7.6 Bels or lower.

Life Expectancy and Warranty

Usually, a central air conditioner’s life expectancy is 15 years or more. In case of frequent issues, check whether you need to replace a part of the entire system. The warranty varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Warranties for air conditioners range from one year for parts and labor to five years for the compressor. Some manufacturers offer a 10-year warranty on their compressors. Make sure you fully understand the terms of a warranty before buying a central air conditioner.

Best central air conditioner brands in Canada

Once you decide the type of air conditioner, the next step is to choose the brand. Below is a list of the top 5 brands for central air conditioners in Canada.

Lennox

Lennox central air conditioners deliver one of the most energy-efficient central air conditioners in Canada. Its high efficiency helps you save hundreds of dollars annually in utility costs. Some ENERGY STAR-certified central air conditioners may even qualify for energy rebates. Generally, SEER ratings for Lennox air conditioners are higher than the competitors. A Lennox air conditioner costs between $2000 and $5000 (plus installation fees), depending on its size.

Carrier

Carrier is a household name and an industry leader for central air conditioners. It currently provides HVAC in over 170 countries worldwide. It also offers a great warranty. A Carrier air conditioner costs between $1750 and $2400 (plus installation fees), depending on its size.

Goodman

Goodman is one of the popular brands in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning products. For years, it has been offering innovative, energy-efficient, and highly durable products. It offers a variety of products. You can choose as per square footage, family size, and other factors. A Goodman Central Air Conditioner offers good quality at a reasonable price.

Trane

Trane is very popular for its HVAC products. Its products are known for extended warranties and long life. It’s a mid-range option for efficient central air conditioners. It offers great customer service and financing options for homeowners.

Rheem

Rheem offers great features, prices, and warranties on its central air conditioners. It makes the company one of the best central air conditioner brands in Canada. It is a good mid-range brand for HVAC units. All of their models have ENERGY STAR certification, making it one of the top heating and cooling manufacturers in Canada. Rheem central air conditioners are undoubtedly a good investment.

How much does it cost to buy a central air conditioner in Canada?

Central Air Conditioners’ costs vary as per brand, area, and square footage. Some of the factors that affect the cost of central air conditioners are as follows.

Brand

Your cost for central air conditioners depends on their brand. Brands like Goodman offer quality at a lower rate than competitors. Trane and Rheem make excellent mid-range air conditioners. Lennox and Carrier fall into a high-range brand. The price range may vary as per the model of each brand.

Model

Generally, companies manufacture a range of products to cater to different market segments. The cost of your central air conditioner will vary as per different models. It is always better to choose an Energy Star Certified Model. You may have to pay a bit higher upfront cost, but the savings in terms of energy bills will make it worth it. Click here to find Energy Star Central Air conditioners for 2022.

Installation and maintenance

Installation and maintenance expenses should also be considered while choosing a central air conditioner. Labor charges vary from company to company. You can also avail government rebates on energy-efficient products. Click here to find more on rebates.

Operating Cost

Before buying a central air conditioner, you may want to calculate the annual cost of operating it to determine whether it is worth the investment. It will help you in comparing its cost and cooling capacities before making a purchase decision.

As per NRCAN, the method for calculating the operating cost of a central air conditioner is
Cost of operation = (24 x DDc·18 / TOD – 18) x (CAP (35°C) / SEER) x (Cost/kW/1000)

Where,
DDc·18 = number of cooling degree days (base is taken as 18°C)
TOD = summer outdoor design temperature (°C) for location
CAP (35°C) = air conditioner’s capacity (in Btu/h) at an entering air temperature of 35°C
SEER = Seasonal energy efficiency ratio (Btu/h/W)
Cost per kWh = local electricity cost (taken in $/kWh)

All the above factors affect the cost of your central air conditioner. Consider them before making a purchase.

Where can you buy a new central air conditioner in Canada?

Once you decide the type, brand, and model of a central air conditioner, the only thing left is to buy it. It’s the last and an important step. You can ask for quotes from different local HVAC contractors/ dealers.

How to find local HVAC contractors?

You can refer to the brand’s website to find dealers in your area and contact them from there.

You can refer to consumer reports to find better-rated products.

You can also refer to government contractor locator websites, HRAI

As per NRCAN, pay utmost attention to the part of finding an HVAC contractor for your central air conditioners. Keep the following tips in mind