NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Summer is right around the corner, which means that right now many Americans are in the process of figuring out how they will cool their homes this year. Fortunately, for them, buying a new air conditioner isn’t as tricky as one might think.
“Many units are made by the same manufacturers with different brand names on the boxes and, for the most part, very similar technology is involved,” Ace Hardware's home expert Lou Manfredini tells MainStreet. The real trick, he says, is assessing your personal needs so you can find an air-conditioning system that is right for you.
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To help you make sense of what is on sale at your local hardware store, MainStreet consulted some experts for their tips and tricks to find the right air conditioner.
Know your options
When it comes to cooling a home, consumers have three major options. They can buy individual room air-conditioning units to install in windows or along walls of particular rooms in their houses; they can go with central air conditioning, which uses an external compressor to cool a home throughout using a network of ducts; or they can opt for a ductless mini-split air conditioning system, which is essentially a hybrid of the two.
Overall total costs, including how much a unit will run up your monthly electric bill, will vary depending on the size of the system and the location of your home. Generally speaking, the mini-split systems are the most expensive.
Mike Rogers, vice president of home energy audit company Green Homes America, estimates that installing central air conditioning can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 if duct work needs to done. If ducts are already in place, installing a central or mini-split air conditioner can still cost consumers a few grand. These systems, once installed, will typically operate efficiently for 10 to 15 years.
Comparatively, a decent room unit is likely to cost anywhere from $100 to $800, depending on its size, and can last just as long, if maintained properly. This means that those who opt for central air aren’t doing so for any long-term monetary gain.