To outsiders who don’t know that huge areas of Arizona enjoy relatively mild summers, Arizona is known for one thing above all others: heat! For those of us living and working in Gilbert and other parts of the Phoenix-Metro area, though, the stereotype fits. Summers here are brutal and long, which means you want the best air conditioner that keeps your home cool, won’t break down in July, and doesn’t send your summer electric bill through the roof.
A Look at the Top 3 Brands of the Best Air Conditioner
Homeowners and industry experts alike praise Trane for its reliable, energy-efficient air conditioners. Trane’s modulating units ensure reduced energy usage and noise output thanks to low capacity operation.
Trane air conditioners come with a 10-year parts warranty and some models include a 12-year warranty on compressors. Most Gas units come with a 20 year heat exchanger warranty. One of the features customers love is the manufacturer’s ComfortLink II technology, which allows communication between each component of the system and lets you control the unit through your smartphone.
Another manufacturer popular for reliability is Rheem, whose two-stage compressor model helps conserve energy for greater efficiency. The systems feature diagnostics that aid A/C techs in detecting potential issues, making prevention and repair easy.
Replacement parts are occasionally a challenge, as some parts must be purchased directly from a Rheem dealer.
Another industry leader in reliability, Lennox builds energy-efficient units, including models capable of running with the help of solar power. The company offers iComfort Technology, similar to Trane’s ComfortLink II, which allows smartphone access to the unit.
Lennox replacement parts are even harder to come by than Rheem’s, which often delays repairs.
Lennox offers a 10-year warranty on the unit and compressor. In addition, certain models come with a 20-year warranty on the heat exchanger.
How to Choose the Best Air Conditioner that’s Right for You
One of the top items to consider when choosing the best air conditioner is its efficiency ratings (View infographic on SEER rating). In general, the unit’s price tag increases along with its efficiency rating. However, that greater efficiency actually saves you money over the life of the unit, as it leads to lower energy consumption and therefore lower power bills (see the next section). The two things to look for are the ENERGY STAR label and SEER ratings.
Next on the list is size. If the unit is too small, it won’t properly cool your home, though it works hard to do so. That hard work leads directly to a short lifespan and repair issues. If the unit’s too large, it shuts off and on more frequently and leads to humidity problems, also reducing the lifespan. Before buying a new air conditioner, have your HVAC company run a heat load calculation to determine your size needs.
Warranties are also important. Even the best manufacturers can occasionally produce a subpar unit. Check the manufacturer’s warranty, as well as any warranties offered by your installer. Also, consider extended warranty options for the best coverage.
Look at additional features, such as two-speed compressor operation units or variable speed compressor operation that reduces energy consumption and technology that allows you to access the system remotely.
Estimating the cost of a new A/C unit without a through physical inspection is pretty much impossible, as they vary so dramatically in quality, size, features, and more. The best and most accurate method is to have a comfort specialist assess your homes needs. Air conditioning system replacements are not just replacing the unit or Box. System replacements require verifications of load calculation for proper system capacity sizing, inspection of duct dimensions of the supply return air to be sure the new system works at its rated efficiency.
Replacement cost of an average 3 Ton system can vary from $5000 to $12,000 depending upon the efficiency, type or system and location. The comfort specialist will look at your options on what type or system you’re looking for, if it’s gas system or heat pumps, is it a package system on the roof or ground. You could split system that part is in the attic or a closet some other location. Many other factors such as needing piping or electrical work can lead to substantial increases to the final cost of an installation.
Of course, figuring out the total cost to run your air conditioner is also difficult to gauge. This is due in part to the fact that power rates increase substantially during summer months in the Phoenix valley (in places where it gets cold, they experience rate increases during winter months).
Start by taking your March power bill and subtracting it from your July power bill. This offers the clearest estimate of the amount you spend to run your air conditioner, since March is a month we tend not to use heat or A/C in Gilbert.
Next, look at the SEER rating on your old unit and compare it to the SEER rating on the new one. As the SEER rating rises, so does the percent you save on your electric bill. Using the SEER Savings Calculator, the table below shows you the percentage saved in power as SEER rating increases.
Going by this table, if the difference in your power bill from March to July is $100 (a VERY conservative estimate for most Valley homeowners), and you go from a 10 SEER unit to today’s minimum of 14, you would save 29% on your air conditions power consumption during summer months. You’d see even bigger savings with a bigger jump. After a few Gilbert summers, your power bill savings could conceivably reimburse the amount you paid for the unit.
A split or central air system requires professional installation due to the refrigerant, the handling of which requires special EPA licensing. In addition, this is not the kind of project you want to DIY your way through. You have to worry about wiring, ductwork, mounting, testing, and more. What’s more, you may void the warranty if you fail to hire a licensed professional to complete the job.
Work with your contractor to determine the right size unit. He or she will also check your ductwork for leaks, and ensure your insulation is sufficient, as this greatly affects the efficiency of the unit.
What to Look for in Your Warranty
All of the best air conditioners warranties terms and coverage vary dramatically among different manufacturers.
The warranty’s term is its duration – how many years does the warranty last? Expect at least a 10-year warranty, as today’s models are meant to last 15-20 years when properly maintained.
Look carefully at those terms. Even if it says lifetime, that usually refers to the unit itself, not all of its components and to the original owner. It typically does not include labor after the first year, or parts after a certain number of years.
Parts coverage varies as per part type. Your unit may come with a 20-year warranty on the heat exchanger, but only a 10-year warranty on other components.
Some vendors offer extended warranties that typically add 5 or 10 years to your coverage for parts and labor. Ask the vendor for specific details about that warranty, such as the wait time for warranty repairs and how long the company has been operating. There’s nothing wrong with starting a new business, but if you buy an extended warranty, you want to know that company will be around for at least the length of your warranty.
The contractor you hire to install the unit should also offer a warranty on its services. This should cover damage incurred during installation, as well as any future installation-related issues.
How You Might Accidentally Void the Warranty
You rely on your warranty to protect your investment, so read it carefully to ensure you don’t accidentally void it through an innocent mistake. We talked about the first one – not hiring a licensed contractor to install the unit. Most HVAC warranties include this requirement.
In addition, you probably have to register your unit with the manufacturer within a given timeframe. Your warranty likely includes maintenance requirements, and proof that such maintenance occurred. Finally, using non-approved parts to complete repairs usually makes your warranty null and void.
A/C Problems Unique to Phoenix
Even the best air conditioner issues are far more likely to occur in the extreme, prolonged heat of Gilbert than in other parts of the country. The pros know that three issues top the list of Phoenix A/C repairs:
- Dirty coils (outdoor and indoor)
- Broken A/C capacitor
- Replacing or repairing the condensate drain pan
With our frequent Haboobs or dust storms, which cause the outdoor coils to become extremely dirty which reduces the systems efficiency. That dust also through time can clog the indoor coil also, especially without proper air filtration. The coils should be inspected and kept clean.
The capacitor on your air conditioner helps the unit start and get up to peak efficiency. Once it does its job, it goes back to sleep until the next cycle. During summer, when it hits 100 before 10 AM and stays 100 until after midnight, your unit goes through a lot of these cycles, which means the capacitor works overtime, shortening its lifespan.
As your air conditioner cools the warm air entering the unit, condensation forms. The higher the heat, the greater the condensation. This sometimes overloads the condensate drain, which struggles to keep up with demand. Sometimes, the drain pan or drain line may get clogged which would require repairs, but it may also may need to be replaced.
Give your air conditioner extra TLC during summer by replacing the air filter every month. A clogged system works even harder and a clean air filter goes a long way toward keeping the air flowing smoothly.
Start your tender loving care before summer arrives, by scheduling your biannual service call in the spring. The tech checks all of your components, including these three items, to ensure your unit functions properly and keeps you cool all summer long. Even after 10 straight days of 110-degree heat.
Are you ready to show your HVAC system some love? Check out Isley’s TLC Maintenance Plan. It includes two tune-ups per year, discounted repairs, a free annual outdoor coil cleaning, and more.