Summer brings a hive of activity to Alaska. Midnight baseball? Yes! Late-night s’mores? Absolutely! Great festivals? Sign us up! Gardening until the wee hours? Oops, sorry neighbors!
It’s an incredibly exciting time of year, and many of us find ourselves burning the candle at both ends, trying to fit in as much as we possibly can. It’s why we all love living up here. Your home needs to be a place you can relax and recover in between your fishing, camping, hunting, hiking, and sailing trips. When temperatures soar, it means you need good A/C.
So where do you start? Most of us have an idea of what types of questions to ask when we’re installing new furnaces or boilers – hey, we’re Alaskans! We’re a tough bunch.
Air conditioning units, on the other hand, can leave us feeling a little bit out of our depth. Before you ask for advice from your brother-in-law in Florida, or your college roommate in Arizona, we’re going to run you through the basics of how to choose an air conditioner for your home.
Want to skip ahead and just order a new A/C unit for your home? Talk to our expert technicians about your needs when you schedule an appointment.
While you’re here, consider maintaining your furnace this summer. Try our Comfort Club Membership for 10% off all repairs and more great benefits!
How does an air conditioner work?
This is a really great question. Furnaces are pretty self-explanatory (they use fire), and so are boilers (it’s all in the name), but air conditioners are a little more complex.
A really common myth is the idea that they create cold air. However, the truth is that they work by removing the heat inside your house, transferring it outdoors, and recirculating the air.
Air conditioners have three basic parts: an evaporator, a compressor, and a condenser. To put it really simply, the heat from the house is drawn in through a vent and blown over a refrigerated evaporator coil. This absorbs the heat, cooling the air, which is then blown back into the home.
The heat continues along to the compressor, which raises the temperature of the refrigerant and prepares it for condensing. When the refrigerant reaches the condenser, it’s nothing more than a superheated vapor, but when it’s exposed to the outside air it cools back down to a liquid.
Once that’s done, the cold refrigerant is circulated back through the system to the evaporator, allowing the cycle to continue. See? It’s actually a really neat process.
Read more: 5 smart ways to cool your home this summer
What are the different types of air conditioners?
Here at HeatSource Mechanical, we’re proud to be Premier Lennox Dealers. The Dave Lennox Signature Collection includes three different types of air conditioning units:
- Variable-capacity air conditioners: These are the most efficient A/C units you can buy. Variable speed compressors operate continuously, making tiny adjustments that mean the temperature in your home remains consistent all day. Depending on the weather, they may operate at anywhere between 35% and 100%, creating a steady stream of cool air.
- Two-stage air conditioners: Two-stage units operate at either a high or low setting. This means they’ll run at capacity when you need it – for example, when you first walk into the house at the end of the day and feel like you’re stewing. Once your home reaches the desired temperature, you can switch over to the low setting to maintain it.
- Single-stage air conditioners: This is the most common type of A/C in the United States. These A/C units turn on when the indoor temperature exceeds the temperature setting on your thermostat. Once it returns to the set temperature, it will turn itself off. These units always run at 100%, so they’re either fully turned on or fully turned off.
What’s the cheapest air conditioner to run?
The type of air conditioner you choose will affect efficiency and price point.
Efficiency is measure by a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), which takes the cooling output of an air conditioner over a typical season and divides it by the energy it uses in Watt hours. All you really need to know, however, is that higher numbers mean better efficiency.
To use the Dave Lennox Signature Collection as an example, the XC25 has a SEER of up to 26. The XC21 two-stage air conditioner has a SEER of up to 21, while the SL18XC1 single-stage unit has a SEER of up to 18.5. These numbers can make a big difference to your bill.
The XC25 is the most expensive model, but it can make big savings. Lennox estimates that it could save up to 58% per year, based on the U.S. national average, which is equivalent to:
- Savings of $945 over 5 years
- Savings of $1,890 over 10 years
- Savings of $2,835 over 15 years.
Read more: How to make your home more efficient
Which air conditioning features matter most?
Air conditioning technology has come a long way in recent years. Alaskans haven’t really needed them in the past, but recent record-breaking heatwaves means it’s really helpful to educate yourselves. (And no, you don’t have to call Uncle Chuck down in New Mexico for tips.)
When you’re choosing an A/C unit for your home, you might want to think about things like temperature swings and noise. Gone are the huge, clunky 70s-era cubes we used to see hanging out of New York City apartment windows in the movies. Modern appliances really are amazing.
A variable-capacity air conditioner, for example, can adjust cooling output in increments as small as 1%. That means you can perfectly match your energy use with your comfort. This is a great way to avoid temperature swings, because your system will constantly be working away in the background. This is different to a single-stage unit, which will operate at full blast until the temperature drops, and then switch off completely. That said, both are really effective ways to cool your home.
If you’re a light sleeper, or you enjoy coming home to peace and quiet, it’s worth asking your HVAC system which system will be quietest. A feature of the new Dave Lennox Signature Range is its SilentComfort technology, which creates sound levels so low you can barely tell the A/C unit is running at all. (If you want to nerd out for a second, you can click here and scroll about halfway down the page to the black circle icon to hear it running for yourself.) This technology means units in this collection are about 50% quieter than a standard air conditioner, minimizing disruption.