by Marcus Pickett
Given the average life expectancy of an air conditioning unit is about 15 to 20 years, most people will need to install a new system at least once or twice during their lifetimes. Your turn may be coming soon. As you prepare to choose and install a new unit, here's what you need to know and pay attention to so you can make the best choice possible for your home.
It's tough to estimate the cost and time associated with air conditioning installation. The contributing factors that weigh in on a swamp cooler for a 1,500 sq. ft. home in Phoenix, AZ and a conventional air conditioning system for a 2,500 sq ft. home in Chicago, IL are so different they might as well be separate projects. That said, ServiceMagic, the leading online resource connecting homeowners and home improvement contractors, has compiled the following averages from projects actually completed by homeowners from across the country. Keep in mind when looking at these averages that individual projects can cost less than $2,000 or more than $20,000:
No matter what else you do, no matter how energy-efficient your A/C unit, no matter how highly rated your insulation, a few, simple actions will reduce your system's energy consumption, helping the environment and saving you money each month. Pull your window coverings closed in the morning and open them back up in the evening. Install an automated thermostat that will allow you to leave the temperature higher when you're not home. Install ceiling fans in higher traffic areas of your home. Not only will these steps reduce energy consumption, but they may allow you to install a smaller unit in the first place, literally saving you thousands of dollars in the upfront cost of installation.
You need to research the possibilities for a new air conditioning system and plan accordingly. To do this, you need to have some idea of when your old A/C unit may go kaput. If your current system is getting up there in years - remember the average life expectancy is 15 to 20 years - you should have an HVAC contractor inspect your system each spring. Ask whether your system has what it takes to make it another year and how much longer the contractor thinks you can expect from the system in general. Trying to save and/or finance the cost of a new unit in the period of just a couple of months is hard enough. Trying to make a wise choice after your unit has failed and it is 90 degrees inside your home is virtually impossible.
Read more about Shopping for Air Conditioners.
-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with ServiceMagic.com. He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.