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Choosing the right air conditioner

As our summers get hotter and drier, air conditioning is getting more and more popular. The amount of air conditioners in use around the world is expected to roughly triple by 2050. In B.C., the number of homes with air conditioning increased from 10% in 2001 to 34% in 2017 and shows no sign of slowing down.

Efficiency is key

Air conditioning also uses a lot of electricity, so if you do buy an air conditioner, here’s how to keep your energy costs down:

ENERGY STAR® rated: Just like any other electrical device or appliance, make sure the one you buy is ENERGY STAR® rated.

Get the right sized unit for your home: Get one too big and you’ll be wasting energy as it cycles on and off to avoid over-cooling your home. Get one too small and you’ll never feel the benefit. You can roughly calculate what you need with a simple formula based on air conditioner performance, which is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). Just multiply the square footage of the space you need to cool by 25 BTU. For example, if your space is 15 feet x 12 feet, then 15 x 12 = 180 square feet. Multiply 180 by 25 BTU. and you’ll know that you need an air conditioner rated at 4500 BTU.

Check your insulation: For maximum efficiency, the space you want to cool should be properly draftproofed and insulated.

Types of air conditioners

So if you live in the hottest parts of B.C. such as the Fraser Valley or the Okanagan, what are your choices?

Central air conditioning system

A central system pumps cool air round your home through ducting. Of all the options here, a central system is the most expensive, ranging from $3,000-$8,000 to buy and install. To decide which system would be most suitable, we’d recommend asking your contractor to do a heat load analysis of your home. A central air system will cost around $140 a month if you use it for 12 hours a day.

Portable air conditioners

If you don’t have ducting or want to avoid the cost of installing central air conditioning, a portable unit can easily be wheeled to hot spots around your home. Because they can only cool a single room at a time, portable units are most practical for small apartments. With prices ranging from $400-$800, a portable air conditioner is cheaper to buy than a central system, but is less efficient, costing around $45 a month to use for 12 hours a day.

Window air conditioners

Window units sit in your window frame pumping cool air in and hot air out. Since you can’t really move them around, they’re best suited to cooling a specific space, such as a bedroom or home office and like portable units, are not as efficient as a central system. Window air conditioner prices range from $300-$700 and cost around $20 a month to use for 12 hours a day.

Heat pumps for cooling

Heat pumps may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to options to cool your home, but in addition to being able to transfer heat into your home, they can also work in reverse to transfer heat out of your home. So if you’re serious about air conditioning, maybe a heat pump is the answer. It’ll keep you cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and it could save you money on your heating. Learn more about selecting the right heat pump.

Do you really need an air conditioner?

Finally, we’ve got one last option for you… do you actually need air conditioning at all?

While our summers are getting hotter, it’s generally only for relatively short periods of the year. So before you commit to any kind of air conditioning, take a look at some cheaper and much more efficient ways to keep your home cool during those hot spells: