Some systems include an "economizer mode", which is sometimes called a "free-cooling mode". When economizing, the control system will open (fully or partially) the outside air damper and close (fully or partially) the return air damper. This will cause fresh, outside air to be supplied to the system. When the outside air is cooler than the demanded cool air, this will allow the demand to be met without using the mechanical supply of cooling (typically chilled water or a direct expansion "DX" unit), thus saving energy. The control system can compare the temperature of the outside air vs. return air, or it can compare the enthalpy of the air, as is frequently done in climates where humidity is more of an issue. In both cases, the outside air must be less energetic than the return air for the system to enter the economizer mode.
After one company just took a cursory glance at our A/C and found nothing wrong, I called HVAC. I called them mostly based on Michael W's post on 8/10/14 where he told us the owner, Alberto, took his feedback and took it SERIOUSLY. That speaks VOLUMES to anyone who has been around long enough to know the characteristics of the serious players are and those who are the wannabes.
As you can see, if we know what the contractor is actually paying for specific equipment, we know what their labor rates are, and we know what they bid the project for, then we can also use some basic algebra (or just let the program do it for us because we’re lazy) to figure out how much of a profit they are making off of us (you) at different bid prices:

Clean air delivery rate is the amount of clean air an air cleaner provides to a room or space. When determining CADR, the amount of airflow in a space is taken into account. For example, an air cleaner with a flow rate of 100 cfm (cubic feet per minute) and an efficiency of 50% has a CADR of 50 cfm. Along with CADR, filtration performance is very important when it comes to the air in our indoor environment. Filter performance depends on the size of the particle or fiber, the filter packing density and depth and also the air flow rate.[30]
Unfortunately, manufacturers and contractors don’t publish this information…it’s a secret. Why? Who knows…but we have access to a full contractor pricing database of 1,000’s of different units in our online HVAC installation cost calculator, so let’s choose one for our example calculation. We’ll go with Carrier equipment, since our readers always bother us about them (despite us telling them that they are overpriced):

Alberto said they were busy but could either install on the upcoming Saturday.  We were going to be out of town and said unfortunately that day did not work.  He then proposed the upcoming Tuesday as a possible solution, but just had to confirm with another appointment.  I said great.  I will review the estimate and call your office to confirm I want to move forward with the install.

HVAC System Quality Installation Contractor Checklist -- This checklist identifies all of the steps the contractor has taken for the Energy Star Certification and identifies what work the contractor has done. If the system is later modified, this checklist can help identify what was done to proper Energy Star specifications and what was added later that may not meet the requirements.

Deciding if central air is worth the cost depends on your needs and local housing market. If you live in a hotter climate, it can definitely be worth the price. Not only can it keep your home at a comfortable temperature, but air conditioning can even save lives during extreme heat waves. But in a milder zone without severe temperatures, window units, fans or the breeze from an open window could be adequate.
Air conditioners can create a lot of water because they remove moisture from the air. To get rid of this, they have a [usually plastic] drain pipe that comes out of the side of the air handler. Over time, algae can block this pipe and, when it does, the AC won’t work. In fact, some condensate drains have a float switch that won’t let the AC run if water backs-up. Water can also puddle around the unit or flood the area. To deal with condensate problems, please see Air Conditioner Leaks Water, below.