A little simple math can help determine the size system you need. A rule of thumb is 20 BTUs per square foot. So, a 500 square foot room would need 10,000 BTUs to cool or warm it efficiently. This assumes that you live in a temperate region and have adequate insulation with no energy loss. In the real world, all units have some degree of energy loss. This is reflected in an HVAC system's SEER rating for cooling and AFUE rating for heating.
The University of Virginia - 2005 / The Wharton School of Finance - 2016 / U.S. Naval Aviator 2005-2015. At All Systems Mechanical air conditioning and heating, we believe that the experience our clients have is every bit as important as the products they receive. Simply put, our results speak for themselves, and we'd be happy to help. If you're in the market for a new AC or furnace, make sure that you get a fair price! Try our online calculator; click the tab on the top of this page for more information.
Free cooling systems can have very high efficiencies, and are sometimes combined with seasonal thermal energy storage so that the cold of winter can be used for summer air conditioning. Common storage mediums are deep aquifers or a natural underground rock mass accessed via a cluster of small-diameter, heat-exchanger-equipped boreholes. Some systems with small storages are hybrids, using free cooling early in the cooling season, and later employing a heat pump to chill the circulation coming from the storage. The heat pump is added-in because the storage acts as a heat sink when the system is in cooling (as opposed to charging) mode, causing the temperature to gradually increase during the cooling season.
Be careful with HVAC change-outs.  Change-outs are only about 15-20% of the HVAC installation industry. Decrease HVAC installation cost by investing in new ductwork now if needed. Your ducts wear out too, and make sure that your ducts are in fantastic shape if you do this. Many contractors push this because it’s easy and cheap for them, with good pay-off. Do your research and replace them if you need to in order to avoid doing it later, as well as avoid potential health hazards from using old, broken ductwork.
If the AC doesn’t turn off, it may be time to clean the condensing unit. Dirty condenser coils won’t give off heat efficiently and will keep the unit running.  Another possibility: The contacts on the outdoor run relay may have welded together—something that can happen over time because of frequent electrical arcing at the relay. Before checking the run relay, turn off the power to the furnace and the condensing unit. Next, disassemble the relay and pry apart the contacts. This should do the trick until you buy a replacement—which you should do soon.

These factors are included in a "Manual J" calculation. Contractors who make these calculations before recommending a size can take a couple of hours collecting the information and making the calculation. If your contractor doesn't do it, there are services that will do it for around $99. If you're feeling particularly on the ball, there are also free online calculators.


An air conditioning system's SEER is especially important if you live in a climate that changes temperature dramatically. The SEER is determined by the cooling output during the winter divided by its electric input during the winter. The higher the rating, the more efficient it will be. In January of 2006, the U.S. put standards in place for cooling units which are still in effect today. They must have a minimum SEER of 13. So, if you live in a home with a system installed before the new standards went into effect, consider having it replaced. SEER 13 units increase home efficiency by 30 percent.
Be careful of dishonest HVAC contractors. There’s no magical formula to see if an HVAC contractor is scamming you, unfortunately, but remember that they typically do this in one of two ways: first, they are charging grossly low prices (far below everyone else), or second, they aren’t including what everyone else is. In the first situation, they will charge you change fees, other hidden fees, or they stole the equipment and are passing themselves off as legitimate contractors (very common in California these days). In the second situation, they are charging you a very fair price, but aren’t including what the other contractors are (i.e. charging $10,500 for the installation which is fair, but not including the ductwork which is a scam unless there is some other, complex stuff going on there).
You've probably noticed many appliances boasting an Energy Star Certification. What this means is that manufacturer voluntarily built the product to help reduce greenhouse gases and meet non-regulatory guidelines offered by the Environmental Protection Agency. To earn an Energy Star rating, a product or system must be tested by a third party that has been recognized by the EPA for meeting their testing qualifications.
If you’re purchasing from a big-box store, you can expect to pay approximately $120-$1,000 for a window unit. Window units are appealing for their quick setup and relatively low cost, but they can use more energy over time than central air and only cool the room in which they’re installed. The price will vary depending on the type of air conditioner you buy and its cooling capacity. Window units, which require minimal installation, are one of the most affordable options on the market. Portable air conditioners don’t have the cooling power of a window unit, but they do have the perk of being transportable from room to room. Expect to pay between $225 and $800 for a portable air conditioner, on average. The cost of an air conditioning system with coils, condenser and line (not including installation or ductwork) can range from approximately $2,000 to $4,000 or more. If you don’t have (and don’t want to put in) ducts, a ductless mini-split air conditioner is a good option, although pricey up front. Pricing can range from $650 to $4,250 per unit on average; you’ll need one unit for each room in which you want temperature control.
You might also want to check your home for thermal insulation if you live in extreme heat or freezing temperatures. Insulation keeps the heat and cool air in your home, which can lead to a lower electric bill. If the heated or cool air leaks out, your system turns on more often. There are various types of insulation that you can install in your home and a home energy auditor can point out the best places for it in your house.
Air conditioning and refrigeration are provided through the removal of heat. Heat can be removed through radiation, convection, or conduction. Refrigeration conduction media such as water, air, ice, and chemicals are referred to as refrigerants. A refrigerant is employed either in a heat pump system in which a compressor is used to drive thermodynamic refrigeration cycle, or in a free cooling system which uses pumps to circulate a cool refrigerant (typically water or a glycol mix).
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