Atlas AC Repair, LLC

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Complete Air Conditioner Buyers Guide

2023 Air Conditioner Buyers Guide

One of the biggest purchasing decisions that all homeowners face at some point is buying a new air conditioner. AC systems are costly, and you want to make sure you get it right the first time. That’s why we created this air conditioner buyers guide was created. To help homeowners to better navigate the HVAC industry without a pesky salesperson sitting in your home trying to sell you something. 

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#1 - Types of air conditioner systems

3 HVAC Types

  • Gas System
  • Heat Pump System
  • Straight Electric System

There are largely only three types of central air conditioning and heating system used in the US. Gas systems are very common HVAC systems and use gas to heat a home. The downside to these systems is they cost to most to replace, largely due to safety code compliance that has to be followed during the installation. A heat pump HVAC system is the most energy-efficient system on the market because it uses the outdoor AC unit to both cool and heat your home. Due to this, heat pumps have become the most popular HVAC system on the market. A straight electric AC system is the least energy-efficient system on the market but also the cheapest. These systems are largely used for rental properties and apartments.

Click to Find out what you have

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then there is a good chance you have a gas HVAC system.

  • Does your indoor unit have a flu pipe?
  • Do you have a monthly gas bill?
Flue pipe on a gas system

If you answer yes to the following questions, then you have a heat pump AC unit.

  • Does your outdoor AC unit run when the heater is turned on?
  • Does your thermostat have an emergency heat option?
  • Has your outdoor AC unit ever frozen up during the winter?

Emergence heat on a thermostat

There are a few ways to know if you have an electric AC system.

  • If you have no monthly gas bill and your AC unit does not run when the heater is on, then you have an electric system.

#2 - air conditioner Sizing

SQFT to tonnage

  • 1.5 Tons –    600 to 900 FT
  • 2 Tons –        900 to 1200 FT
  • 2.5 Tons – 1200 to 1500 FT
  • 3 Tons –     1500 to 1800 FT
  • 3.5 Tons – 1800 to 2100 FT
  • 4 Tons –     2100 to 2400 FT
  • 5 Tons –     2400 to 3000 FT

Sizing an air conditioner correctly with critical for many different reasons. You do not want it sized too small because it won’t be able to keep up, eventually running itself to death. If it’s sized too big, that could lead to short cycling, creating hot and cold spots in your home. The chart above is a rule of thumb and can vary based on the age, size, and location of your home. So the right way to use it is for budgeting because, at the end of the day, we will still have to run a heat load to make sure the system is sized right.

Click to find out what you have

Go to your outdoor AC unit and get the model number from the data tag.

AC unit data tag

Use a computer or phone to do a quick search using the model number.

Check out the top results. If you can’t find any results, you can use the sqft method for budgeting purposes.

Google tonnage

#3 - Seer Ratings and Savings

Seer Ratings vs Savings

Average savings over 10 years based on an existing 3-ton AC unit being 12 Seer

  • 14 Seer – $1,126 Ten-Year Savings
  • 15 Seer – $1,581 Ten-Year Savings
  • 16 Seer – $1,976 Ten-Year Savings
  • 18 Seer – $2,635 Ten-Year Savings
  • 20 Seer – $3,162 Ten-Year Savings
  • 25 Seer – $4,111 Ten-Year Savings

Choosing the right SEER rating for a homeowner can be a frustrating process. There is a lot of comfiting information out there, which makes it challenging to know what you should pick. Some HVAC contractors will tell you that you need to go up in SEER rating because it will pay for the entire AC replacement. As you can see above, that is not the case. The higher the SEER doesn’t mean that it will pay for itself. For example, the cost of a 25 SEER HVAC system can run as high as $20,000, but a 16 SEER system can be around $8,000. So if you are weighing out the option between cost vs. saving, higher SEER doesn’t always mean better.

Click to find out the best solution for you

In some cases, a homeowner will not benefit very much from purchasing a high-seer HVAC system. For example

  • If you are planning on moving in the next few years. There are just not that many savings you’ll get for only a few years with a high seer system. It also will not change the value of your home, so there is not much benefit to focusing on efficiency. 
  • The next scenario is if you are replacing an HVAC system in a rental property. The tenant is not going to take care of the system, which will shorten its life expectancy. And since you don’t pay the electric bill, its usually not worth spending the extra money.

Most homeowners end up purchase 15-17 seer air conditioners for a few different reasons.

  • It’s not the cheapest HVAC system, nor is it the most expensive. Most of the time, the saving will pay for itself over a 14-seer AC unit. So you will see a difference in your electric bill.
  • Most utility companies will offer a rebate for AC units that are over 15 seer. They will normally pay around $100 to $120 per ton for an HVAC system. Which is free money to the homeowern.

These are the least sold air conditioners because of the additional cost. However, they have their place, and a lot of homeowners swear by them.

  • If you are planning to go solar, this might be an option worth looking into. An 18+ seer HVAC system will help to reduce the number of solar panels and batters needed to power your home.
  • If you have a really big house with more than one AC units, then your electric bill starts to become a headache. A high-seer-rated AC system will help keep your electric bills as low as possible.

#4 - One Stage vs Two Stage vs Variable Speed

What Stage AC unit is right for you?

There is a huge difference in the quality of an HVAC system when it comes to stages

  • 1 Stage – Little control and possibly hot and cold spots
  • 2 Stage – Reduce hot and cold spots with humidity control
  • Variable Speed – Temperature control within 1 degree and energy efficient. 

When it comes to stages on an AC system, it’s going to have the biggest impact, than any other one thing, when it comes to quality and comfort. A single-stage system is the base model when it comes to air conditioning and is going to be very limited in what it can do. A two-stage HVAC is the next level up that most homeowners prefer because it doesn’t cost as much as a variable speed system but does quite a bit more than a single-stage. A variable-speed system is the most high-end system on the market if you’re looking for the Cadillac of HVAC systems.

A single-stage air conditioner is a basic on-off HVAC system that has its own pros and cons.

  • Pros: A one-speed system works great for homes less than 1300 sqft because there is not a big benefit to going with a multi-stage system. These units are also great for rental properties because it’s the most budget-friendly system.
  • Cons: Because it is a simple on-off system, it can create hot and cold spots throughout your home due to the fast cycle time. The quick cycle time can also lead to humidity issues making your home feel clammy inside.

A two-stage HVAC is the most popular AC system we sell to homeowners due to it not being to its still cost-effective while providing many of the same benefits of a variable-speed system.

  • Pros: A two-speed system runs longer than a single-speed system helping to reduce hot and cold spots in your home. The longer run time also helps to lower humidity levels which is excellent for comfort, art, and nice furniture. 
  • Cons: These systems do cost about $2,000 more than a single-speed system.

Variable-speed HVAC systems are the Cadillac of air conditioners. Just like everything high-end, there are pros and cons.

  • Pros: These systems never turn off, which gives you complete temperate control in your home down to 1 degree. The extra circulation is ideal for very large homes that need extra circulation to keep the house from feeling clammy. You also get constant filtration in your home year-round, which helps with air quality.
  • Cons: Any high-end is going to come at a cost. A variable-speed system is going to be about double the price of a single-speed system. Just like a Cadillac, repairs can get pricy and more frequent than the other systems.

#5 - Best Air Conditioner Brands explained

top 5 HVAC brands in America

  1. Carrier
  2. Bryant
  3. Trane 
  4. American Standard 
  5. Daikin

What We Offer

  1. Carrier
  2. Goodman

Buying a new AC system is a big deal because no one wants to purchase an HVAC system that can’t stand the test of time. It can be confusing which brands to go with because there are 28 major brands in America, so you can see that can create a lot of confusion. To help simplify things, there are only six manufacturers that build all these brands. Most of these manufacturers make a good, better, and best brand. That is why there are so many out there. The “Top HVAC Brands In America” listed above all fall into the best category. If you would like to read more, we have an entire blog post that unpacks all the brands.

Carrier and Trane routinely compete for the number one best brand in America. At the moment, Carrier is in the number one spot due to their reliability and customer support. If you are considering a Carrier AC system, you can not go wrong. That is why we picked them as our primary brand.

Goodman is one of those brands that are all over the place and is manufactured in Texas. It’s widely considered one of the best budget-friendly options in the market today. We use this brand as an alternative if our customer is not wanting to purchase a Carrier system.

#6 - Cost of a new Air conditioner system

2023 Cost of a new AC System

The cost of a new air conditioner is going to vary based on size, seer rating, and the stages of an AC system. 

  • Outdoor AC Unit Cost – $3,200 to $4,200
  • New Furnace Cost – $3,100 to $5,100
  • Complete HVAC Replacement Cost – $5,680 to $8,750

Got to full cost guide – AC Replacement Cost

Many homeowners have an idea when their AC system is on the frits and will need to be replaced in the near future. So one of the first steps is to set a budget. So you start looking around to see if you can find pricing, like looking for a car. Come to find out, no one publishes any pricing. So you are left with calling an AC contractor for pricing, and they send someone to your home to take a look at your equipment and give you a price. About a half hour of the technician being at your house, you realize you are dealing with a vacuum cleaner salesperson. If you are reading this, that means you have most likely experienced this situation. The truth is, the reason you can’t find any pricing online is that contractors are trying to put someone in your home in order to charge as much as possible. 

We believe that one of the things that this industry is lacking in this industry is transparency. This is why we openly publish our pricing and make buyer’s guides like this one. The worst-case scenario for us is you can keep your AC guy honest, the best case is you’ll give us a chance.

To check out our detailed pricelist, click here.

Please note that the cost variation comes from the difference between gas, heat pump, and straight electric

  • 2 Ton –    $6,048 to $7,309
  • 2.5 Ton – $6,134 to $7,720
  • 3 Ton –    $6,425 to $8,200
  • 3.5 Ton – $6,999 to $8,654
  • 4 Ton –    $7,302 to $8,800
  • 5 Ton –    $7,318 to $9,329

The pricing below is based on a 4 Ton gas HVAC system 

  • 14 Seer –   $8,800
  • 16 Seer – $10,977
  • 17 Seer – $11,140
  • 22 Seer – $14,615

Learn More

Once again, we are basing the price on a 4 Ton gas AC system

  • Single Stage – $8,800 to $10,977
  • Two Stage –           $11,140
  • Variable Speed – $14,615

Learn More

#7 - Ductwork and Insulation

How much does Ductwork and Insulation Cost

Ductwork and insulation are some of the best additions to an air conditioning system to keep your home running as efficiently as possible. If you are looking to replace your AC system, you might also want to consider potential ductwork or blown-in insulation.

  • Duct Run – $195.00 ea.
  • New Supply or Return Plenum – $475.00
  • R19 Blown in Insulation – $0.75 sqft.
  • R30 Blown in Insulation – $1.00 sqft.

Just like your AC system, ductwork doesn’t last forever. Ductwork can get dirty inside or sometimes moldy. After a certain age, it will start to fall apart and could lead to loss of airflow and efficiency. In these cases, you might want to replace your ductwork to keep your HVAC system performing properly year around.

It’s also common for your attic insulation to get stepped down over time to the point it’s no longer doing its job. This could lead to high electric bills. Blown-in insulation is one of those quick and inexpensive solutions that can help keep your home as energy efficient as possible along with helping with hot and cold spots in your home. 

Ductwork is one of the most commonly overlooked parts of an HVAC system. However, it is one of the most important parts of an AC system because if the air isn’t going where it needs to, then purchasing a new AC system isn’t going to solve everything. If your ductwork is starting to fall apart or is just old and dirty, it might be time to have it replaced.

Over time the insulation in your attic can slowly deteriorate where it no longer is insulating your home properly. This can lead to an increase in your utility bill and potentially hot and cold spots throughout your home. A simple and inexpensive solution to fix this problem is to blow in new insulation on top. This will help increase the efficiency of your home lowing your electric bill.

#8 - Controls and Air Quality

Additional HVAC options

There are a few add-ons you can have included when you replace your AC system that usually doesn’t come standard. From being able to control your AC from anywhere to better purifying the air in your home.

  • Controls
    • Nest Thermostat – $399
    • Sensi Thermostat – $250
  • Air Quality
    • UV Light – $850
    • Midea Filter – $317

There are certain features that don’t come standard with an AC replacement. Features like a wifi programable thermostat or better air filtration for your home. These add-ons can make all the difference to how your HVAC system performs. You can do things like control your AC system from your work, or better deal with allergies and pet odors. If you are interested in being able to control your AC system or in need of air quality, you might want to consider adding some additional features to your HVAC system.

One of the best adders to an HVAC replacement is upgrading to a better thermostat. A programmable thermostat can be scheduled to raise or lower the temperature automatically throughout the week. You can also get a wifi compatible thermostat which gives you control anywhere in the world. It can even go as far as alerting you when it’s time to change the filter or if there is something wrong with the system.

  • Nest – $399
  • Sensi – $250

One of the downsides to living in Texas is we experience a lot of pollen and mold throughout the year. This could be agitating because in peak season it feels like where ever you go you can get relief. If you struggle with pollen or mold, or asthma there is a solution that can greatly benefit you. A Midea filter with a Reme Halo UV light can reduce odors and the spread of bacteria and viruses along with toxins and pollutants. This combo can dramatically improve the air quality in a home.

  • Reme Halo UV Light – $850
  • 4″ Midea Filter – $317

#9 - Utility Rebates

Energy efficiency rebates

Most utility companies will offer rebates for homeowners to use more energy-efficient products in their homes. They also do this for air conditioner systems. The minimum seer rating to qualify is 15 to 16 seer depending on the utility company. On average a homeowner can expect between $100 to $150 per ton on the AC system. So if you have a 4-ton air conditioner, you can expect a rebate between $400 to $600.

The process of getting a rebate from a utility company is fairly straightforward.

  • To start off with you want to make sure you get the right seer rating to qualify for a rebate. To play it safe, I would recommend going with a 16-seer AC system. Some utility companies do allow a 15-seer AC system to qualify, however, some 15-seer equipment will not qualify because they will also look at the EER rating, and if it’s not high enough you can’t qualify. I have seen this happen before with 4 and 5-ton systems. So, it’s just easiest to get a 16-seer system to make sure this doesn’t happen.
  • The next step after the installation is the application. We fill out the application for our customers, to make sure all the paperwork is filled out correctly. 
  • A lot of times the utility company will require the application to be submitted from the homeowner. So we will send the application to our customer, and from there they will send it to the utility company.
  • The utility company can take anywhere from one to four months to process your rebate. So, don’t expect it right away.
  • The utility company sends the rebate in the form of a credit to your account. So don’t expect a check, it’s more like you’re not going to have an electric bill for a month or two.

Parts and labor warranties

There are two types of warranties when it comes to air conditioning, the first is the parts warranty, and the second is the labor warranty. It is important for parts warranties to get handled correctly, or the homeowner might lose out on a 10-year warranty.

  • Parts Warranty 5 to 10 Years
  • Labor Warranty 1 to 10 Years

All new outdoor AC units and indoor furnaces come with a 5-year factory warranty. After the installation, the equipment can be registered with the manufacturer under the homeowner’s name and address to gain an additional 5 years to the parts warranty. So, in the end, you should be able to get a 10 years parts warranty.

  • We actually handle the registration of the equipment for our customers after the system is installed. That makes it easier for our customers because it will help ensure that everything was done correctly.

You might be wondering why is there a 9-year variation when it comes to labor warranties. The best way to look at labor warranties is there is a standard labor warranty provided by the contractor, which is normally for the first year. There is an extended labor warranty that can be purchased for an additional cost. An extended labor warranty works kind of like insurance. There is a 3rd party company that we will buy a labor policy. The help guaranty that the homeowner is protected one way or another.

  • 1 -year warranty – Included 
  • 3 -year warranty –    $630
  • 5 -year warranty –  $1,100
  • 10-year warranty – $1,970

HVAC Financing

Let’s face it, purchasing a new AC system can be costly and a lot of times it can be unexpected. This is where air conditioner financing can really help out. Getting approved for financing can be a very quick process. It only takes a few minutes to get preapproved, which really helps out if you are needing a quick solution. If you are looking to finance your HVAC system you can click here to apply.

The process to finance your air conditioner is fairly fast and straightforward. We use a 3rd party finance company that handles all finance options for us. This helps to expedite the process versus working with a bank which could take days or even a week to get something lined up. 

  • Step 1 is to fill out an application, which can be found in the finance tab. It only takes a few minutes, and you can get preapproved in minutes.
  • From there are going to request some additional information like proof of income and ownership of your home.
  • They will then send you the loan document to sign.
  • Then we are go to move forward with the installation of the new AC system.
  • At the completion of the replacement, you will then confirm with the finance company that the installation is finished, and that’s pretty much everything.

If you are looking for the lowest finance rate, a bank or a credit union is always going to win. If you come across a contractor that is offering 0% interest, they are paying a dealer fee. Meaning they have to raise their prices a couple of thousand dollars, then they pay off all the interest upfront. So you are going to pay a high-interest rate one way or another. We don’t offer any programs with dealer fees because we believe it’s important to be upfront and transparent.

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