How to Compare Brands of Air Conditioning & Heating Units

Comparing brands of air conditioners and heat pumps can be a confusing and stressful task. There are many brands to choose from and many offer similar features and warranties. Choosing the correct system is important. A system that is too large will cycle on and off frequently, causing strain on the parts. A system too small may not be able to meet the needs of your home. Fortunately, there is a way of comparing brands based on system specs to help identify systems that will be best suited to your needs.

The right air conditioner will save you money and maintain the temperature within your home.
  1. Print off a copy of the comparison grid offered by Air Conditioning and Heating website. A link to the grid is provided in the resources section of this article. The grid provides at-a-glance review to compare different systems efficiencies and costs including warranty and installation information.

  2. Gather information about your home. Each system will be tailored to meet your home's needs. Items that are important to consider is the square footage of your home, the existing ductwork, insulation in walls, floors and ceilings, number and location of windows and how much natural shade your home receives. Systems requirements may also vary by region based on conditions. For example, a system selected for a home located in arid regions will be different than homes located in areas with more humidity.

  3. Use the calculator offered by Furnace Compare to determine the size of the system that is required for your home. The calculator provides an estimate of BTUs required based on square footage and insulation in the home. Use this as a jumping off point when shopping for air conditioners and heating units.

  4. Compare the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, on each brand of air conditioner reviewed. The minimum SEER rating in the United States is 13. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy suggests purchasing units with a SEER of 14.5 and above with the Energy Star rating. The SEER measure takes start up and shut off energy along with BTUs and watts required to run the air conditioner and is considered the most accurate measure of efficiency. The higher the SEER, the higher the price of the unit will be.

  5. Compare the Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER, of each brand. The higher the EER, the more efficient the system will run during the hottest days of the year when the air conditioner or heating unit will be running the most. The EER measurement is taken when the unit is running and compares BTUs to the watts produced. EER does not take into account start up and shut down power consumption.

  6. Review the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, or HSPF, when reviewing heat pumps for heating and cooling needs. Heat pumps in colder climates must use burners to remove ice from the device and pump warm air inside. The higher the HSPF the more efficient the system is at meeting these requirements will using less energy.

  7. Compare the warranty offered on each unit. Look for what is covered in each warranty and how long the warranty is good for.

  8. Find a local contractor that has a good reputation for installation in your area. Some systems will require certified contractors to install the air or heating system. Contact a number of contractors to find out about their warranty and costs for installation.