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Is Your Home A/C Ready?

Wes Diskin performing a Home Performance Assessment

The first step in purchasing an Air Conditioner

Before you buy an Air Conditioning Unit, you’ll want to be sure the cool air you’re paying for is not being lost through faulty ducts, home air leakage, and poor insulation. There is a lot a green air conditioning contractor can do to get your home A/C ready!

Now, adding air conditioning CAN be as simple as calling the HVAC company to install a unit. But, as with all things HVAC, the most simplistic answer is not the smartest answer in the long-run. Having diagnostic tests run on your home (or a home performance test) is the only way to know the condition of the home and therefore the only way to install the most cost-effective, comfortable, energy efficient, and healthy air conditioning possible.

Here’s a sample run-through of what you should expect before an A/C install. Be sure to choose a Heating & Cooling company that has a thoroughly trained Home Performance team.

Assess the Current Situation: Furnace, Fuel, Investment

The first thing that should happen is to look at the heat delivery system currently in place. If the furnace and ducting system test well and are in good shape, it’s possible to use the ducting that’s already there. If not, ductless may very well be the way to go. Ductless also offers the option of zonal A/C, which can be handy for certain homes.

Next, it’s important to think about the fuel type. Folks who have natural gas as their heating fuel can pretty easily add an A/C unit to the existing system (if it tests well) and go with a less expensive installation cost. However, if a homeowner is using a more expensive heating fuel like electric, propane, or oil, it probably makes more sense to convert the whole system to a forced-air or ductless heat pump (which both include A/C) because the efficiency of the heat pump technology will allow that new system to pay for itself rapidly.

Diagnostics are Key

A Blower-Door Test is the key to understanding air flow patterns and problems. What is the heat gain in the home?

To be truly A/C-ready, you’ll want a trained Home Performance Technician (all estimators at Barron can do this) to run diagnostics on your house. They will use a blower-door, an infrared camera, a smoke-puffer, and/or other devices as needed to test the air flow and leakages in your home. There are a lot of questions to answer, such as:

  • What is the heat gain in the home?
  • Where does the sun come in, which direction is the home oriented, what kind of windows are in place?
  • What is the condition of the attic?
  • How much and in what rooms are there air leakage problems?
  • Can the ducts be used effectively (are they leaky?)
  • How much insulation is in the attic, crawl space, and walls?

Without first answering these questions (and taking action to address them), there is no way to ensure you’re dollars spent on conditioned air are being spent effectively. Attic insulation is especially important, as attic temperatures can run very high, making it harder for your A/C unit to do it’s job. If you’re using ducts to deliver your A/C, having them sealed tightly is also a pretty huge deal. Because duct-work is pressurized, leaky ducts can lose massive amounts of conditioned air; not to mention leaky ducts can carry in a bevy of nasty particulates from your insulation or dirty crawl space. A knowledgeable HVAC contractor will be able to apply the principles of building science to your specific home, to get a whole-house perspective.

The Benefits of A/C Readiness

Taking the time to truly be A/C Ready has the obvious benefit of getting the most bang for your buck, but it can be nice to see all the ways and angles that your home, health, and pocketbook will benefit from looking at the big picture. Having your home tested (with Home Performance) and analyzed for A/C Readiness in the end will mean:

  • You’re investing in a permanent and lasting change in your whole home, and not just adding an A/C unit that is more or less only a temporary fix (depending on the state of your home).
  • Any energy upgrades you make will prolong the life of the A/C unit, since it won’t have to work as hard, and there will be less repairs.
  • Big changes to the building envelope and energy upgrades can help when you decide to sell your home.
  • The equipment chosen is guaranteed to be properly sized for your particular home and cooling needs. Detailed diagnostics give us all the clues to choose the best possible system with dialed-in performance.
  • The air you breathe will be cleaner and healthier, which can often relieve certain types of medical symptoms suffered by you and your family.
  • You will be assisting the planet by creating a more energy efficient home!

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