Central air conditioning is considered by many to be the gold standard, especially in Australia’s notorious summer heat. Some people find the upfront cost prohibitive, but choosing an energy efficient model can mean real savings in your power bills that can help you quickly recoup your initial investment. Exactly how much the air conditioner costs depends on many factors.
Depending on exactly where you live and what type of central air conditioning unit you install, you might be eligible for government rebates. Talk to your air conditioning supplier about the different programs available in your area and which models qualify. You will still need to pay out of your own pocket initially, but the reimbursement can be sizable.
- Unit Size and Efficiency
As you might suspect, bigger and more efficient central air conditioners cost more initially than smaller, less efficient units. However, it is absolutely critical to match the size of the unit to the job it will perform. Your contractor will conduct a detailed heat gain calculation based not only on the size of your home, but also its orientation with respect to the sun, the types of windows and doors you have, and the amount of existing insulation. In some cases, it may be less expensive to improve your insulation and install window films, which could then allow you to purchase a smaller air conditioner. Energy efficient air conditioners are more environmentally friendly and can have a dramatic impact on your power bills, but cost more to install upfront. However, if you are eligible for government rebates, they are generally only available for high energy efficiency units.
- Unit Placement
The majority of modern central air conditioners are split systems, which means that the condenser is outside while the fan and coils are placed inside your home. Pipes carry refrigerant between the parts of the system. Of course, the more pipes you need, the higher the final cost. However, condenser units tend to be loud, and the cost of additional pipes is low. Most homeowners find it worthwhile to place the condenser further from bedrooms and offices, even if it adds to the cost.
- Ductwork Needs
If you already have a forced air heating system, your existing ducts can be used for your new air conditioner. However, your ducts will need a thorough inspection to ensure that they can handle the higher volume of air. Interestingly, older homes tend to have larger ducts, which typically need less retrofitting than smaller, newer ductwork. If you do need work, the most common upgrades include: a new furnace blower that is rated for the proper volume of airflow, duct sealing to create a more efficient system, and new register grilles with less airflow restriction.
If you do not currently have ducts in your home, you have two options. A ductless mini split system is not true central air conditioning, but it will provide many of the same benefits, including the ability to independently control the thermostat in each room (possible with central air conditioning only if you also add zone control). However, many people do not care for the aesthetic look of a mini split system.
For true central air conditioning, you must have ducts installed. Fortunately, while this is a major undertaking, it is not nearly as messy and home destroying as you might anticipate.
In a typical installation, the fan and coil portions of the central air conditioner are placed in the attic. Ducts for the second storey rooms run across the attic floor and dip between the floor joists to newly-installed ceiling registers in each room. For the first storey, installers generally turn to the second floor closets. Adding ducts will take up a bit of room in the closet, but a good installer will carefully run the ducts to minimise the impact on your storage space. Flexible hoses can be used instead, taking up even less space, but these hoses are flimsy and prone to puncture damage, so rigid ductwork is generally preferred.
If you are considering adding central air conditioning to your existing home, have an air conditioning specialist take a good look around. Many homeowners find that the upfront costs and inconvenience of running ducts are well worth the improved cooling and energy savings that the new system provides.
Jim’s Heating & Cooling is a trusted provider of air conditioning and heating in the greater Adelaide region. We offer a wide range of heating and cooling solutions, along with special discounts and financing offers. Call locally on 131 546 now or request a quote to get started!