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Cold Facts About Buying AC Unit

July 19, 1998|From Today's Homeowner / Expert advice on improving your home

QUESTION: I plan to have a central-air-conditioning system installed at my home. What should I look for as I shop for a new unit?

Michael Lamb, an energy consultant with the U.S. Department of Energy, suggests:

ANSWER: Your first priority is choosing the system that's the right size for your house. Bigger isn't necessarily better. A unit that's too big not only costs more to buy, but it will also cost more to operate.

Indeed, a system that's not properly sized wastes energy and wears out equipment sooner because it will go on and off more frequently. And in humid climates, a system that's the wrong size can turn a home into a mold farm because moisture will form on the overly cold surfaces.

Optimum efficiency is the next most important feature to look for. All AC units have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER), which is based on government standards. Units typically range from a moderately efficient SEER of 10 to the most efficient 17. Choose one within that range that's appropriate for your climate and electric rates.

Also look for a 10-year parts warranty on the compressor, a five-year parts warranty on all electrical components and a 12-year unconditional warranty against refrigerant leaks. Be sure the entire unit has at least a one-year parts-and-labor warranty.

Finally, remember that even the best unit can be damaged by an incompetent installer. Hire only an experienced, qualified installation company.

In the Hunt for Longer-Lasting Bulbs

Q: There are several floodlights located three stories above the ground at my home. Climbing a 30-foot extension ladder to change bulbs isn't my idea of a good time, yet I can only find bulbs rated for about 2,000 hours. Is there a longer-lasting bulb in the 90W range?

Erich Bockley, product manager at Osram Sylvania in Danvers, Mass., says:

A: There are two longer-life choices that will reduce the number of times you have to haul out the ladder.

The first is a 90W halogen PAR38 floodlight, which most manufacturers offer with a 2,500-hour average rated lifetime. The second is either a 100W or 120W PAR38 floodlight, both of which are rated at 3,000 hours.

Besides lasting longer than a 2,000-hour bulb, these higher-wattage floodlights will better illuminate driveways, decks, yards and landscaping from three stories up.

Do you have a remodeling or repair and maintenance question? Send it to Questions & Answers, Today's Homeowner, 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016; fax: (212) 725-3281; e-mail: questions; Web site: Please be sure to include your name, address and phone number with your query. Due to the volume of correspondence we receive, we are unable to respond directly to every question.

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