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Hi Robert,
I read your column all of the time. My question is: I know the air condition season is almost over for the most part. The winter is coming, and the wife and I are planning to be here a long time.
The house is about 1,700 to 1,900 sq feet. I was reading about the 13 SEER system. Does that include heating also, or just air? I guess my question is which brand would you recommend and who would be a good contractor to call to install the unit? Also what would be a good price?

Thanks,
Larry A.

Hi Larry,
The 13 SEER system you were reading about includes only the condenser for air conditioning. As you know, the higher the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), the more efficient it is and the less it costs to cool your home. Another way to look at this would be 13 SEER = 13 BTU/Watt Hour. That means this unit will provide 13 BTUs per watt hour of operation. A 10 SEER would be less efficient because using the same amount of energy (the same Watt Hours), it is only producing 10 BTUs of cooling as compared to 13 BTUs. The 13 is more efficient than the 10 SEER but nowhere near efficient as the 22 SEER systems that can be custom ordered today.
Many people think that the bigger the A/C unit, the better but this is not the case. The air conditioner not only needs to cool the air in the room but to also dehumidify the air in the room. It the unit is too large, the room will cool and the unit will shut down before the air is dry. For your home between 1,700 and 1,900 sq.ft, you would want somewhere between 24,000 and 27,000 BTUs. Anywhere from 500 to 1000 sq.ft. can be cooled with a one ton unit (or 12,000 BTUs) but this depends on many factors such as quality of insulation, ceiling height, how much direct sunlight hits the house, how many occupants in the house, etc.
I don’t really have a preference of one A/C manufacturer over another but I would suggest going with one of the major companies like Carrier. They have a wonderful reputation.
For the installation, air conditioning systems can be very complicated. There is someone I have known for many years that is one of the most talented A/C guys in Los Angeles. His name is Jim Turner at (562) 322-6127.
As far as a good price is concerned, again there are many factors involved. Would you be happy with the 13 SEER or something higher? How many tons are you looking to install? How many tons is currently in place? Are you going to replace a like for like? Do you have a split system where you have an air handler and an outside condenser? If the condenser is 3 tons and you need to go to a 5 ton, then you need to replace the air handler to be compatible with that tonnage. Whenever you are making any changes, you want to stay with the same manufacturer.

Submit your questions to robert@imsconstruction.com. Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction (Valencia, CA) has 30 years experience as a commercial general, electrical and plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Ask the Expert” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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