Heating and cooling: Air conditioners

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Central air conditioners

A central air conditioner evaporates a liquid refrigerant to absorb heat from your home. The system then compresses the refrigerant and condenses it from a vapour to a liquid, releasing the heat so that the cooled/liquid refrigerant can be expanded and sent back into the home, where it starts the cycle again.

There are two types of central air conditioner systems to choose from:

  • Split systems – which have an outdoor cabinet which compresses and condenses the refrigerant, releasing heat outdoors. The indoor cabinet expands and evaporates the refrigerant, absorbing heat. If your home already has a furnace, a split-system is the most economical central air conditioner to install.
  • Packaged central air conditioning system – in which all of the components are located in one cabinet; usually placed on a roof or on a slab next to your house's foundation. Ducts go through the home's exterior wall or roof to connect with the air conditioner outdoors. Packaged air conditioners often include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace, eliminating the need for a separate furnace indoors.

What to look for

  • An ENERGY STAR® certified high-efficiency central air conditioner that uses 8% less energy, on average, than a standard model.
  • The right size unit for your home is essential. If the unit is too small it won't be able to properly cool your home. If the unit is too big it will cycle on and off frequently – wasting energy and inflating your utility bill.
  • A unit with a higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).

Things to consider

  • Consider getting a ceiling fan or a heat pump, which use less energy and can still keep your rooms comfortable.
  • When setting the temperature for your home, aim for comfort, not chill. Set the temperature between 25 and 27°C.
  • Keep your system clean – regularly clean filters (check every two weeks), coils and duct work to make sure it's running as efficiently as possible. Consult your owner's manual for detailed instructions.

Average cost

$2,400 to more than $6,000.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

Room air conditioners

Room air conditioners, also known as, window air conditioners, cool individual rooms rather than your entire home. These air conditioners are less expensive to operate than central air conditioners because they only provide cooling in areas that are needed. They are also a good option for residents in high-rise buildings without central air-conditioning.

What to look for

  • An ENERGY STAR® certified high-efficiency room air conditioner that uses 8% less energy, on average, than a standard model.
  • The right size unit for your room is essential. If the unit is too small it won't be able to properly cool your space. If the unit is too big it will cycle on and off frequently – wasting energy and inflating your Hydro bill.
  • A unit with a higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).
  • Some models offer Wi-Fi enabled smart functionality, which allows you to control your unit from a connected device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

Things to consider

  • Choose a ceiling fan or a heat pump, which use less energy and can still keep your rooms comfortable.
  • When setting the temperature, aim for comfort, not chill. Set the temperature between 25 and 27°C.
  • Make sure you have adequate air circulation, and if possible, make sure your air conditioner is away from doors, corners, drapes and furniture.
  • Choose a wall or window with northern exposure and/or plentiful shade if possible.
  • Make sure your AC is accessible for cleaning, maintenance and removal. Removing and storing your AC over the winter will extend its life and help maintain its efficiency, saving you more money in the long run.
  • Properly seal large gaps with the panels or side curtains provided by the manufacturer.
  • Add peelable caulking or other airtight sealants that will block air leaks and insects.
  • Building permits are not required to install a window air conditioner in rental units or a privately owned home in Durham Region, but tenants should consult their lease agreement to determine if they are permitted in their building.

Average cost

$200 to $600

Source: Natural Resources Canada

If you are planing on upgrading your air-conditioner, you may want to consider a more efficient heat pump instead.

Financial help available for air conditioners

  • No incentives currently available