Choose Your Cool: Which Air Conditioner Is Best for You?

Mom and Son cool off with lemonade

May 21, 2018

Summer is almost here, and it’s time for vacations, poolside drinks, and … bigger electric bills? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American’s electricity bill will increase by about 2.3 percent this summer—and some homeowners might see bills that top $400 per month!

Running the AC can be a big strain on your finances, especially if your unit is old and inefficient. And while new models are more energy-efficient than ever, replacing an old system can be intimidating—especially if you’re concerned about your budget.

But there are tangible benefits to upgrading your home’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system before warmer weather sets in. And in the long run, energy-efficient AC units can save you up to $200 per year on your annual energy bill, especially if you purchase a model that meets ENERGY STAR® certification guidelines.

Here’s everything you need to know about buying the best air conditioner for your home—and keeping your energy costs low as temperatures rise.

When to Upgrade Your Old AC

If you’ve had the same HVAC system for more than 10 years, it’s time to start thinking about an upgrade.

According to, air conditioning systems more than 10 years old may need frequent repairs or cause irregular cooling conditions in your home. If you’re experiencing difficulties with humidity, or your home looks and feels like a dust magnet, these are clues it might be time to make the switch.

Although installing a new HVAC system can cost up to $4,000 or more, there are substantial benefits for homeowners who take the plunge. Not only can you cut annual energy costs by 20 percent by installing a more efficient heating and cooling system, but you’ll also save money on repairs and upkeep.

Central Air Conditioning 101

There are two common types of air conditioning systems on the market. A “split” central air conditioning system distributes cool air through ductwork and vents in your house, and a “split ductless” system distributes air through a mounted wall unit. The split AC model is what most homeowners think of when they picture central air—it’s powered by the telltale box, or packaged unit, that sits outside, next to the house.

Both models can be efficient ways to cool your home, but choosing the right one depends on the size of your living space and existing ductwork. Generally speaking, split systems work well for cooling larger homes and properties, while split ductless systems are better choices for smaller spaces, like condos and apartments.

Your Air Conditioning Checklist


If your home already has a duct system for central heat, a central air system can be a cost-efficient add-on, although both systems can be replaced or upgraded at the same time, too.

Thanks to a central thermostat that controls temperature throughout the entire house, central air conditioners are automated—which helps make them more efficient at cooling your home.

For rental units, condos, and small homes without ducts, a split ductless system will likely be easier to install—but it can be more expensive. According to This Old House, wall-mounted split ductless units can cost about $3,000 each—almost as much as upgrading an entire HVAC system! Once these systems are installed, however, they cool small areas very efficiently, helping you keep energy costs low.

As always, work with your contractor to discuss your home’s size, current level of energy efficiency, and any ventilation needs you may have.


The most important consideration to make when choosing your new HVAC system is the size of your unit—which will directly depend on your home’s square footage, insulation, and efficiency.

While general wisdom would suggest that a bigger house needs a bigger AC unit, this isn’t always the case. A bigger unit might cycle on and off too frequently, increasing energy costs—and defeating the purpose of an upgrade.

Before purchasing a new HVAC unit, seek the help of a licensed professional for proper sizing and installation. Without a licensed professional’s help, homeowners risk exposure to carbon monoxide, expensive repairs, leaks, and other health hazards.


Thankfully, there are multiple ways to determine which air conditioning units are most energy-efficient. By following standard government ratings and certifications, you can reap the benefits of a cost-saving, highly-efficient system.

SEER ratings help homeowners determine how efficient HVAC units are at cooling interiors, while SEER ratings help homeowners gauge how efficient systems are in both winter and summer. You can also follow the certification guidelines for ENERGY STAR® to find the right HVAC system for your home.


Even energy-efficient HVAC systems need regular maintenance—and this can impact the lifetime cost of your purchase. The experts at Consumer Reports recommend a yearly check-up to replace and clean filters, clean the unit, check for leaks, and properly maintain refrigerant levels.


According to Home Advisor, the average homeowner will spend anywhere from $3,700 to $7,100 to install a new air conditioning unit. The average cost for a new HVAC system is about $5,000, depending on your location and property needs.

Financing Your AC Upgrade

If you want to beat the heat this summer—and roll in energy savings all year long—PACE financing can make it financially feasible to upgrade to a more efficient air conditioner or complete HVAC system.

Ygrene’s PACE financing program also covers upgrades such as duct replacement, efficient windows, shading, and other improvements that could impact your home’s overall efficiency.

If you're in the market for a new air conditioning system, find out if PACE financing is available in your area – call Ygrene at (855) 901-3999 or email