Buying and installing a new central air conditioner can be an expensive undertaking. Unfortunately, it is one you cannot avoid if your good old unit has lived its 15-20 years lifespan.
In my career spanning over 20 years as an HVAC technician, the one question I have received from countless homeowners is when is the best time to buy central air conditioner.
Often, these are people interested in knowing when they can get the best deals on their new HVAC installation.
So, I’ve decided to detail the answer to this question with this post.
When is the Best Time to Buy Central Air Conditioner
The best time to buy a central air conditioner is during the off-season. This is the case whether you are buying one for the first time or replacing an old central AC unit with a more efficient model.
In the spring or fall – also called the offseason – demand for air conditioning is lowest. Appliance sellers routinely offer discounts to lure customers into purchasing their slow-moving stocks during these months.
If you target to buy your new air conditioning unit at this time of the year, you can be sure to get a better deal from any retailer.
Additionally, you will have more bargaining power over the HVAC contractor you hire to install your new AC. These folks tend to be busiest in the summer and winter months when the outside temperatures hit their extremes.
Ideally, you want to avoid the peak seasons when appliance retailers have their best stock turnover going, and HVAC technicians have their hands full.
During the offseason, even the most reputable HVAC contracting companies have their best servicemen on standby. You can be sure to get prompt service if you schedule an installation at these times of the year.
Most reputable air conditioning contractors will have relationships with appliance suppliers. You can tap into these relationships and enjoy substantial discounts when you work with such a contractor.
Usually, these contractors will know which suppliers offer significant discounts to make room for new models coming out the following season.
As such, they can point you in the right direction. Such courtesy is rare during peak seasons when contractors are overly busy.
Also, you will not be under any pressure to get the new unit installed. Temperatures are generally mild in the offseason, so you can take your time to go over multiple bids before settling for a purchase or hiring a contractor.
What Should I Consider When Installing a Central Air Conditioner?
To get the best out of your new central air conditioner purchase, you need to know what to look for and where to look. Read along to find these out.
1. Cost of the appliance
Expect to spend more money if you have a bigger home with multiple rooms than a studio or small house with just a few rooms.
A central air conditioner will indeed be more cost-effective than other types of AC for a home with multiple rooms. However, this does not mean it will be cheap.
The national average cost of a new central air conditioner currently stands at $5,646. This means you can spend anywhere between $3,730 and $7,154 to set up your new system.
Typically, a cheap Air Conditioner may cost as little as $1,848, with a high-end option costing north of $10,000. Notice that these figures vary significantly depending on location and cost of living in that part of the country.
Be sure to gather as much information as possible about the appliance you want to buy.
Sometimes, the low-end brand you are skipping has the same inside composition as the high-end brand you are eying – with the only difference being the price tags.
This is because the majority of the AC components from different brands are from the same manufacturer.
That being the case, you could end up paying more for the brand rather than the actual value. Doing adequate homework before buying an AC unit can help you make a more informed choice.
2. Rebates and tax credits
Installing a new air conditioning system with better energy efficiency can help you qualify for rebates and tax credits.
For instance, you stand to qualify for a tax credit up to 10 percent of the cost if you purchase an HVAC product with the Energy Star endorsement.
This means you can receive up to $300 from the IRS if your new air conditioning system meets the energy-efficient requirements.
This amount can go up to $500 if you install other pieces of property that are equally in compliance with the energy efficiency guidelines.
Your HVAC contractor should be able to guide you better in this regard. Ask them about your rebates and tax credit options. You might be surprised how much you can save on your new installation.
3. Size of your installation
It is easy to use your current unit as a point of reference when looking for a replacement. While this is okay, it is not a good approach.
Because installing a new AC system means upgrading from what you currently have, you need to leave no stone unturned.
Your contractor needs to inspect your home for correct HVAC sizing, which means taking all measurements afresh.
A reputable HVAC company should know this. If your prospective technician does not go to these lengths, then you are probably better off dealing with someone else.
The cost of improper installation can be substantial. In addition, according to Energy Star, the US body responsible for promoting energy efficiency, installation directly affects AC performance.
A poorly installed unit can underperform by up to 30 percent. Ideally, you don’t want your unit to be too large or too small.
An air conditioner that is too small will struggle to keep up with regulating your home’s temperatures – expending too much energy in the process. On the other hand, too large a unit is likely to short-cycle often.
Hiring a licensed contractor is one way to safeguard yourself against improper installation.
In addition, such a contractor is much more likely to have all the specialized knowledge and skills essential for installing your new AC system.
If there is a problem with your installation, the reputable contractor should have a warranty or insurance to protect you afterward. Just ensure you discuss all these before signing them on.
4. Additional features
Other than heating and cooling, you may want to consider any added features that make the AC unit more convenient to use.
Most modern systems come with technologies such as programmable thermostats and more. While such additions may drive up the upfront cost, they might help you save money in the long run.
Therefore, when choosing a new central air conditioner, inquire about any new technologies it comes with, and consider how they may be helpful to you.
5. Energy efficiency
The energy efficiency of every AC unit is measured in terms of its SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating).
This rating is an initiative of the US Department of Energy to reduce wasted energy. The department established minimum efficiency standards for cooling, heating, and ventilation appliances across the country.
Every AV product carries an EnergyGuide label to show its energy efficiency level in the form of a SEER number. You should find this number listed on the yellow Energy Guide® label that comes on each unit.
Always look at these ratings when buying your new central AC unit. With regards to this SER, the higher, the better. For instance, an appliance with a SEER of 15 is 50 percent more efficient than one with a SEER of 10.
Over the years, the Department of Energy has raised the minimum SEER rating as manufacturers continue to make more and more energy-efficient models.
Today’s most efficient models have a SEER of between 15 and 17, but you can go as high as 20 or more for even greater efficiency.
Because a more efficient unit will cost less to provide cooling, you will want to go for the product with the highest SEER within your price range.
While at it, consider a complete overhaul of your cooling and heating system when replacing an old one.
Suppose you replace only one unit, such as the condensing unit outdoors; the aging evaporator indoors might cancel the potential gains of the new unit.
Related Article: How to Clean Central AC Filter
What are Some AC Energy-Saving Features to Look For?
An energy-efficient air conditioner will have some specific features you can look for. These include:
- A thermal expansion valve and EER value (temperature rating) greater than 11.6
- A variable-speed blower. This helps reduce power consumption, tailoring the usage to the need.
- Large coils that translate to more efficient heat transfer
- An automatic delay fan switch. This switch helps keep the fan on long enough to utilize residual cool air remaining after the compressor goes off
- A fan-only switch for turning off the cooling while leaving the fan running to circulate air
The best time to buy central air conditioner is when you can enjoy seasonal discounts on your AC unit purchase and installation. As it is, these are usually up for grabs during the spring or fall months.
We hope that this guide helps you find your next central AC at the right time of the year and save tons of cash. Please let us know if there is anything you would like us to add to this post in the comments section.
Jesse Pinkman is a passionate HVAC professional writer who grew up repairing any home appliance on which he could lay his hands. He is responsible for ensuring that every article we publish is SPOT ON. When he’s not in the office, he enjoys hiking, watching football, and spending time with his family.