Summer is the season of lounging in your backyard, lemonade in hand. But inside your home, air can be sweltering, stuffy and still. Prepare for high temperatures by installing or upgrading to a quiet cooling system that tackles heat and humidity without breaking a sweat. Design-build star Anthony Carrino of Kitchen Cousins fame has partnered with Trane Residential to share his advice on assessing the right system for you. Read on for ways to stay comfortable and relaxed on even the toastiest August afternoons.
1. Focus on Energy Efficiency
“Looking for higher efficiency in HVAC systems is like buying a car that gets more miles per gallon,” Carrino says. “It really reduces your cost of operation.” The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rates air conditioners between 13 and 22 SEER; “choosing a system above 16 SEER will save you energy, which translates into money,” Carrino says. He recommends a variable-speed system that goes up to 22 SEER and automatically adjusts AC speed. “They run all day and adjust your temperature as needed,” he says.
Though pricing may be higher for these units at the outset, the monthly utility bill savings will more than make up for it over the long term, Carrino says. He also suggests applying for federal tax credits, eco-rebates from local energy companies and manufacturer rebates when you purchase your new system.
2. Take Size and Needs Into Account
If you have a large house with multiple stories or rooms that sit empty most of the time, there’s no reason to keep every space at the same low temperature. “Think about zoning for your ductwork,” Carrino says. “You can then vary the amount of cooling in different parts of your house.”
Perhaps a child sleeps hotter than the adults, or you need to cool your home office only on weekdays. You can zone floor by floor, or even designate rooms as separate zones. Install a control panel for your zoning system to automatically close dampers in your ductwork and modulate the temperature to whatever degree you prefer. “It lets you really control your whole home,” Carrino says.
3. Boost Your Health Quotient
Central air isn’t just for cooling, it can also help you breathe better. Add a whole-home air cleaner to your HVAC system to filter out fine particles such as smoke, cooking grease, dust, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mildew, fungus and bacteria. “Look for one that removes 99.98% of airborne particulates down to 0.1 microns,” Carrino says, which is eight times more effective than a HEPA filter.
Often overlooked, noise is also a pollutant that affects wellness. Create a quieter environment with an HVAC system that lets you hear conversations and music instead of chugging motors. Aim for units under 75 decibels, Carrino says. “Want something even quieter? Look for something in the low 60s.”
4. Try Smart Tech
Simplify your life with smart tech options for your cooling system. Set multiple schedules via a smart thermostat to automatically cool your home to the desired temperature at just the right time. An energy savings setting can save you 10% to 20% in heating and cooling costs. “You can connect your phone or tablet to the thermostat to control it from anywhere,” Carrino says.
On vacation or stuck in a meeting when your system malfunctions? “Smart tech can alert you if there’s a system failure or if your house gets above 80 degrees, so you can pull out your phone and turn down the thermostat,” Carrino says. “It gives you peace of mind.” Systems can also connect with other smart devices, such as lighting and security, for full home control.
5. Keep an Eye on Maintenance
Ensure longevity and smooth running of your air conditioner with basic checkups. “Make sure the indoor and outdoor coils are clean of dirt and debris and that everything stays unobstructed on the outside,” Carrino says. “Then inside the house, make sure return air vents aren’t blocked by a chair or a carpet.” Also check filters every 30 to 60 days.
Schedule routine professional maintenance twice a year — once in early spring before temperatures heat up and again in early fall before the first major chill hits. For tip-top insurance, add a diagnostics option to your cooling system, which lets your HVAC dealer monitor your system from afar to catch small problems before they become major ones.