Air Conditioner Buying Guide


How to get the best air conditioner for your home blog


“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” President Harry S. Truman coined this phrase, and it is sage advice from a figurative standpoint.

But what if you’re still hot once you’ve gotten out of the literal kitchen? Well, in that case, you would literally need an air conditioner. Buying an AC can feel intimidating once you have looked at all the available models in the store. Fear not, for choosing the right AC for your home is easy once you know exactly what to look for!

Styles of AC units

You have four major styles of AC units to select from, each of which comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Portable- Doesn’t require permanent installation, and its design makes it easy to move to different rooms. Moving so heavy a unit isn’t exactly convenient, however, and a portable AC requires both floor space and an unsightly vent hose.
  • Window- Offers convenient setup and won’t devour your floorspace. Unfortunately, it will effectively remove one window from your home and may require bracket installation for support. Window AC units are also too heavy for many people to install without assistance. Like a portable AC, a window AC’s effectiveness is limited to a single room.
  • Through-the-wall- Typically offers greater cooling capacity than a window unit – without the need to obstruct a window in exchange. But installing and uninstalling a larger through-the-wall unit does require more labor, especially as it weighs more.
  • Central– Has the capacity to cool down an entire home, and the nature of its permanent installation makes it extremely convenient. You will pay substantially more for a central unit and its installation, especially if your home does not already have ducts.

Cooling Capacity

You must choose a sufficiently powerful AC for the amount of space you wish to cool. An AC’s cooling capacity is measured in British thermal units (BTUs). If your AC’s capacity (as measured in BTUs per hour) is too small for a given amount of space, it will fail to cool the room; if its capacity is too great, then it will cool the space too quickly to simultaneously dehumidify its air. That will give the room a clammy dungeonesque feel!

Fortunately, selecting an AC with the correct number of BTUs is straightforward. Just consult this chart:

Table depicting how many Air Conditioning BTUs per hour for square footage

Costs of Air Conditioning Units

Your new AC’s sticker price only tells a small part of the story. The cost to actually operate it will hinge largely on its energy efficiency – i.e. how efficiently it converts electricity (which is becoming increasingly expensive) into coolth.

You don’t need a masters in mechanical engineering to quickly assess an AC unit’s energy efficiency. You only have to consult its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER), which is displayed on the unit’s yellow Energy Guide label. A SEER is calculated by dividing the total number of BTUs removed from the air by the amount of electricity the AC requires as measured by watt hours.

As of 2022, all HVAC systems are required by law to have a minimum SEER of 13. An AC with a SEER that exceeds that minimum will save you even more money.

Several features can enhance an AC’s SEER, including:

  • An energy efficiency ratio (EER) greater than 11.6
  • A larger coil, which conducts more efficient heat transfer
  • A variable speed blower, which operates at various speeds depending on the room’s cooling needs
  • An automatic delay fan, which enables the unit to continue expelling residual cool air after its cooling mechanism has powered down


Not all AC units are created equal. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, only Trane earned excellent predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings. Armstrong, Ducane, American Standard, Bryant, Lennox and Carrier all received relatively high overall ratings as well.

If you hire an AC contractor in Sioux Falls, make certain to choose a reputable one. High-quality AC manufacturers typically only provide their units to companies which have demonstrated their competencies in installation and maintenance. Lower-quality brands are far less selective when it comes to the HVAC companies they supply AC units to.


A warranty is like health insurance: Both parties involved hope it will never be needed. But even the best-built AC can fail soon after installation, which is why a good warranty is crucial.

You would ideally be guarded by two warranties: one provided by the manufacturer, and another provided by the contractor who installed it. This ensures you’re protected in the event of a mechanical defect or human error. Even the most competent installer will occasionally make mistakes, but only an honest one will agree ahead of time to fix them!

Refrigerants Used

Most people do not pay attention to the type of refrigerant their new AC contains, but that is important information. Chlorofluorocarbons (aka R12) were banned in 1987 because they harm the ozone layer, and ceased to be available in 1994. Freon (aka R22) was effectively banned by the Clean Air Act of 2010 for the same reason, and phased out of use in 2020.

Puron (aka R410A) is efficient, promotes better air quality, and lacks harmful chlorine. Modern AC units run on this refrigerant, but it is incompatible with outdated models unless they receive costly modifications. In short, if an AC runs on any refrigerant other than R410A, don’t buy it!

Do you need air conditioner installation, maintenance or repair in the greater Sioux Falls, SD area? Contact PrairieSons today! Our expert team is standing by to recommend the best AC for your home and budget, and we’ll ensure it keeps you and your family cool during the hottest dog days of summer.