Installing Air Conditioning System

Installation and Location of Air Conditioners

If your air conditioner is installed correctly, or if major installation problems are found and fixed, it will perform efficiently for years with only minor routine maintenance.

However, many air conditioners are not installed correctly. As an unfortunate result, modern energy-efficient air conditioners can perform almost as poorly as older inefficient models.

Be sure that your contractor performs the following procedures when installing a new central air conditioning system:

  1. allows adequate indoor space for the installation, maintenance, and repair of the new system, and installs an access door in the furnace or duct to provide a way to clean the evaporator coil.
  2. uses a duct-sizing methodology such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Manual D.
  3. ensures there are enough supply registers to deliver cool air and enough return air registers to carry warm house air back to the air conditioner.
  4. installs duct work within the conditioned space, not in the attic, wherever possible – insulating it where it must be run outside the treated structure.
  5. seals all ducts with duct mastic and heavily insulates attic ducts.
  6. locates the condensing unit where its noise will not keep you or your neighbors awake at night, if possible.
  7. places the condensing unit in a shady spot, if possible, which can reduce your air conditioning costs by 1% to 2%.
  8. verifies that the newly installed air conditioner has the exact refrigerant charge and air-flow rate specified by the manufacturer.
  9. locates the thermostat away from heat sources, such as windows, or supply registers.

If you are replacing an older or failed split system, be sure that the evaporator coil is replaced with a new one that exactly matches the condenser coil in the new condensing unit. (The air conditioner's efficiency will likely not improve if the existing evaporator coil is left in place; in fact, the old coil could cause the new compressor to fail prematurely.)

If you install a new room air conditioner, try to:

  1. locate the air conditioner in a window or wall area near the center of the room and on the shadiest side of the house.
  2. minimize air leakage by fitting the room air conditioner snugly into its opening and sealing gaps with a foam weather stripping material.

Paying attention to your central air conditioning system saves you money and reduces environmental pollution. Notice whether your existing system is running properly, and maintain it regularly. Or, if you need to purchase a new air conditioner, be sure it is sized and installed correctly and has a good EER or SEER rating.

Using Your Air Conditioner

Unless your contractor has sized your air conditioner to maximize humidity control instead of just cooling the air temperature, an air conditioner will cool the air in your home fairly quickly. For economical operation, turn it on only when your home is occupied. You may consider installing a digital programmable thermostat. These allow you to set the time when the air conditioner will turn on before you arrive home from work on a hot day. Contact EREC (see Source List) for the fact sheet Automatic and Programmable Thermostats. During the day, keep the drapes or blinds closed on windows that face east, south, and west. This will help reduce solar heat gain into your home.

Source List

There are many groups offering information on air conditioning. The following groups are just a few that can assist you in increasing your air conditioning efficiency. Some of these organizations provide only materials appropriate for professionals in the air conditioning industry.

  • Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) 4301 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 425 Arlington, VA 22203 (703) 524-8800 Fax: (703) 528-3816 www.ari.org ARI represents manufacturers of air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating equipment and has consumer brochures on a variety of topics.
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 1791 Tullie Circle, N.E. Atlanta, GA 30329 (404) 636-8400 Fax: (404) 321-5478 www.ashrae.org ASHRAE is organized solely for the purpose of advancing the arts and science of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration for the public's benefit through research, standards writing, continuing education, and publications.
  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) 1513 16th Street NW Washington, DC 20036 (202) 483-9370 Fax: (202) 234-4721 www.acca.org The Air Conditioning Contractors of America is the most active and widely recognized organization representing contractors in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) industry.
  • EnergyStar® Program 1-888-STAR-YES e-mail: [email protected] www.energystar.gov ENERGY STAR®-labeled products, including heating and cooling equipment, use less energy than other products and save you money on utility bills. These products are made by all major manufacturers and are available at stores everywhere.
  • Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) 1679 Clear Lake Road Cocoa, FL 32922 (407) 638-1000 Fax: (407) 638-1010 www.fsec.ucf.edu FSEC provides information on building in hot, humid climates.

For more information about cooling and air conditioning, as well as on a wealth of other energy-efficiency topics, contact:

  • The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC) P.O. Box 3048 Merrifield, VA 22116 (800) 363-3732 (800-DOE-EREC) Fax: (703) 893-0400 E-mail: [email protected] www.eren.doe.gov/consumerinfo EREC provides free general and technical information to the public on many topics and technologies pertaining to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Reading List

The following publications provide more information on air conditioning. The list does not cover all the available books, reports, and articles on air conditioning, nor is the mention of any publication a recommendation or endorsement.

  • ASHRAE Journal, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), 1791 Tullie Circle N.E., Atlanta, GA 30329-2305, monthly trade magazine.
  • "Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings", A. Wilson and J. Morrill, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 1001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 801, Washington, DC 20036, 1998.
  • Home Energy, The Magazine of Residential Energy Conservation, 2124 Kitteredge, #95, Berkeley, CA 94704, monthly trade magazine. For example, the May/June 1995 issue had an article about properly sizing air conditioning systems.
  • Consumer Reports, The Consumers Union of the United States, Inc., 101 Truman Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10703, (800) 234-1645 (subscriptions and back issues). "Chill Out: A Guide to Air Conditioning," (63:6) pp. 36-42, June 1998. "Cool It (Room/Window Air Conditioners)" (64:6) pp. 35-37, June 1999.

This document was produced for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a DOE national laboratory. The document was produced by the Information Services Program, under the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC) is operated by NCI Information Systems, Inc., for NREL / DOE. The statements contained herein are based on information known to EREC and NREL at the time of printing. No recommendation or endorsement of any product or service is implied if mentioned by EREC.

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