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How to Choose an Energy Efficient Air Conditioner

5 minutes
A close up photograph of a smart thermostat set to 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

Walking through your home, what do you think uses the most electricity? Of all the modern conveniences in our houses today, air conditioners are one of the biggest electricity draws and pocketbook drains. Yet, keeping things comfortable is essential and there’s nothing like walking inside on a hot, sunny day to a cool, refreshing environment. That’s why finding an energy efficient air conditioner is key.

When it comes to helping you manage the cost of keeping your home comfortable, Price To Compare offers excellent resources right at your fingertips. From our Energy Comparison Tool to strategies for lowering your home electric bill, we can help you keep those dollars in your wallet starting today. So, let’s get you saving with some useful information on choosing the most energy efficient air conditioner for your home.

The #1 Strategy to an Energy Efficient A/C System

Matching an air conditioner’s cooling capacity to the size of your home is crucial. If you install a unit that’s too small, it must work extra hard to keep up with cooling demands. This will cost you in the long-term through maintenance and a high energy bill.

On the other hand, over-cooling a space (or short-cycling) is wasteful and expensive. So to start off your search for the best A/C unit, get a good measurement of the space in consideration and take your time to evaluate all your options.

Pro Tip:

Consider ENERGY STAR® certified units for the highest energy efficiency. It means the appliance has met or exceeded higher efficiency energy standards.

Comparing Cooling Capacity and Efficiency of Available A/C Systems

Once you know what capacity you’re looking for, you can start to narrow down the best type of energy efficient air conditioner for your home. Here’s a look at the options:

Central Air Conditioning

Central A/C units utilize fans and centralized ductwork installed throughout an entire home to extract indoor air after compressing it via an outdoor condensing unit containing a refrigerant. The produced gas goes through condenser coils to become hot liquid, which then travels to evaporator coils on an indoor furnace and finally becomes cool evaporated gas.

This sounds like a lot, but if you already have the ductwork installed in your home for your heating system, installation of a Central Air system makes a lot of sense and is worth looking into. The typical cost of a central A/C system is $2,500-$7,000.

High Velocity Mini Duct Systems

If you want central air and are remodeling your home or retrofitting your A/C, mini ducts offer unique solutions. Using high velocity air blowers, the cool air travels through flexible, thin ducts that can fit (and hide) practically anywhere. An average cost for this type of system is $2,000-$4,000.

Window A/C Unit

Designed to cool a single room, window A/C systems utilize similar technology as a central air system but on a much smaller scale. Costing between $150-$750, they are widely available and simple to install for an average homeowner without hiring an HVAC professional.

Pro Tip:

We recommend measuring your space and purchasing the most appropriate power level, measured in British thermal units (BTUs).


Square FeetRecommended BTUs
150-350 square feet5,000-8,000 BTU
350-550 square feet8,000-12,000 BTU
550-1,050 square feet12,000-18,500 BTU
550-1,050 square feet18,500-25,000 BTU

Ductless Portable A/C Units

Mobile A/C units offer a flexible cooling system ideal for tough to outfit spaces. These units are generally louder and less energy efficient than central air or window units but are super easy to install without employing an HVAC professional. Ranging from 6,000 to 14000 BTU, some units come with a dehumidifier mode as well.

Ductless Mini-Split

Heralded for their small size, flexible zoning capacity, and ability to heat as well as cool, mini-splits have an outdoor unit and an indoor unit with a 3-inch wide wall hookup.

Energy loss is reduced when compared to systems that require ductwork, which can account for more than 30% of energy consumption. This is particularly true if the ducts travel through unconditioned environments, such as the attic.

While mini-splits have huge advantages, the challenge is cost. They range from $1,000-$9,000 for installation alone. Thus, if you were cooling a 350 square foot space with a 12,000 BTU mini-split with a 21 SEER rating, you could spend over $3,500 total.

Pro Tip:

Energy efficient rating (EER) and seasonal energy efficient rating (SEER) measure an A/C unit’s energy efficiency in BTUs. The higher the rating means the greater energy efficiency. They are generally between 14 and 24 and calculated by dividing the BTUs by the unit’s wattage.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

For long term, energy efficient cooling and heating systems, geothermal heat pumps can provide your home with ground-sourced heating and air conditioning. The strategy of using underground temperatures to efficiently moderate above-ground air is as old as the stone age, so you know it works and works well.

These days, with water and antifreeze solution in underground tubing, this neat technology works to capture the ground temperature and transfer it into an air compressor. The air is then sent through evaporator coils before it travels through the duct system throughout your home.

The catch is the installation costs, which can be a hurdle as installation is extensive. It entails trench digging and laying down underground piping. However, estimated between $13,000 and $36,000 initial cost, you can save through minimal power usage long-term.

Dual Fuel Systems

Not unlike the central A/C systems, duel-fuel systems utilize the coils of your furnace. Unlike central air, this technology applies a heat pump. Especially useful in colder regions, you can use the gas furnace to heat your home in winter. For cooling, the heat pump evaporates cool fluid in the air distribution areas of your furnace.

These units range between $4,000 and $8,000 for the unit plus installation and have great long-term energy saving capability.

Pro Tip:

Consult an HVAC professional or have a contractor evaluate your home to understand which of these systems would provide you with the most energy efficient options.

Your Energy Guide

Don’t miss the bright yellow label on the energy efficient air conditioner you’re about to purchase. It’s the energy guide and it’s packed full of great information for saving energy. You’ll find:

➤ A/C type and features

➤The make, model, and size

➤ BTU cooling capacity

➤ Average estimated annual cost to run

➤ The all important EER or SEER ratings

➤ ENERGY STAR® certification

Smart Technology for Savvy Energy Savings

Whichever cooling approach you use, looking for smart tech options can have big rewards. Through energy saving settings, units can turn off both the fans and compressors once the environment has reached the desired temperature, saving you energy. Programmable temperature settings allow you to preset and schedule adjustments in temperature goals for example cool night time temps or while you’re away. Lastly, in the age of smart homes, WIFI-enabled A/C units offer even more energy saving strategies. Imagine cooling your house prior to your arrival home from vacation with a touch of your phone.

Lock in a Great Rate

Price to Compare is here to help you with energy-smart actions every day. Beyond finding you the lowest cost of electricity in your area, we have all kinds of helpful hints about conserving energy.

For instance, if this info has you inspired, check out our previous post, 4 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Energy Costs. In it, we’ve outlined additional strategies for lowering your energy costs, including setting the right temperature, investing in power strips, purchasing energy-efficient appliances and exploring off-peak rates are straightforward solutions to lowering your energy bill. You can even reduce your bottom line by simply unplugging your appliances when not in use.

We hope you’ve found this information helpful. Don’t forget to visit our site regularly for the latest in home efficiency. We’d love to help you save even more on your energy bills.