Choosing Residential Air Conditioning Systems: A Comprehensive Guide

by | Jun 6, 2024 | Air Quality, HVAC

Time and again, people ask us at InMotion Mechanical the best way to keep their living spaces comfortable, particularly during those hot summer months. The answer is simple: installing an efficient residential air conditioning system.

Chances are, you’re reading this because you’re considering investing in or upgrading your home’s AC system. Perhaps you’re tired of waking up to a blistering hot house, or maybe you’re finally taking the plunge to transform that sticky summer heat into cool, serene comfort. However, with many options in the market, choosing the perfect one can be overwhelming.

Our mission in this comprehensive guide is to break down the complexities of residential air conditioning systems. We aim to empower you with expert insights into the workings of these cooling units, the most efficient models, installation and maintenance keys, and a lot more.

Understanding the Basics of Residential Air Conditioning Systems

As we’ve seen, having access to a well-functioning air conditioning system is a modern-day luxury that many of us can’t imagine living without. But how does this magic machine that keeps us cool during sweltering summer days actually work?

How Central Air Conditioning Systems Work

A central air conditioning system, or split system, works in a continuous refrigeration cycle. It uses both indoor and outdoor equipment to cool your home effectively. At its core, the system pulls heat out of your house and replaces it with cooler air. The process begins at the air handler, the indoor part of the system, and ends at the condenser, which is located outdoors.

Refrigerant, a special type of fluid that can change from a gas to a liquid and vice versa, circulates between these two units. As it travels, it absorbs heat from inside the house and dispels it outside, leaving your home cooler as a result. The supply ducts distribute this cool air from the air handler to the rooms in the house, while return ducts carry warm air back to the air handler to be cooled again. When properly sized and installed, these ducts deliver conditioned air evenly and quietly throughout the house.

The Role of Air Handlers and Condensers in Central AC Systems

The air handler and the condenser play pivotal roles in this cooling process. The air handler houses an expansion valve that turns the refrigerant into a cold liquid. This liquid then flows over the evaporator coils, absorbing heat from the surrounding air. A blower pushes this warmed air over the coils, turning the refrigerant back into a gas. This warm gaseous refrigerant then travels to the condenser.

The condenser takes this warm, gaseous refrigerant, pressurizes it with a compressor, and condenses it back into a liquid as a fan cools the coils. This process of refrigeration is repeated continuously, thereby maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home.

The Importance of Properly Sizing Your AC System

Sizing your AC system correctly is key to its efficiency and your home’s comfort. An undersized system will have to work overtime to cool your home, increasing energy costs and wear and tear. On the other hand, an oversized system will cool your home too quickly, causing it to frequently turn on and off, a process known as short cycling, which can lead to uncomfortable temperature fluctuations and increased energy use.

The Efficiency of Heat Pumps in Both Cooling and Warming Houses

Interestingly, heat pumps can both cool and warm your house. They are particularly efficient in climates with moderate cooling needs, like Lake Tahoe and Truckee. Heat pumps work by merely reversing the process of an air conditioner. During the winter, they extract heat from the outside air (even when it’s cold) and transfer it inside your home. The process is reversed in summer, and heat is extracted from your home and released outside.

Installation and Maintenance of Residential Air Conditioning Systems

Installation and maintenance are crucial aspects of residential air conditioning systems. These factors are key to your system’s overall performance, efficiency, and longevity. In fact, proper installation and regular maintenance can make the difference between a system that runs smoothly for years and one that requires frequent, costly repairs.

Options for Installing New Ducts: Duct Board, Flex Duct, and Sheet Metal

Once you’ve chosen the right AC system for your home, the next step is the installation process. Central air conditioners often require ductwork to distribute cool air throughout your home. Ducts can be made from different materials, including duct board, flex duct, and sheet metal. Choosing the right material is crucial based on your home’s specific needs and structure. At InMotion Mechanical, we provide expert advice and professional installation services to ensure your ductwork is correctly installed for optimal system performance.

The Importance of Pressure-Testing and Sealing Leaking Ducts

Even with a high-quality AC system, leaky ducts can significantly decrease efficiency. That’s why it’s crucial to pressure-test your ducts with the help of an HVAC technician. This process involves using a pressure-monitoring blower to identify any leaks. After that, a thick coat of mastic is applied over the joint and reinforced with fiberglass mesh tape to seal the leaks. A final leakage test is conducted to ensure the leakage rate is below 10 percent – anything higher warrants a revisit to the sealing process.

Retrofit Options for AC Systems: Mini-Ducts and Ductless Systems

If installing new ducts isn’t practical in your home, don’t worry. There are retrofit options available. One of these options is a mini-duct system. These flexible, 3.5-inch diameter tubes can easily fit through stud and joist bays, delivering high-velocity air through unobtrusive 2-inch openings.

Another option is a ductless system, also known as a mini-split. These systems have no central air handler. Instead, refrigerant travels from an outdoor unit through skinny tubing to an indoor room unit. Each unit has its own controls, making each room its own zone. This can result in significant energy savings.

Mitsubishi Electric is a top choice for mini-split air conditioning systems. Their products are renowned for their high efficiency and reliability. Mitsubishi mini splits come in a wide range of sizes and styles, making them perfect for both residential and commercial use. They are easy to install and require minimal maintenance, making them a popular choice for homeowners looking for a hassle-free cooling solution. These systems also offer excellent air filtration, providing clean, fresh air for your home. With Mitsubishi mini splits, you can enjoy energy-efficient cooling that saves you money while keeping you comfortable all year round.

Regular AC Service: Checking Refrigerant Lines, Cleaning the Condensate Pan and Drain, and Maintaining the Condenser

Like any other home appliance, your AC system requires regular maintenance to keep it running efficiently. This includes checking the refrigerant lines, cleaning the condensate pan and drain, and maintaining the condenser.

Remember, maintaining your residential air conditioning system isn’t just about keeping your home comfortable; it’s also about ensuring energy efficiency and a longer lifespan for your AC. We at InMotion Mechanical are here to help you every step of the way, from choosing the right system to its installation and regular maintenance.

Choosing the Right Residential Air Conditioning System

Not all residential air conditioning systems are created equal. The key to a harmoniously cooled home and efficient energy use lies in selecting an AC system that perfectly suits your needs and the specificities of your home. Here’s a detailed guide to making the most informed choice.

The Most Efficient Type of Air Conditioning System for Your Home

While an AC system’s efficiency can depend on various factors, such as age, maintenance, and usage, certain air conditioning systems are inherently more efficient. For instance, inverter ACs offer better and more consistent cooling than non-inverter ACs. They’re also more energy-efficient and quieter.

Ductless systems are considered the pinnacle of efficiency for homes where installing ductwork isn’t feasible. They can be installed in almost any home without expensive ductwork, making them ideal for older homes.

The Ideal Size of Air Conditioner for Different Home Sizes

Sizing your air conditioner appropriately is vital for its efficiency and your home’s comfort. An oversized AC will cool your home quickly but won’t effectively remove humidity, leading to a cold, clammy environment. Conversely, an undersized AC will struggle to cool your home, leading to higher energy bills.

Here’s a basic guide to match your home’s square footage to an ideal AC size:

Home Square Footage Air Conditioner Size (Tons)
600-1,000 square feet 1.5 tons
1,000-1,500 square feet 2 tons
1,500-2,000 square feet 3 tons
2,000-2,500 square feet 4 tons

The actual size may vary based on specific factors such as the number of windows, insulation, and climate.

The Most Efficient Residential HVAC System

When it comes to HVAC systems, geothermal systems are regarded as the most energy-efficient. These systems utilize the consistent temperature of the earth’s surface to heat and cool your home, reducing reliance on costly fuels.

In particular, an open-loop geothermal system is considered one of the most efficient heating and cooling systems. It’s worth exploring this option if you’re looking for the utmost efficiency and eco-friendliness.

The Cost and Prices of Different Residential Air Conditioning Systems

The cost of residential air conditioning systems can vary significantly based on their type, size, brand, and the complexity of the installation. The average cost can range from a few thousand to over ten thousand dollars.

While the upfront cost is important, you should consider long-term running costs. Energy-efficient systems like inverter ACs and geothermal systems may have higher upfront costs but can save you money in the long run through lower energy bills.

At InMotion Mechanical, we are committed to helping our clients understand the costs of different air conditioning systems and finding the one that best fits their budget and needs. Contact us for a detailed quote and expert assistance in choosing your residential air conditioning system.

The Role of Brands in Choosing Residential Air Conditioning Systems

The hum of a reliable, efficient air conditioning system on a hot summer day is music to any homeowner’s ears. But how do you ensure you’re getting the best system for your home? One crucial factor is the brand of the air conditioning system.

Overview of Pioneer, MRCOOL, and Royalton Brands

Several reputable brands are worth considering for residential air conditioning systems. Pioneer, MRCOOL, and Royalton are among them.

Pioneer is known for its wide range of residential and commercial air conditioning systems. They offer both ductless mini-split and multi-split systems, providing versatile options for all types of homes.

MRCOOL, on the other hand, is recognized for its innovative and efficient products. Their systems often come with easy DIY installation kits and are known for their energy efficiency, which can save homeowners on energy costs.

Royalton offers durable and reliable air conditioning units known for their quiet operation and practical features. Their units are designed to provide maximum comfort while minimizing energy usage.

The Importance of Brand Reputation in Choosing an AC System

Choosing a brand with a solid reputation is essential when purchasing an air conditioning system. Reading customer reviews and checking ratings can give you a clear picture of the brand’s reliability, customer service, and product quality.

At InMotion Mechanical, we recommend choosing a brand with strong customer support. Whether a brand offers a direct phone line or customer support via live chat or mobile app, sufficient means of communication are vital. It’s also worth checking customer reviews on popular review sites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Intelligent cooling is another crucial factor to consider. Systems with this feature can ensure your home is cooled efficiently, potentially saving you on energy costs.

Remember, the best air conditioning system for your home will depend on various factors, including your home’s size, your local climate, and your budget. At InMotion Mechanical, we are dedicated to helping you choose the best residential air conditioning system that suits your needs and preferences. Contact us today for expert advice and a detailed quote.


In wrapping up our comprehensive journey through the world of residential air conditioning systems, we’ve traversed an extensive landscape of knowledge, from the foundational elements of central AC systems to the pivotal components such as air handlers and condensers. Our exploration delved deep into the significance of selecting an AC system that’s perfectly sized for your home, alongside a thorough discussion on the transformative efficiency of heat pumps in modern cooling technology.

We’ve spotlighted some energy-efficient A/C models, determined the perfect size for different home dimensions, and unraveled system costs and pricing intricacies. Furthermore, we illuminated the critical role of brand reputation in this decision-making process, featuring insights on leading brands like Pioneer, MRCOOL, and Royalton to help you make an informed choice based on quality and reliability.

As you navigate the decisions surrounding residential air conditioning systems, remember that the right choice blends efficiency, size, cost, and brand reputation to ensure your home remains a haven of comfort and sustainability. Whether installing a new system or upgrading an existing one, this guide is your go-to resource for all things related to residential AC systems, empowering you with the knowledge to make the best choice for your home.

About the Author:

Tyler Bogan is the President of InMotion Mechanical, Nevada. With deep-rooted expertise tailored to the unique commercial and residential HVAC demands of the Reno-Tahoe region, Tyler's hands-on approach and dedication to enriching the lives of his clients through efficient, reliable HVAC systems reflect his standing as a trusted consultant and expert in his field.