When the summer heat is in full swing, more than 87 percent of American households reach for their thermostat to crank the air conditioner.

But what happens when the unit you depend on so much starts to break down? You need to think about getting a new air conditioning unit.

Buying a new air conditioner isn’t as easy as you might think. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You just need to know where to start.

Here’s what you need to know to find the right unit for your home’s cooling needs.

Size Does Matter

Believe it or not, the size of your home influences the type and size air conditioning unit you can install.

Larger homes need a machine that can keep each room cool and comfortable on the hottest days. Installing a unit that’s too small will keep your home from reaching those ideal temperatures. Worse, the system will run almost constantly just to try to get the air close to the thermostat’s setting.

But larger units aren’t always better. Installing a system that’s too big for your home can make the house more humid. And it won’t cool things down any faster.

You need to find a unit that’s designed to work with your home’s square footage. And that unit may not be the same size as the one you currently have. Listen to your HVAC technician and let them tell you which sizes will work best for your home.

Pay Attention to Energy Efficiency Ratings

All air conditioners use electricity. But some use more than others.

Before you commit to a particular brand or unit, review its efficiency ratings. These give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend each year on electricity costs for the unit alone.

More efficient units will cost you less to run over time. But they can be more expensive upfront.

If you plan on staying in your house for a while, a super-efficient unit may be worth the expense. But if you’re thinking of selling in a few years, you may be better off sticking with a cheaper AC unit. Otherwise, you might not see the same return.

Know What Type of New Air Conditioner You Need

There’s more to choosing an air conditioner than picking the right brand. You need to make sure you choose the right type of unit.

Central air conditioning units are the most common in larger homes. And they rely on ductwork throughout the house to carry the cool air where it needs to go. If you already have ductwork in place, central AC units are the best option.

But if you don’t already have ductwork throughout your home, you may not need to install it to get cool air where you want it. Ductless units mount on the wall and can send cool air to any room with a unit.

Think about the layout of your house. If you have ductwork, opt for a central AC unit. But if you don’t or have parts of the house where the ductwork doesn’t run, look into a ductless system.

Be Mindful of Your Budget

Unfortunately, all new air conditioning units cost money. In fact, the average new HVAC system costs between $3,000 and $12,000, depending on the type and size you choose.

Before you agree to a quote, think about how much money you can afford to spend on that new system. Write that number down and tell your air conditioning contractor.

They’ll do what they can to help you stick to that budget.

And when you’re looking at units and comparing specs, remember that more expensive isn’t always better. You need to find a unit that works for your house and your wallet. If that means installing a slightly less energy-efficient system so you can afford the installation in the first place, that’s okay.

You’ll Need to Hire an Expert

There are some home improvement tasks that you can handle on your own. Installing a new air conditioning unit is not one of them. You’ll need to hire an expert to handle the installation for you.

This is true even if you’re mechanically inclined. Why? Because every new unit comes with a warranty, but it comes with a catch.

For the manufacturer to honor the warranty, a licensed and trained technician has to install it for you. If you do it yourself, you’ll void the warranty. And if the unit breaks due to a manufacturer error, you’ll still have to pay the full cost of repairs.

Don’t Be Afraid to Call Around

When you’re shopping for a new air conditioner, you don’t have to work with the first person you talk to. And you don’t have to buy the first unit you find.

It’s always best to call around and get estimates from multiple providers. This helps you find the best fit for your budget and your house.

And it will give you a chance to find a contractor you can trust to work on the unit for years to come.

Call at least three companies and get them to come to assess your house and give you installation estimates. These should always happen in-person. Over-the-phone estimates put you at risk for the wrong size unit and don’t give you a chance to get to know the team who would work on your home.

Once you have those estimates, compare what each company offers. Then, think about which one you felt most comfortable with. This may not always be the cheapest company. But with AC installations, you get what you pay for.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right new air conditioner for your home is a process. But as long as you take your time and get multiple estimates from dedicated professionals, you’ll find the right one for your home. Just remember to stick to your budget.

For more helpful tips for homeowners looking to improve their houses, check out our latest posts.