Best Air Conditioner Systems for Florida: The Ultimate Guide

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Florida’s climate can be challenging, with hot summers and high humidity levels. Selecting the right air conditioner for your Florida home is crucial not only for comfort but also for energy efficiency and long-term savings. In this article, we offer detailed advice on choosing the best air conditioning system, review the top systems suited for Florida’s diverse climates, and provide recommendations on choosing a top-rated air conditioner manufacturer.

Tips for Choosing the Best Air Conditioner for a Florida Home

When selecting an air conditioning system for your Florida home, several factors need to be considered to ensure you choose a system that offers the best performance, efficiency, and value for money.

1. Energy Efficiency

Opt for an air conditioner with a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating. A higher SEER rating means the unit operates more efficiently, which is crucial in a state like Florida where air conditioners run almost year-round. The minimum required SEER rating for an air conditioning system in Florida is 15, but units with a SEER rating of 16 or higher offer the best efficiency and long-term savings.

2. Sizing

Installing the correct size air conditioning unit for your home is crucial. An air conditioning unit too large will cycle on and off too frequently, reducing efficiency and increasing wear and tear. On the other hand, a unit too small won’t adequately cool your home on the hottest days.

For a home in Florida, which experiences high temperatures and humidity, you typically need a slightly more powerful air conditioner compared to cooler climates. The standard estimation often used is around 20 BTU per square foot of living space. For example, a 1,500 square foot home in Florida would require an air conditioner with a capacity of about 30,000 BTU. For a 3,000 square foot home in Florida, you would need a 60,000 BTU unit or larger.

Hiring a professional to perform a detailed load calculation will help you ensure the unit installed is the perfect size for your home.

3. Type of Air Conditioner

When selecting an air conditioning system for a home in Florida, it’s important to consider the type that best suits the home’s layout, location, and specific cooling needs.

Larger, multi-story homes often benefit from central air conditioning, while heat pumps work better for smaller, single-story homes.

In North Florida, the cooler temperatures make heat pumps a practical choice for efficient heating and cooling. South Florida’s tropical climate requires air conditioners with advanced moisture control to manage high humidity levels, making central air conditioning a more practical choice.

4. Features

Look for models with features such as variable-speed motors, smart thermostat compatibility, and moisture control. These can enhance comfort by providing a consistent indoor temperature, efficient operation, and managing high humidity, a common issue in Florida homes.

5. Durability

Given Florida’s salty air, especially in coastal areas, choosing a system with corrosion-resistant components is crucial. Some models are specifically designed with enhanced protection against corrosion and UV damage.

Best Types of Air Conditioners for Florida Climates

Below, you can explore the best types of air conditioning systems for Florida based on where you live, your home size and layout, and energy-efficiency goals.

Central Air Conditioning Systems

Central AC is the most popular choice in Florida for whole-house cooling. These units are effective at maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the home and can be coupled with a furnace or heat pump for year-round comfort.

An example of a Florida home where a central AC unit would be the best choice is a 3,000 square foot, two-story home in Miami, Florida with several bedrooms and ductwork already in place from a previous HVAC system. For this home, a central air conditioning system would efficiently cool multiple rooms or zones simultaneously. The existing ductwork makes it easier and more cost-effective to install a central system.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are an excellent choice for Florida’s mild winters and hot summers as they offer both heating and cooling. They work most efficiently in areas where the temperature rarely drops below freezing.

An example of a Florida home where a heat pump would be the best choice is a single-story, 1,500-square-foot home located in the cooler northern region near Tallahassee. A heat pump would be effective here due to its dual functionality of heating and cooling, which offers year-round comfort and energy savings without the need for separate heating and cooling systems.

Ductless Mini-Split Systems

Ductless mini-split air conditioning systems are ideal for Florida homes without existing ductwork, additions, or rooms that need individual temperature control. These systems offer the advantage of zoned cooling and heating without the need for extensive duct installation.

An example of a Florida home where a ductless mini-split system would be the best choice is a 1,200 square foot historic, renovated bungalow in Tampa, with original architecture and no existing ductwork. A ductless mini-split system is perfect because it offers a flexible, scalable solution for cooling and heating distinct zones in the home independently, without the need for extensive and costly duct installation.

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable AC units are good options for small spaces or when individual cooling of rooms is needed. Portable units can be moved from room to room and are easy to install.

An example of a Florida home where a portable air conditioner would be the best choice is a detached 600 square foot guest house or “mother-in-law” suite located in the backyard of a larger primary residence in Sarasota. This space might lack the ductwork necessary for central air conditioning and may not justify the installation of a more permanent system like a ductless mini-split unit.

Florida Building Code Requirements for Air Conditioning Units

In Florida, the building code requirements for air conditioners are designed to ensure that HVAC systems installed in homes are energy efficient and suitable for the state’s climate conditions. These regulations are detailed in the Florida Building Code, particularly in the Energy Conservation section, and are updated regularly to incorporate the latest standards.

Key points from the Florida Building Code regarding air conditioners include:

Energy Efficiency

Air conditioners must meet minimum efficiency ratings. These ratings are part of the broader energy conservation goals set by the state and are updated as technology advances.

As of January 2023, the minimum SEER rating for new air conditioning systems installed in Florida increased to 15 for central air conditioners and heat pumps. This change is part of a broader update to energy efficiency standards that also introduces a new testing methodology called SEER2.

For single-packaged AC units, like portable AC units, the minimum SEER rating required is 14. These requirements are aligned with the southeastern regional standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy, ensuring that all new air conditioning systems installed in Florida are more energy efficient.

System Sizing and Design

Proper sizing and design of air conditioning systems are critical. The Code specifies that HVAC systems must be correctly sized to match the cooling and heating loads of the building to optimize energy use and performance. Your local professional air conditioner installer can advise you on the correct unit size for your home.

Installation Requirements

The Code mandates that all systems be installed according to manufacturer instructions and in compliance with state regulations, ensuring they operate efficiently and safely.

Ventilation and Air Distribution

There are specific requirements for ventilation and air distribution to maintain indoor air quality and comfort. This includes guidelines on the sealing of ducts and the installation of energy recovery ventilation systems in certain cases.

Maintenance and Inspections

Maintenance guidelines are stipulated to ensure long-term efficiency and safety of the HVAC systems. These include providing clear and accessible maintenance information on the equipment.

Working with a professional Florida air conditioning installer ensures your HVAC installation adheres to local codes. Your professional can also help you decide on the best type of AC system based on your location, home size, and energy-efficiency goals.

Top Air Conditioner Brands for Florida

In addition to choosing the best type of air conditioner for your home, you also will get to choose the air conditioner brand. Several brands stand out as a good fit for Florida’s climate due to their reliability, efficiency, and advanced technology:

1. Carrier

Carrier offers high SEER models that are particularly effective in hot, humid climates. The brand is also own for its durability and efficiency.

For Florida, we recommend looking into the Carrier Infinity system, which has a SEER rating of up to 24 SEER2, or the Carrier Performance system, which has a SEER rating of up to 16.5 SEER2.

2. Trane

Renowned for building some of the toughest and most efficient air conditioners, Trane units are often equipped with features that handle high temperatures and humidity.

For Florida, we recommend looking into the Trane TruComfort system, which has a SEER rating of up to 17.

3. Lennox

Lennox provides some of the highest SEER ratings available, with models that integrate seamlessly with smart home systems for optimal energy management.

For a Florida home, we recommend checking out the Dave Lennox Signature Collection, which has impressive SEER ratings of up to 28.

4. Goodman

Known for offering durability at a more affordable price point, Goodman air conditioners are a popular choice among Florida homeowners.

For homes in Florida, we recommend looking into the Goodman GVXC20 model, which has a SEER rating of up to 24.5.

The Bottom Line

When choosing the best air conditioner system for your Florida home, consider the specific needs of your region, your home’s layout, and the features that will provide the most comfort and efficiency. With the right system, you can enjoy a cool, comfortable home environment year-round while managing energy costs effectively.