Installing or replacing central air can be a huge expense, so you’ll want to get it right. To ensure that you have the best advice, we surveyed more than 14,000 Consumer Reports readers about new central air-conditioning systems they bought and installed between 2009 and 2016. We learned how satisfied they were overall with their purchase, the cost of repairs, how many systems break, and which parts break most often.

An air conditioner's compressor contains a refrigerant. As it works, it sends this refrigerant through the system. As warm air blows across the coil that carries this refrigerant, the heat transfers to the refrigerant (cool always absorbs warm). A fan moves the cooled air through the ducting and out of vents that lead into the rooms of your house. The refrigerant returns to the compressor where the absorbed heat is moved outside. The refrigerant is then sent through the coil once again to continue the cycle.

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