Stick with a maximum of 16 SEER units in most cases.  Like I said above, contractors push higher SEER units because they make more money, but these units can be expensive at this stage of development, and can drive up your HVAC installation cost.  21 SEER units run about twice the price of a 14 SEER unit, so unless you live in a desert and plan on being there for 30 more years... Likewise, a 16 SEER unit typically costs only about $600-$1,000 more than a 14 SEER, and will usually pay for itself over the lifetime of the unit.
I am NADCA Certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialist. Over the year I have learned on simple answer to this questions: there air duct cleaners and there are pretenders. There will be no benefit at all if you use on the very cheap pretender because they will not really clean anything. On the other hand if you call a qualified air duct cleaner with a NADCA Certification you will, like 99% of my customers, report improvement with your respiratory problems, you will see less dust and the job will pay for itself with energy savings and repair prevention.
Installing a split system may involve making modifications to the house itself for the necessary lines to be run. The heat exchangers are also more prone to picking up debris and must be cleaned on a regular basis. While they come with protective screens over the fan, care must still be taken to ensure that nothing gets in, especially in a home with children.

After major damage to a small addition on our home was damaged in the windstorm in May, the insurer’s preferred vendor sanded drywall without taping off the area. They relied on heat from the furnace to dry the mudding compound. They claimed they shut the furnace off while sanding and regardless of whether they did or not, they never cleaned up the drywall dust before turning the furnace back on. I now have drywall dust everywhere and my husband took photos to verify our concerns. They even sanded right above a cold air return. Vents were never covered either. The same company that created this mess is cleaning my ducts today. They have refused to clean the furnace. Their are health concerns for my almost 85 yr old mother who resides with us. I’ve tried 3 times in the last 7 days to escalate to a manager and they will not return my call. They just keep sending it back down to my adjuster. There are many other issues we’ve encountered since May as well. This is a major insurance company who has the resources to fix this mess but refuse. Please help!
Our unit is 16 years old and we've had it checked out recently since it seems to be running excessively. Over all the tech says it is putting out well; it's the correct size, we have no shade and we've been having extreme heat with high humidity. The info you provided is very helpful and will help us make an informed decision when the time comes. Thank you so much.
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