As a homeowner, it can be tough to decide that it’s time to replace a central air conditioner. It’s an investment you don’t want to make lightly, and one you may put off, hoping to make it through another season… and maybe another.
If your air conditioner completely conks out, that makes the decision a little easier! But what about the more common scenario, where your old AC chugs along, leaving you wondering just how long it’s going to hang on, and whether it’s worth a repair?
If that sounds familiar, it would be a good idea to get a professional opinion – but before you do, you can look for these telltale signs to see how well your air conditioner is working and whether you’re more likely looking at a replacement or a repair.
Your Air Conditioner Has Turned Into A Garage Band
A well-maintained system that’s working properly should be fairly quiet. We’re all familiar with the white noise of a central cooling system, but if you suddenly notice banging, clanking, whirring, whining, grating, rattling, or just a louder-than-usual drone, it could be a sign of bigger problems.
There are lots of reasons for unusual noises – it could be a belt slipping out of place, a worn motor, or something else – and some are more serious than others. Any obviously unusual noise means that something is not working properly and should be diagnosed by a professional.
Subtler changes in noise level can be signs of bigger problems, too. An aging system can get louder over time, so gradually that you may not really notice the change until one day you wonder if it’s always been that annoying or if you’re just getting crankier. It’s probably not you – chances are your system is wearing out and nearing time for replacement.
Your Air Conditioner Has Hit Its 10th Birthday
A properly maintained air conditioner can last 10-15 years or more, so a 10th birthday doesn’t automatically mean disaster. It’s only when you start noticing other signs of decline that it might be time to start thinking about replacing it.
If your unit is past its 10th year and showing other signs of age – like those noises we mentioned, or a decline in cooling power – there’s a good chance it’s getting ready to quit.
Before you get sucked into a bottomless pit of expensive repairs, consider this: if the estimate you get for a repair is about half (or more than half) of what it would cost to replace the unit, it’s a good idea to seriously consider replacing it. A repair that costly usually means there is a serious problem, and in an aging unit you could wind up throwing good money after bad.
With so many rebate and financing options available, investing in a new unit for your long term comfort and financial health can be easier than you think.
Your Air Conditioner Isn’t Helping You Keep Your Cool
If your air conditioner is failing, it may be obvious in how well it’s cooling your home. Whatever its age, if you notice a decline in your comfort then something isn’t working properly.
Older systems will naturally lose cooling power over time, so if yours is getting up there in age, you aren’t going to see it improve over time.
But what about newer systems? If you’re not as comfortable as you should be, there could be a number of reasons for that. You may have a bad unit on your hands, and if you’ve been smart and kept up with maintenance, you should be covered under warranty.
Another reason for poor cooling is a system that hasn’t been properly sized for your space. Units that are too large or too small will not cool your space efficiently. It’s not uncommon for people to think that a bigger system means better cooling, but the fact is that oversized units will actually be less efficient at cooling than one that is suited for your home.
There’s also the possibility of a duct problem. If your unit is new, sized properly, and otherwise working as it should but you’re still not getting the cool air you expect, it’s possible that your cool air is escaping through cracks in your ductwork. It can be a tough problem to pinpoint, so you’ll need a professional to help.
In “it could be worse” news, the problem may not be with your air conditioner at all, but the result of a faulty thermostat. If it runs on batteries, try replacing them. Otherwise, your best bet is to get a pro in to take a look.
Your Air Conditioner Is Making Housekeeping A Bigger Chore
You might not attribute dust to a problem with your air conditioner, but if you suddenly notice that everything seems to be covered in a layer of dust about five minutes after you clean, it could very well be your AC.
Excessive dust isn’t just an eyesore, it’s also bad for your allergies and your health. Combine extra layers of dust with a not-so-cool home and you could be looking at duct issues. The problem is that leaky ducts let air in (and out) where it shouldn’t be flowing. So air can be entering your home and bypassing the filter, bringing allergens, dust and other particles with it.
Before you rip up walls, take a look at those filters. Sometimes the problem is as simple as needing to replace them. Your HVAC system moves air past those filters all day, so if they become clogged with debris then some of it is going to end up right back in your home.
Choose filters with the highest MERV rating that’s appropriate for your system, and be sure to change them regularly – that means every six months at a minimum, as often as every month if you have pets or suffer from allergies.
Your Air Conditioner Is Leaking Or Puddling
Some condensation around your air conditioner is normal, but puddles or excessive moisture are signs that something is definitely not working properly.
You might be leaking coolant, which is a bigger problem. If your unit is more than 10 years old and leaking coolant, your only option is almost certainly going to be to replace it. Older units use the coolant known as Freon, which is no longer manufactured, so even if you could repair it, you won’t be able to find the coolant any longer.
Excess moisture in general is bad news, too. Not only does it indicate a problem with your unit, but it can lead to bigger problems like mold growth. If you see something leaking or notice water building up, call a pro and get a diagnosis.
Your Air Conditioner Is Costing You A Good Steak Dinner
If you notice your energy costs going up and up and up… it may have more to do with a poorly functioning air conditioner than with general inflation. Yes, costs tend to go up over time, but your air conditioner shouldn’t be competing with that four-course dinner for a chance at your wallet.
Steeply increasing costs, or just costs that seem to increase steadily out of proportion to other increases, are a sign that your system is ailing. The problem could be any of the concerns we’ve mentioned here – leaky ducts, dirty filters, broken parts, or an old and aging system.
Check the obvious trouble spots – make sure your filters are clean, make sure vents aren’t being blocked, check for leaks – then call a pro to see if a new, more energy efficient air conditioner might solve your cooling woes.
Nobody wants to find out on a hot summer day that their air conditioner isn’t working properly. You can mitigate a lot of problems with regular maintenance and appropriate filter changes. But if you’re worried about your system and think you need a repair, contact us and let us know.
Or if you decide to replace your system, let us know and we’ll visit your home for a free estimate. You can check our monthly specials for sales, deals and financing offers that can help make your investment easier. We’re here to help and we care about your comfort.