8 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Air Conditioner

Replacing your air conditioner can be a major investment, so it’s understandable that many homeowners do not take the decision lightly. However, every air conditioner reaches a point where a replacement makes more sense than continuing to pay for costly repairs, or continuing to put up with subpar performance and uneven cooling. Here are eight signs that you shouldn’t ignore when it comes time to replace your air conditioner.

1.      Age

The fact is, even the best maintained air conditioning unit can’t be expected to last more than 9-12 years in a harsh desert climate like Arizona. If your unit is approaching this age, it’s time to start the process of getting a replacement.

Newer air conditioning units are more energy-efficient and can solve many of the problems that have emerged due to the age of your unit. For example, an aging air conditioning unit can contribute to poor air quality in your home, as well as uneven cooling and frequent breakdowns. Continuing to pay for costly repairs for a unit that’s approaching double digits is generally a poor investment compared to having a new unit installed.

2.      Strange noises

While some noises, like a pop or a whistle, can be common while your air conditioner turns on or off, other noises can be a sign of a serious problem with the system. If you hear any of the following noises while your air conditioner is running, call a professional immediately:

  • Squealing
  • Grinding
  • Scraping
  • Continuous loud pops or bangs

These noises can all indicate a problem with key components of your air conditioner, including the compressor, condenser coil, or blower. Low refrigerant levels or debris in the unit can also cause loud and recurring noises.

3.      Bad smells

A properly functioning air conditioner should only put out clean and neutral-smelling air. Foul or smoky smells can indicate that the unit’s wire insulation has burned out, and musty smells can be a sign of mold and mildew buildup. If you smell smoke or other signs of burning when you run your air conditioner, your unit is likely on it’s way out. To save yourself from a costly and potentially dangerous breakdown, you should have the unit replaced as soon as possible.

4.      Higher energy bills

Are you suddenly paying a lot more on your energy bills? An aging air conditioner may be to blame. Older air conditioners have to work much harder to cool your home, leading to an increased use of energy that is reflected in a higher bill. Additionally, older air conditioners often have trouble cooling a home sufficiently. This can lead to you lowering the thermostat more often, and increasing your energy bills.

Newer air conditioning units are exceptionally energy-efficient, particularly those with high seasonal energy efficiency ratios, or SEER. Many utility companies and government agencies offer tax credits and rebates that serve as incentives for homeowners to switch to more energy-efficient air conditioners. Replacing your old air conditioner with an energy-efficient one is a great way to save on your energy bills while also helping the environment.

5.      Poor air quality

Along with delivering cool air to your home, your air conditioner is also responsible for providing ventilation. If you’ve noticed an increasing amount of dust in your home, or higher than normal humidity levels, your air conditioner may no longer be able to ventilate properly. This can lead to pollen and other pollutants entering your home. If anyone in your home suffers from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions, it’s especially important to make sure your air conditioner isn’t making the air quality in your home worse.

6.      Weak airflow

If your air conditioner takes forever to cool down your home, or never seems to do much of anything to keep the unrelenting summer temperatures away, it’s time for a replacement. If you stand by the vents in your home, you should feel a strong rush of air from your air conditioner. Weak airflow can be a sign that the compressor of your A/C unit is failing. However, it can also be a sign of a blockage or other issue in your air ducts. It’s best to call in a professional to evaluate this problem in order to get an accurate diagnosis. If the problem is with your compressor, replacing the unit all together is more cost effective than simply replacing the compressor, especially if the unit is several years old.

7.      Frequent and expensive repairs

With older air conditioners, it may often seem as though you’re constantly dealing with one failing component after another. If you find yourself scheduling repair after repair for your air conditioner, it’s best to examine if these repairs are accomplishing anything, or just throwing money out the door.

If your air conditioner requires a major repair or replacement part and the warranty on the unit has expired, the cost will likely be comparable to replacing the unit all together. Rather than continuing to repair a unit that is past its prime, replacing the unit altogether is generally more cost effective.

8.      R-22 refrigerant use

Most air conditioners use one of two refrigerants: R-410A, also known as Puron, or R-22, also known as Freon. Beginning in 2010, R-22 was discontinued following an agreement by the EPA to phase out substances that damage the ozone layer. By 2020, R-22 will no longer be imported or produced. Instead, newer air conditioners use R-410A, which is more environmentally friendly.

This all means that if your air conditioner uses R-22 as its refrigerant, your window for having it repaired is very small. Additionally, repairs with R-22 refrigerant are costlier because there’s simply less of it being produced. It’s best to replace the unit all together with one that uses R-410A or another refrigerant that will be supported for years to come. If you’re not sure what kind of refrigerant your air conditioner uses, a qualified professional can tell you when they inspect your system.

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