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When Should I Replace My Air Conditioner?

by Richard Sinclair on Sep 12, 2019

Like everything else, an air conditioner doesn’t last forever. The average air conditioning system lasts as long as 15 years, depending on how much it is used and how well it is maintained. Most air conditioners don’t shut down right away but give signs, subtle and not subtle, that their working life is coming to an end. How does a homeowner know when it’s time to replace their AC?

It No Longer Cools

There are many things that can make an air conditioning unit stop producing cool air. Sometimes the problem can be as simple to fix as replacing a clogged filter with a clean one. But if the homeowner keeps fixing and fixing things and the registers or the unit are still blowing warm air, it may be time for the AC to be replaced.

It’s Leaking

Because part of the way an AC works is to condense gas into a liquid, there is always going to be some condensation dripping out of a drain made for the purpose. However, if the homeowner sees puddles in the area around the condenser unit or puddles in the room, it’s a sign that the AC needs to be replaced. Water pooling in the house is bad enough since water can damage the floors, and wet flooring and carpeting are excellent growing medium for molds. The water might also have refrigerant in it, and refrigerant is hazardous. If there are pools of water around the unit, it’s best to call in an AC specialist as soon as possible and have the unit replaced.

Weird Noises That Won’t Stop

A failing air conditioner tends to make all types of noises such as groans, rattles, grinding sounds, bangs, or squeals because some component inside the system is breaking down. If the noises come back even after a professional has serviced the air conditioning unit, it’s probably time to get another one rather than pay hundreds of dollars every time the technician has to be called. 

The AC Uses the Wrong Freon

If a system uses R-22 freon, it needs to be replaced. This is because this type of refrigerant is being phased out. The phase-out is not only making R-22 very expensive to purchase, but eventually, the homeowner is going to need to switch to the new R410A. If the unit or system still uses R-22 and is having the other problems mentioned in the article, it is time to replace it.

The SEER Rating is Too Low

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it lets the purchaser of the AC unit know how efficient it is. It is determined by dividing the Btus, or British thermal unit output, of the system during a usual cooling season by the watt-hours it consumes over that season. For a new AC system, the minimum SEER rating is 13. If the AC the homeowner has falls below that, it needs to be replaced with a more efficient model. 

The AC is Simply Too Old

It is true that replacing a central AC system is pricey, and many homeowners will simply leave a system that’s older than 10 alone if it’s working well. But if it’s starting to have problems and those problems are also running into money, it is probably best to replace the system with one that will invariably be much more efficient.

Weak Air Flow

Another sign that the system or unit needs to be replaced is an airflow that is too weak even though the air that comes out of the unit or the registers is cool. Indeed, people in the room need to all but stand over the registers or the unit to get any cooling at all. Feeble airflow can be the result of damage to or blockage in the vents or ducts or a problem with the compressor. If these problems keep recurring and they’re becoming more and more expensive for air conditioning repair, it’s time to buy a new air conditioner.

The AC Smells Bad

An AC system that smells bad when it’s turned on means that there’s something wrong with it. A sharp smell is a sign that the insulation that protects the electrical wiring has burned out, and a musty smell is an indication that there’s mold somewhere in the system. Whatever the reason for the smell, the unit needs to be checked out and quite possibly replaced.

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