When to Replace Your Air Conditioner

It's not a matter of IF, but WHEN, you will need to replace your air conditioner. ACs generally last 10-15 years. Learn about how age and noise may factor into when to replace.

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Nothing is worse than a broken air conditioner on a hot summer day. Chances are, you’ve probably been there before, and it’s not an experience you want to repeat. Regular service and maintenance is crucial to keeping your unit in top working order, but even with regular care and repairs, every air conditioner will eventually wear out. Know the warning signs of a unit on the brink so you’ll be prepared for the inevitable upgrade.

Signs it’s time to replace your AC

If your air conditioner needs to be replaced, it’s going to let you know. Keep an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • Age – How old is your AC unit? An air conditioner typically lasts 10-15 years. Clearly, the older a unit is, the more likely it is to have performance issues and need repairs. If you have an older unit, you should also check its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) number. This number indicates the amount of energy consumed vs. the amount of cool air put out by the unit. The minimum SEER is 13, but some older units manufactured before 2006 may have SEER numbers as low as 10. This can mean lower overall efficiency.

Older units are also likely to use R-22 refrigerant gas. The use of this gas has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency, and it is being phased out. While you can still have your unit serviced with R-22, it is becoming increasingly difficult to source and will cost more. You can also use an approved alternative refrigerant, but that will require additional labor to flush your unit of any remaining R-22.

  • Noise – This should come as no surprise, but a noisy AC unit is not a good thing. Banging can indicate a broken part or an unbalanced indoor blower. Rattling can mean the unit as a whole is deteriorating. There are several types of noises your air conditioner can make and, if left unchecked, many can lead to serious damage and the need for more expensive repairs or a complete replacement.
  • Higher energy bills – If you notice an abnormal spike in your energy bill, it could mean that your air conditioner is malfunctioning and is not operating efficiently. While it’s normal to experience increases during the hottest days of summer and the coldest days of winter, continual jumps in cost without corresponding changes in your usage habits are a red flag. Upgrading to a new, efficient air conditioning unit can save you anywhere from 20 to 40 percent on your electric bill.
  • Temperature inconsistencies – Are parts of you home cooler than others? If you’ve set your thermostat to your preferred temperature and notice that some rooms are not getting cooled properly, this could mean that your unit is unable to keep up with your demand for cool air.

How much does it cost?

So, you’ve realized you need a new unit, but now you’re probably thinking, “How much does it cost to replace an air conditioner?” The bad news: a new air conditioning unit costs thousands of dollars, with most falling into the $3,000 to $7,000 range. Keep in mind that certain types of units will cost more than others, but here’s the good news: paying more for higher quality up front may save you in repairs and maintenance down the road.

You can also save on your new unit by buying at the end of summer or during the fall and winter. After the hottest days of the year have passed, demand for units decreases and retailers are more likely to cut prices.

It’s also important to consider which type of AC unit is best suited to your needs and budget. Portable, central, packaged and geothermal units all have pros and cons, and it’s a good idea to do your research so you make an informed purchase.

Service first

Of course, routine maintenance is the best measure to prolong the life of your current AC unit. Generally, you should service your air conditioner once a year, and most professionals recommend checking it each spring. You can handle basic do-it-yourself tasks, such as changing the filter each month or every 90 days and making sure your unit is free of debris.

Professional technicians can provide routine servicing for your AC unit, and they will make sure your air conditioner is in top working order. If a breakdown occurs, remember that a home warranty from American Home Shield® provides protection for covered costly repairs and replacements. Find out more about our coverage options.

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AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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