“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…”
Kenny Rogers’ immortal words of wisdom are just as true for replacing your air conditioner as they are for playing poker. Even though replacing your air conditioner can be a major expense, if you do it at the right time, you’ll save a bundle in the long term. But how can you tell when you’ve reached the right moment?
Don’t wait until your unit has finally died. Instead, watch for these five signs that you need to replace your HVAC system:
Your Air Conditioner is Old. Like anything else, air conditioners have a typical lifespan, which is in the neighborhood of 8 to 15 years, depending on local conditions, maintenance, parts quality and a slew of other factors. That’s not to say that your 20- year-old air conditioner isn’t still working great, but a very old air conditioner is always one major repair away from the junkyard. And these days, units that run on R-22 refrigerant are also becoming more expensive to service as the refrigerant is used less and less in the industry.
Your Utility Bills Keep Getting Bigger. As air conditioners develop age-related wear, they become less efficient. Sometimes this is due to slow refrigerant leaks; sometimes it’s because parts are wearing out throughout the system and they simply can’t function like they once did. If you notice that your utility bills are going up year after year with no good explanation as to why, look to your aging air conditioner.
Your Unit Has Broken Down Several Times. Even the best air conditioner can have a bad day and break down once in a while. It’s not a serious indication of trouble. It’s when the unit starts to experience frequent problems or needs expensive repairs that you should really think about a replacement. After all, dumping good money into an air conditioner that’s obviously failing from age isn’t financially sound, and you may find you’re spending more to keep the old girl limping along than you would on a shiny new replacement.
Your Air Conditioner is Noisy or Smelly. All air conditioners make some variety of noises, but if you notice that your unit is making a new noise, or the air it produces has developed an unpleasant smell, it’s time to consider retiring it. That noise is often the sound of parts slowly failing, and that smell could be wire insulation that has burned. Have your air conditioning professional look into the sound or smell. Be prepared to replace your old unit if he determines the problem is terminal.
Your Home is Uncomfortable. The entire purpose of having an air conditioner is to create a wildly comfortable home despite blisteringly hot or drenchingly humid conditions outside. When your home starts to feel really humid or the cool air grows less cool as you move from room to room, it’s probably time to replace the unit. After all, if it can’t do its job well, you need to find a unit that can. Make sure you check your filters before calling it quits, though -- a filter that’s simply clogged can really interfere with your unit’s ability to function.
When money is tight, it can be really hard to decide that it’s finally time to bite the bullet and buy an entirely new air conditioning system, but money you put into repairs, plus the additional electricity needed to power a unit with efficiency that is declining is money you’ll never see again. Replacing your unit, on the other hand, might be costly initially, but savings result immediately both in repair costs and in your monthly utility bills. You may even find that you are perfectly comfortable setting your thermostat a little higher with a new unit, saving you even more money.