Air conditioners are an essential part of a comfortable lifestyle during the spring and summer seasons. Unfortunately, they do not last forever. While every unit is different, an air conditioner unit lasts between 15 to 20 years. Your cooling system's lifespan and overall efficiency depend on many factors, including whether or not you correctly maintain the unit throughout its lifetime.
Replacing your AC unit can be a significant investment, so, understandably, many homeowners do not take the decision lightly. However, every air conditioning system reaches a point where a replacement makes more sense than paying for expensive repairs or tolerating poor operation and uneven cooling.
Here are the top eight signs your air conditioner is nearing the end of its life.
If your A/C is approaching double-digits, you should consider a replacement. Newer, more energy-efficient air conditioners can resolve many of the problems caused by your aging system. For example, an older AC unit can be responsible for poor air quality in your home, uneven cooling, and recurring breakdowns. Continuing to pay for expensive repairs for a defective unit older than ten years is generally a bad investment compared to installing a new system.
Another factor to consider is that as your air conditioner ages, its mechanical parts can become unavailable or discontinued. If you aren't able to replace broken components, you will need to purchase a new unit.
2. Poor Air Quality
Along with delivering cool air, your AC unit is also responsible for circulating the air throughout your home. If you've noticed an accumulation of dust, uneven cooling, or your home feels humid, your air conditioner unit may no longer be working efficiently.
- Accumulation of dust & dirt - Inadequate airflow can cause dust, pollen, and other airborne contaminants to settle in your home. If a family member endures allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions, it's imperative to make sure your air conditioner circulates the best air quality in your home. If you notice an accumulation of dust in your home, it could indicate that your air conditioning system is no longer working efficiently enough to remove it.
Higher humidity - Air conditioners absorb warm air, remove its moisture, cool it, and send it back into the house as cool air. If your home feels humid, it is a sign that the airflow is obstructed, and your old AC needs to be replaced.
If your AC unit is leaking excess fluid or has more condensation than expected, it may harm your indoor air quality. Excessive moisture can expose your home to potential mold or mildew growth. These spores can grow rapidly and quickly circulate into your home or air system.
3. Strange Noises
A properly working air conditioning system should also be moderately quiet. While some noises, like a pop or a whistle, can be expected while your air conditioner turns on or off, other noises can be a sign of a significant issue with the system. If you hear any of these sounds while your air conditioner is running, call a professional:
- Continuous loud pops or bangs
These noises are usually a cause of the dust build-up and other unwanted blockages in parts of your air conditioner. They could also indicate a faulty compressor, condenser, blower, or motor. Replacing or fixing these components can be costly and more significant than buying a new air conditioner.
4. Air Conditioner Smells
Whether you notice the smell of mold, burning, or rotten eggs penetrating your ductwork, all unusual smells signify an underlying issue with your air conditioning system.
- Musty - A musty or mildew odor signifies there could be contaminants present in your air conditioner unit. System leaks or excessive moisture buildup can become a breeding ground for bacterial growth. Once mold has developed, your AC spreads dangerous spores into your home and can cause health issues, especially if you or a family member struggles with allergies.
- Burning - If your air conditioning emits a burning odor or does not function efficiently, it could be just dust burning off; however, it could be something much more serious. It could be a sign that the fan motor is overheating, the capacitor is impaired, or you have other electrical problems in your unit causing other components to overheat.
Rotten eggs- An air conditioner that smells like rotten eggs or sulfur can mean many things, including a decaying animal or a natural gas leak spreading within the duct system. Natural gas is a hazardous substance. It can catch fire, explode, or reduce oxygen levels in the bloodstream with severe, often fatal, consequences.
If you suspect a gas leak, you should open the windows in your home and vacate the house immediately. Contact your gas company to find the leak and call a licensed professional to repair or replace your unit.
Homeowners should never ignore strange smells coming from their HVAC systems. Sometimes the issue could be too significant to repair, and a replacement makes more sense. It's always recommended to have an HVAC maintenance service at least twice a year to detect problems before damaging the entire system.
5. Skyrocketing Energy Bills
Unless there are sudden changes in your home's energy use, your bills should stay around the same amount every month, fluctuating during peak winter and summer seasons. If your routines have stayed the same, but your monthly bill has noticeably increased, it is a sign that your HVAC system needs serviced and possibly replaced – the older the system becomes, the less efficient it becomes. According to the U.S Department of Energy, if your air conditioner is ten years old, you may save 20-40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.
Newer air conditioners are more energy-efficient, especially with high seasonal energy efficiency ratios or SEER. Effective January 2023, efficiency standards will increase from 13 SEER to 14 SEER in northern parts of America and from 14 SEER to 15 SEER in the southern region.
6. R-22 Refrigerant
Air conditioning systems require a gas known as a refrigerant to properly operate and maintain a cool environment. There are two different types of refrigerants: R-410A, also known as Puron, and R-22, also known as Freon.
As of January 1, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) R-22 phase-out has been completed. Freon can no longer be produced or imported because it contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. It's best to replace the unit with one that uses R-410A, which is more environmentally friendly. If you're unsure what kind of refrigerant your unit utilizes, an HVAC professional can tell you when they inspect your system.
7. Frequent and Expensive Repairs
Your air conditioner's health and efficiency depend on many factors, including whether or not it has been regularly serviced throughout its lifetime. Unlike furnace systems, air conditioner units are often outdoors and exposed to harsh temperatures throughout the year, shortening their life expectancy. If you skipped the annual HVAC tune-ups, your unit's lifespan might be shorter.
Frequent breakdowns also mean frequent repairs, and the cost of those repairs can add up. These repair expenses can add up over time and cost you much more than you would have to pay for a new air conditioner. Many HVAC professionals use the "5,000 rule" as a guideline. Multiply the age of your system by the repair cost, and if that exceeds $5,000, then replace the unit. If less, repair it.
For example, if your unit is eight years old and the repair will cost $250, multiply 8 x 250 to equal $2,00. It is less than $5,000, so it is okay to have it repaired. It's a great guideline to help you decide.
8. Weak Airflow
If your AC system takes forever to cool down your home, continuously runs, or never seems to keep your house at a consistent temperature, it's time to replace it.
If you stand by the vents in your home, you should feel an intense rush of air from your air conditioner. Weak airflow can indicate a blockage or other issue in your air ducts. However, it could also signify that the compressor is dying.
Your air conditioner compressor is responsible for compressing the refrigerant gas and passing it through the system to remove humidity and heat from your house. If the concern is with your compressor, replacing the entire unit is usually more cost-effective than replacing the compressor, especially if your system is older and no longer covered under the manufacturer's warranty. It's best to call your local HVAC professional to evaluate the situation.
Is It Time to Replace Your Air Conditioner?
A new air conditioner doesn’t have to be an unexpected purchase. By paying attention to the performance of your HVAC system, you can know when it’s time to consider a replacement.
If you believe your air conditioner is approaching the end of its life, give us a call! The Furnace Outlet offers the lowest prices on residential HVAC supplies online, and our experienced technicians can help you find the right air conditioner for your home’s price range and cooling needs.