Why You Should Consider an AC Replacement Before it Dies
When summer is at its hottest and most humid, you depend on your air conditioner to keep you comfortable. We examine why it might be best if you replace your old AC before the next heat wave.
There’s an old joke about a guy who was driving his car. He tells a friend that a strange sound was coming from the engine. When the friend asked how he dealt with it, he said he turned up the radio.
So if there is a strange sound coming from your air conditioner, do you ignore it in the hopes that it will correct itself? Do you go back into the house and turn up the volume on your television?
To further muddle the question, what if your AC unit is more than 10 years old? That’s about its expected lifespan. (Furnaces, because they are sheltered from the elements, tend to last longer, FYI.) You can call an HVAC professional to come out and look at it, hoping that it could be an easy fix.
But what if it’s not? Then the choice becomes to fix it (which could be expensive), replace it (even more of an expense), or wait. How long will you wait? Until it drops dead?
Our recommendation is not to wait. Your air conditioner needs help. If the choice is an expensive AC repair - knowing that another major repair might be right around the corner - or waiting it out, that’s just a question of when the unit will fail.
If you’re reading this article, maybe you’re already in that gray area. Summer’s coming, and you haven’t budgeted for a new unit. Waiting for it to die, though, creates a new set of problems. Let’s go through them.
Get Your Air Conditioner Ready for the First Heat Wave
This is Central Ohio. We have summers. And there’s the sticky, sweltering kind. No matter how long spring hangs around, it will hit 90 degrees eventually. Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew your air conditioner was ready for it?
After all, you will be asking a lot from it.
Take the Time to Evaluate Your Options
When your AC isn’t running, you’ll be in panic mode and will settle for anything. You’ll also be more than likely to buy from an HVAC company that can get you a new air conditioner the fastest. Are they the best? Do they install equipment according to the manufacturer’s specifications? Is the price reasonable? None of those things matter much when your immediate comfort is at stake.
This wouldn’t be a problem if all HVAC companies were the same and followed strict guidelines. Alas, we’ve seen enough questionable practices to know that not every HVAC salesperson has your best interest at heart. We’re also aware that a great many new units aren’t installed properly. Those machines will be flawed from day one, running poorly, running up your energy bill, and more prone to costly repairs and even a premature breakdown.
Do your homework now before the rush. Read Google reviews. Check out the brands’ ratings. Consult Angi.com. Read up on some best practices and how some companies cut corners.
We don’t recommend waiting until something bad happens, because there will be major comfort issues while you wait for it to break down. Most problems are going to happen in the peak season, in the summer when it’s 90 degrees and humid, when your air conditioner is working its hardest and you need it the most.
That’s when it’s most likely that your 20-25-year-old AC is going to say, “I’m done.”
If you’re in that area that I call the gray range - 10-15 years old – your unit’s efficiency is not as good as when it was installed. You’re throwing money away if you’re running an older unit, avoiding biting the bullet while waiting for it to die. You’ll eventually be saving money by investing in a new, efficient machine rather than watching your old, inefficient one run up your energy bill.
Read more: Top 7 Things to Look for When Choosing an HVAC Company
Repairs Get More Costly as It Gets Older
Refrigerant leaks, usually located near the evaporator coil, are common. Even the smallest leak, and most of them are tiny, will harm the system. And if it’s been leaking for weeks or months, that will make the compressor work harder. It won’t be able to cool as efficiently, so you’ll lower the thermostat, which will make the AC run longer, so it’s overworked, and when you overwork something that’s old…you get the idea.
If you have an old R-22 (also known as HCFC-22) refrigerant unit, that refrigerant is not being manufactured anymore. As HCFC-22 and other HCFCs are phased out, manufacturers of residential air-conditioning systems are offering equipment that uses an ozone-friendly coolant. Alternatives will not work well without making changes to system components
Most of the available R22 came from old central ACs that have been replaced, then it’s purified and sold. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
We’re charging $150 per pound for it. And that price will go up as the scarcity increases. A four-ton unit might need six pounds to be fully recharged. That’s $900.
And not only do you have to pay a ridiculous price for refrigerant, but the technician also needs to fix the leak. (And if they don’t fix the leak, you’ve been ripped off. The leak will remain, your system will become inefficient once more, and you’ll have to recharge the system again eventually.)
Other repairs will become more costly because parts will stop being produced for older models.
Constant Use Is Hard on HVAC Equipment
HVAC companies are quick to point out that the constant starting and stopping of a unit is rougher than if the unit - say a modulating furnace - can operate longer at a lower speed. While true, this doesn’t account for what happens to a unit that runs and runs and runs.
Every little thing that’s wrong or out of balance in the unit will be exacerbated by continued use.
The thermostat could be set to 68 but you don’t feel as cool as you once did because the air conditioning is inefficient, so you lower it to 66.
Most homeowners don’t understand that when you turn down the thermostat, the HVAC system doesn’t produce cooler air. Air coming from the AC through the blower will be at the same temperature. So your unit will be working harder to satisfy the thermostat while its defects increase.
Old Air Conditioners Lose Efficiency
Air conditioners, especially those that aren’t new, mostly adhere to the 20-degree rule. If it’s 95 degrees, it should keep the house at around 75.
Newer units with more efficiency can get it lower. It may not seem like much on paper, but if a new unit can get the temperature down to 70 instead of 75, the relief will be profound and welcome. After all, you’ve gotten used to how well your old unit performs. A new one will feel like a new car after you’ve traded in your jalopy. Efficiency will feel great.
Part of an air conditioner’s job is to dehumidify the indoor air. If it’s doing its job right, taking excess moisture out of the air will make the indoor-air quality more pleasant. When you’re losing efficiency or having cooling issues, it won’t do as good a job.
Your Electricity Bill Will Skyrocket
If you’re paying close attention to your energy bill, you’ll notice it creeping up even during springtime, when you may use your AC for only a few days. An inefficient system is a costly one.
Magnify that increase by a few weeks of almost non-stop usage, and it’s easy to see why a new unit might make more sense. Yes, you’ll have the upfront cost of a new unit. But let’s compare efficiencies.
According to energy.gov, even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.
You Reduce the Risk of Mid-Season Breakdowns
In most cases, we offer next-day installation. This is true for nine months of the year. In the heat of the summer, that’s no longer true. It can take up to two weeks to get an AC replacement. (We do deliver portable and window AC units as a temporary fix.)
Read more: Should I Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?
A New AC Will Increase Your Comfort
Can you put a price on comfort? Maybe. There is certainly a price to pay when you’re uncomfortable. You can get used to that feeling if your central air conditioner is failing bit by bit. But once it’s broken, movie theaters and malls with cool air feel like oases.
A New Air Conditioner Can Bring Peace of Mind
The peace of mind that comes from having something new, that’s a good anxiety reliever. People get angry when they’re hot. When they’re cold, they’re more patient. In the summertime, people get upset when they’re hot and sweaty. Especially in this job market, when more and more people are working from home, you will be spending a lot of time indoors. And you might be working on your computer, which is generating its own heat.
You don’t want to be without your AC system for two weeks.
Peace of mind tends to matter more than comfort. Most people don’t give a thought to their AC - until it quits.
Replacing Your Air Conditioner in Columbus, Ohio
If you know you have an old unit outside, you can determine its age by the serial number, and most manufacturers put the date on the nameplate. If you can’t find it, a licensed HVAC technician can track it down during a service call.
There’s little about the HVAC business that’s black and white. When we say that you should start shopping for a new AC after ten years of use, that’s an educated guess. A unit that had a flawless installation and has had annual maintenance could outlive that estimate for five, maybe even ten years.
A variety of issues could determine when it’s time to get a replacement system. They should be considered carefully with the help of a professional HVAC contractor.
I hope this article has given you a few pointers when it comes to replacing your air conditioner. We’d love to be of assistance.
Check to see if we service your area.
We Service Your Area!
Outside of Service Area
We’re sorry, we unfortunately do not service this area.