For most of the country, air conditioning is a necessity during the warmer months of the year. And when your air conditioning stops working properly, you’ll notice it. But do you know the difference between an air conditioning unit that needs to be repaired and a unit that needs to be replaced?
Most air conditioning units will last a long time, but they aren’t meant to last forever. At some point, a unit will give out and you’ll have to make the difficult, but necessary decision to buy something new.
When your unit breaks down or starts acting up, you’ll have to determine whether it’s best to repair or replace the unit. (This quiz from J&W Heating and Air can help you decide.) Every homeowner has a unique situation, but here are a few of the signs that you likely need to think about going the replacement route:
5 Signs Your AC Unit is on the Way Out
1. Lack of Cool Air
Check your air vents to see if the air circulating through the house is actually cold. You might have air coming out of the vents in your home, but the air will be warmer, instead of ice-cold air. When your unit kicks on, cold air should start coming out within the first 30 seconds or so. If it takes a few minutes – or doesn’t come out at all – then you need to call an air conditioning repair service. It could be tied to any number of issues, but it’s something you’ll need to evaluate.
2. Strange Sounds
All air conditioning units are going to make noise, but it should sound more like a loud fan than anything else. If your unit is suddenly making more noise than it used to – including squeaking, grinding, crunching, or popping – then something is wrong and you should call an air conditioning service or, as a last resort, replace your central air conditioning. Normal functioning air conditioning units don’t make these sounds.
3. Nasty Smells
When an air conditioning system is functioning properly, it should not have any odor. If you notice any stinky, musty, or smoky air, which is an indication of a problem, that needs to be looked at by a repair service. If a strong smell is combined with other issues, this may be the last straw that indicates it’s time to think about a replacement.
4. Abnormally High Energy Bills
Your electric provider should give you a detailed statement alongside your monthly bill. This statement will tell you exactly how much you’ve used over the pay period, as well as details on your consumption for the same period during the previous year. Keep an eye on these numbers and look for unusual trends. If you have a few months of abnormally high energy bills, this is a sign that something in your home is working too hard. If your air conditioning unit is old, then there’s a strong likelihood that it’s to blame and you need to make a call to an air conditioning repair service.
5. Poor Airflow
You have air coming out of your AC vents, but is the flow weak and inconsistent? This could be a sign that the air conditioning unit’s compression is failing. It may also be an indication of blockages in your ductwork, which is less serious than a compression unit failure. But, if it happens even after cleaning out the ducts, it’s more likely that your air conditioning system has a serious problem and needs to be evaluated by an AC professional.
Tips for Buying an AC Unit
The average lifespan of an AC unit is somewhere between 10 and 14 years. With such a broad range of lifespan, many homeowners tend to get less years out of their air conditioning units; A few lucky ones, however, may have AC units that last beyond the 14-year estimate. When the inevitable does happen and you need to buy a new unit, here is an important buying guide that you need to know.
The size of your AC unit is a crucial deciding factor in the purchase of a new unit. Buying a unit that’s too small will drive up your energy bills. But bigger isn’t necessarily better. Buying a unit that’s too big for your home will cause the unit to constantly cycle on and off, which results in high costs and uneven cooling. You can use the existing unit as a guide, but don’t assume that it was sized correctly in the first place. When HVAC companies come out to provide quotes for your air conditioning system, they’ll run some calculations to figure out what you need.
With the cost of energy, you can’t afford to purchase an inefficient system. Every AC unit is given a SEER rating from the U.S. Department of Energy. Take these numbers into account when comparing models. (To provide some context, a SEER rating of 13 is 30 percent more efficient than a SEER rating of 10.)
Every manufacturer is going to offer their own warranties on heating and air products. While your unit should last for at least a decade, it’s possible that a part or element could malfunction in the first few years, resulting in a costly air conditioning repair to fix the unit. Having a generous warranty to protect your investment is a good idea.
There’s obviously a lot more to buying an AC unit than just these three factors, but begin your search with these issues in mind. At the very least, this will help you narrow down your list and zero in on a couple of possibilities.
Finding the Right Service Partner
Choosing an air conditioning unit is just the first step. You also have to think about who will be installing and servicing that unit.
In any major market, there will be more than a half dozen qualified HVAC companies. For the best results, call at least three of the air conditioning service companies out to your property to evaluate what offered products are a best fit for your home and get a quote for the installation job. You may find that the prices vary dramatically from one to the next. (Though the cheapest option isn’t always the best option.)
In addition to price, think about reliability, availability, and service warranties. Many installers will provide a generous service warranty, so long as you have the system inspected every year.
Don’t Wait Until it Breaks
Don’t be a homeowner who waits until his/hers AC unit breaks down on a hot August day. The best time to replace an AC unit is while it’s still working. If you can manage to schedule the central air conditioning replacement during the cooler months – such as late fall or early spring – you’ll ensure that you get the best price and fastest service available.