Being a homeowner comes with difficult decisions. While we’ve all heard that investing in a home increases its value, deciding where and how to do that can be a tough choice. Should you update the kitchen? Finish the basement? The answer isn’t always straightforward.
When it comes to your HVAC system, the decision-making process gets even harder. Unless you’re a trained HVAC technician, it can be tough to tell whether a malfunctioning A/C needs new batteries in the thermostat or a more extensive repair. For homeowners with older air conditioners, the decision often become whether to repair the unit or replace it entirely.
Choosing to replace your old A/C is an important decision. Modern air conditioners can last upwards of fifteen years, so it’s crucial you choose the correct unit for your home’s cooling needs. It’s not a decision that should be rushed. But if your older A/C breaks down on a 100 degree day, you might not have a choice. You’ll have to make a quick decision.
Much like an old car, air conditioners show signs of failure before they actually fail. By paying attention to the performance of your older A/C, you can start preparing for the purchase of a new unit before you need it.
Here are the top four signs your A/C is nearing the end of its life.
Your Air Conditioner Is More Than Ten Years Old
This may sound obvious, but if your A/C is getting older, you should start preparing for the purchase of a new unit. Unlike furnaces, air conditioners are often outdoors and exposed to extreme temperatures throughout the year, which shortens their life expectancy. Modern air conditioners can last between 15-20 years, and older air conditioners last around 10-12 years.
The health and efficiency of your A/C depends on a number of factors, including whether or not you properly maintained the unit throughout its lifetime. If you skipped the yearly A/C tune-ups, your A/C’s lifespan may be shorter than it was meant to be. The lifespan can also be affected by how often you use the unit, how hot and humid it gets in the area you live, and whether or not the unit was sized correctly when it was purchased for your home.
If you kept your air conditioner in good condition over its lifetime, expect to need a replacement in about 10-15 years. Keep in mind that as your A/C grows older, its mechanical parts can become unavailable or obsolete over time. If you aren’t able to replace a broken part, you will need to purchase new unit.
Your Air Conditioner Frequently Breaks Down
If you’re getting yearly A/C tune-ups from qualified technicians, your air conditioner should not be experiencing breakdowns during the summer. Many common A/C issues are caused by a lack of maintenance, and getting your unit maintained will prevent them. HVAC technicians are also able to preemptively spot and correct any issues your A/C might be experiencing before the summer season begins.
With this in mind, it’s a cause for concern if your A/C has multiple breakdowns despite regular maintenance. You might not need an A/C replacement immediately, but you should start preparing for one just in case your unit becomes inoperable.
Frequent breakdowns also mean frequent repairs, and the cost of those repairs can add up. At a certain point, it might be more economical to purchase a new unit rather than sinking money into expensive repairs—especially if your warranty has expired.
Your Energy Bills Have Skyrocketed
Unless there are any sudden changes in your home’s energy use, your energy bill should stay around the same amount every month, fluctuating a bit for furnace and A/C season. If your energy use habits have stayed the same but your monthly bill has noticeably increased, it might be time for a new air conditioner.
Higher energy bills can indicate that your air conditioner is either malfunctioning or losing efficiency. Energy bills often start rising as an air conditioner gets older, so the two issues can be related.
Receiving a high energy bill once or twice isn’t a cause for alarm. However, if your energy bills go up and don’t come down, you might need to start looking for a new A/C.
Your A/C Uses R-22 Freon
Starting on January 1, 2020, Freon will no longer be produced in the U.S. This may not sound like a big deal, but it could affect your home more than you think! If you own an air conditioner that is over ten years old, it likely uses a refrigerant known as R-22 Freon. R-22 has been found to have negative effects on the environment, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is phasing it out of use.
If your A/C uses Freon, don’t panic just yet. You can still keep and use your A/C, even when 2020 comes around. However, you should start preparing for a replacement. If your air conditioner suffers a breakdown after 2020 and needs a Freon refill for the repair, there won’t be any available. At that time, you will have to replace your A/C with a unit that doesn’t use the R-22 refrigerant.
A new A/C doesn’t have to be an unexpected purchase. By paying attention to the performance of your air conditioner, you can know when it’s time to prepare for an A/C replacement.
If you suspect your A/C is nearing the end of its life, give us a call! Our experienced HVAC technicians can help find the right air conditioner for your home’s price range and cooling needs.