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The United States Department of Energy estimates a central air conditioner’s average lifespan to be anywhere between 10 to 15 years. After this period, your AC may not be as efficient as it used to be, and you should have it replaced. However, service duration is not the only parameter you should consider while deciding to replace your AC. It would be best if you also considered replacing the old unit once you notice its cooling system is no longer working efficiently. Additionally, if you see the temperature is not properly adjusting, it signifies that that unit has malfunctioned. 

Since there are many factors to take into consideration, we will discuss a few other telltale indicators that you need to replace your AC.

1. Your air conditioner is more than 10 years old 

Unlike other appliances in your home, air conditioners are often left outdoors. Consequently, they are exposed to harsh weather agents, including extreme temperatures and snow during the winter months. The harsh weather conditions shorten the unit’s lifespan considerably because they will cause rust and corrosion. Older AC models can last for 10 to 12 years. The modern models may last for 15 to 20 years owing to their better efficiency and more modern materials. 

A unit’s life largely depends on several variables, which include proper maintenance. A unit that is routinely maintained will last longer than a poorly kept one. In essence, skipping AC tune-ups will dramatically shorten its lifespan. Other factors that influence the lifespan are the temperature and humidity of your area and whether the device is correctly sized for your living space. 

It is also worth remembering that it may be challenging to get the mechanical parts of an old air conditioner because they become obsolete over time. If you cannot replace the malfunctioning parts, you will not have other options than to purchase a new unit. 

2. Frequent breakdowns 

An air conditioner that frequently breaks down despite routine maintenance should be replaced. Air conditioners malfunction mostly due to clogged filters and worn out parts. A clogged filter will wreak havoc on fans, coils, and all the sensitive parts. With time the dirtied parts will start breaking down one after the other. And often, when a part fails, it will take other components with it. If the AC cannot transfer air properly across the evap coil, it will overwork to compensate for the reduced airflow, which also shortens its lifespan. Subsequently, an overworked AC will overheat and become irreparable. Likewise, a broken fan will not efficiently disperse air throughout your living space, which will result in frozen coils. When the coils are dirty and frozen, they trap the heat inside and cause the unit to overheat. 

If you experience constant breakdowns when the warranty coverage has not lapsed, we can make sure to process the warranty for you. Most units have a 10-year parts warranty and a one-year labor warranty. 

In many cases, a high repair can often cost more than what a new unit may run for. When deciding to repair or replace your air conditioner, consider a few more factors than immediate repair. Sometimes fixing the air conditioner is like throwing good money after bad. 

A solid rule of thumb is what we call the 10/repair rule – take the repair cost and multiply it by the age of your unit. So if your repair is $525 and the AC is 13 years old, that would equal just a little over $6800. When that gets higher than the cost of a new basic air conditioner, we certainly recommend AC replacement for your Boise, ID, home over repair. 

3. High energy bills 

An unexplained sudden spike in the home energy consumption could be a pointer that your unit has malfunctioned and needs immediate replacement. Unless there are major changes in your home’s energy use, your monthly bills should remain the same and only fluctuate during AC season. However, sometimes your energy habits are the same, but you are getting extremely high power bills. A higher power bill means that the unit is losing its efficiency, or it has experienced some sort of malfunction. 

Today’s air conditioners use 30 to 50 percent less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as the older units. You should upgrade your older unit with energy-efficient air conditioners that can save up to 40 percent of your cooling energy costs.

Finally, if you notice an unusual spike in power bills, it is advisable to call in a professional to check the unit and advise on the way forward. 

4. AC unit that uses R-22 Freon 

As of January 1, 2020, Freon is no longer produced in several countries, including the U.S. The new development could affect your home air conditioner in a bigger way than you might think. If your air conditioner is 10 years or older, there is a high chance of it using a refrigerant called R-22 Freon. 

R-22 refrigerant has been used with central air conditioners, car AC systems, and other refrigeration equipment for ages. It efficiently absorbs and removes heat from spaces. However, recent studies have established that the refrigerant has adverse effects on the environment. In essence, R-22 is a greenhouse gas that contributes to depleting the earth’s ozone layer. It also contributes to global warming. Consequently, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is gradually phasing its use. 

If your AC uses Freon, you need to make plans for a new one just in case it breaks down. In case the unit breaks down and you need a Freon refill for the repair, it will be a challenge getting one. You can check the nameplate on the unit in your home to determine the type of refrigerant it uses. Ensure you replace your current R-22 Freon unit with an ideal unit that doesn’t use R-22 refrigerant. 

5. Unusual sounds 

If you hear any unusual loud, and odd sounds from your AC, it can also be a sign that it’s time to replace it. These noises include rattling, squealing, and banging sounds that occur each time you turn on your system. When you hear the noise, turn off the device and call in a professional technician to check out the unit. 

In most cases, these noises are caused by a belt that slips out of the usual place or broken motor bearings. An unbalanced indoor bower causes a banging noise. On the other hand, a clanking noise may indicate that the sealed unit’s parts have failed and need replacement. It could also suggest that the indoor blower and outdoor fan are out of balance and thus hit other parts. AC units that squeal and squeak aren’t normal and should be looked at by a licensed technician who can thoroughly evaluate the system. 

Although some units make some noise during startup, you can conclude the noise to be a problem if it persists. Although noise problems can be rectified, it becomes costly if it keeps recurring. 

6. AC is blowing warm air 

Boise summers can hit a high 90F, and you wouldn’t want to couple that with an AC that’s blowing hot air. Warm air is often an indicator of a malfunctioning compressor or that your AC is low on refrigerant. In some cases, it could also mean that your AC’s ducts are pulling air from an attic space or outside rather than from the compressor. If your AC is blowing warm air, call in a technician to have it repaired, and if the repairs don’t work, you can consider replacing it. 

7. You’re not getting any cold air 

It might sound obvious, but there is certainly a cause for alarm if you aren’t getting enough cold air. Common causes of this could be a broken compressor or low refrigerant levels, or an electrical fault in the system. The first step would be to call in a professional, however, if the repair is extensive, you might want to consider a replacement. 

8. Moisture buildup and refrigerant leaks 

When there is a leakage or moisture buildup in your AC, you could be dealing with a refrigerant leak. These leaks undermine the performance of your AC and my rack up your annual cooling costs. Also, moisture buildup is a potential health hazard as it is the perfect breeding condition for mold. As such, if you notice leaks around your AC, consider having it replaced to prevent health hazards. 

Repair vs. Replacement 

The question of whether to repair or replace an AC unit always divides opinion among homeowners. While there may be no definite answer, your guiding principle should be centered on your unit’s efficiency and the frequency of repairs. While repairs can be cost-effective when sparsely done, frequent repairs can be expensive and should warrant a replacement. 

Your decision should be based on your comfort and that of your loved ones in the long run. 

FAQs on the Replacement of Air Conditioners 

What is the safer alternative to R-22? 

Currently, all air conditioners and other cooling units being manufactured are using hydro-fluorocarbon HFC refrigerants. The most common alternatives to R-22 refrigerants include the R134a, R407C, and R407A. Other standard units to buy include R407C, R134a, and R407A. The refrigerants are designed to remove heat from interior spaces as effectively as the R-22. However, they are environmentally safe as they work without depleting the ozone layers. They also have a very low Global Warming Potential. 

If my current system runs on R-22, what should I do? 

Should I buy a bigger unit than the one I am replacing? 

No. bigger units don’t always mean you are getting better quality. Don’t consider randomly upsizing your unit unless the older one was incorrectly sized for your living spaces. Additionally, too large units often run infrequent cycles that prevent the device from effectively removing humidity in your home. It ends up lasting for a shorter lifespan than ideally possible. 

We will perform a heat load calculation to determine if the air conditioner needs to be upgraded to a larger size. This will also take into account the current ductwork. If a larger system is needed, we will need to address the ductwork to increase your system’s capacity. 

How often should I change the unit’s filters? 

A number of factors will determine how often you change the AC unit’s filters. These include the number of people and pets that live in your home and how frequently you run the unit. However, the best rule of thumb is to check the air filter every 30 days or so. If you notice that the filters are discolored or plugged, it is time to replace them. You can also routinely replace the filters once after a 90 day period. However, during frequent use periods like on hot summer days, clean and/or replace the filters every 14 days. 

What are the signs my unit is not working optimally? 

There are a number of ways to determine malfunctioning air conditioners. For example, units that suddenly make strange noises and produce new smells need to be checked. Other signs include a unit that continually runs despite temperatures dropping down to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also have a reason to worry if your utility bills increase dramatically despite normal usage. 

Another factor is uncomfortable temperatures. An older or failing air conditioner will often increase the humidity during the summer months, causing mugginess or musty smells. Look around the unit in the garage or where the furnace is located to see if there are any visible signs of water or condensation. 

What should I check before I replace the unit? 

Before you replace the unit, ensure you get professional advice from an expert technician. You should also check that the furnace isn’t clogged and that the unit is on. Other areas to check include the thermostat and the unit’s batteries. 

When you start the process of replacing the air conditioner system, make sure you perform due diligence on who you hire. Keep in mind that the most important factor in replacing your system is the contractor you decide to hire. This is more important than features or name brand. 

How can I keep my AC performing optimally? 

To keep your AC performing in peak condition, be sure to schedule regular maintenance visits with your HVAC technician. While at it, always work with a qualified technician for proper diagnosis and repair. 

Routine filter changes will also help increase the lifespan. 

One thing we notice is units installed on the sunniest side of the home, and the air conditioner is literally baking in the sun. The sun can hit the side of a home and radiate temperatures above 150. If there is a way to provide shade through a tree or some sort of standalone structure — consider giving your air conditioner a breather. 

When replacing the air conditioner, moving the system to a shadier part of the house can greatly increase its life and efficiency. 

Bottom line 

The conversation about an AC replacement or new installation in Boise, ID certainly doesn’t excite most homeowners, but it is necessary if your unit isn’t performing in peak condition. In essence, a more efficient unit enhances your living space’s comfort and saves you money in terms of annual cooling costs. However, before you go for a replacement, be sure to call in an HVAC expert to have your unit checked and help you decide whether a replacement is necessary. Finally, most homeowners get it wrong while buying their cooling units. 

Always ensure that you purchase your unit from a trusted dealer to prevent instances of a voided warranty, a faulty installation, or corners cut on safety or reliability. 

Online reviews and recommendations can be a great place to start. 

Drop us a comment below if you have anything you would add!

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