SIGNS IT’S TIME TO REPLACE YOUR AIR CONDITIONER
Is it’s cooling effective?
You may have noticed the cool air your AC unit produces isn’t as cold as it used to be. If your home has central air conditioning, a few areas of your house might become cool, but some may remain warm and muggy. If you’ve observed a drop-off in performance or that it costs you more to produce the same level of cooling, that’s a clear sign it’s time to invest in a new air conditioner.
Is it more than 10 years old?
If an air conditioner has been in use for more than a decade, even the most reliable model is likely to start showing its age. If your AC unit is showing signs of wear and is more than 10 years old, you may need to get a new unit installed. Even if you’ve had your unit for over 10 years and it’s still going strong, upgrading to a new one may be worth it. Newer models tend to be much more energy-efficient and cost-effective.
Is it starting to require more frequent or costly maintenance?
It’s normal for a part to wear out occasionally and require replacement. But if you’ve noticed your air conditioner needs more frequent maintenance than it once did — or the required maintenance is significantly more expensive than it used to be — the pattern may indicate general wear over the entire system. In that case, the unit is becoming less efficient and effective, and it will probably require replacement.
Is it breaking down routinely?
Has your air conditioning system been breaking down completely, leaving you sweaty and uncomfortable on hot summer days? If system breakdowns have become common, your air conditioning unit may not be reliable, and fixing one problem may only buy you time before another one crops up. In this case, it’s likely time to invest in a new air conditioner.
Does it emit unpleasant smells or sounds?
If your air conditioning unit is giving off unpalatable smells, it’s probably wearing out. A film of mold or bacteria may have built up on your evaporator coil, the drain lines may be compromised, or the drain pans may be dirty or corroded. The same goes for loud noises — a quality air conditioner should run quietly. A noisy unit may have a worn-out belt or bearings and could be reaching the end of its lifespan.
Does it use Freon as a coolant?
Some older air conditioning models use Freon as a coolant. Freon is a trade name that includes chemical compounds like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These compounds have negative effects on the ozone layer and lead to environmental damage and human health risks like skin cancer. The United States phased out CFCs in the 1990s and is currently phasing out HCFCs, particularly the common refrigerant known as HCFC-22 or R-22.
If you own an air conditioner that uses HCFC-22, you are not required to replace it, but its coolant will become much more difficult and expensive to buy. If your AC unit is an older model, replacing it with a more eco-friendly one can simultaneously benefit your budget and the environment.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF AIR CONDITIONERS
1. Central Air Conditioning
A central air conditioner has a single, permanently installed unit that houses the evaporator, condenser, and compressor. This unit may be installed on the roof or on a concrete slab outside the home. It sends cold air through the ductwork to all parts of the home.
2. Ductless Split Units
Like central air conditioners, ductless units have outdoor compressors and condensers. They also have tubes that connect them to indoor wall-mounted units with blowers attached. The tubes circulate refrigerant, and the blowers help circulate the air throughout the home.
3. Window Units
A window unit goes into a window and plugs into a wall. The components of the air conditioner fit into a small metal box that extends outside the window. These smaller units typically cool a single room, and users often install them for the summer and remove them for the winter.
4. Portable Units
Portable units are similar in size to window units, but they sit on the floor instead of in the window. They are easier to move from room to room as needed. Many portable units vent out the window, but some vent into tanks or trays that require periodic emptying.
5. Hybrid Units
Hybrid units provide cooling in the summer, but they also provide heat in the winter. To cool your home, a hybrid unit uses a heat pump to send heat from your home into the outdoors. In the winter, it reverses that mechanism, either through the use of a furnace or by collecting heat energy from the environment and using it to send warm air into your home.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT THE COST OF CENTRAL AIR INSTALLATION
Central air conditioner prices vary widely based on many factors, including equipment, system design, ductwork, the HVAC contractor, and project difficulty. The actual AC unit will obviously influence the price you pay for central air some brands like Carrier will be more expensive than lower-priced brands like Goodman and Rheem. In addition, more efficient air conditioners and heat pumps with higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings will cost more, as will a variable-capacity or two-stage air conditioner unit that can operate at more than one speed. However, over time, more efficient units can make up their initial cost in reduced monthly energy bills.
Another factor is the actual system you use. For example, an air conditioning unit will typically cost more than a heat pump, which can’t handle the extremely hot weather. A mini-split system will cost substantially less than both since it is only meant to cool a small space within the home.
Ducts move the air through your home. If your home doesn’t have ductwork already, adding it greatly increases the cost of central air, especially in larger homes. Depending on the unit your purchase, you may need to add to or replace existing ductwork.
The contractor you hire can also impact what you pay. The contractor sets the installation fee and marks up (or down) the unit you want to purchase. Some also charge for a preinstallation evaluation, although many provide this for free. For the best prices, get at least three estimates before deciding on a contractor.
Contractors charge more to install equipment in hard-to-access spaces. For example, Carrier notes that it will cost more to install a mini-split system in the ceiling than to install one high on a wall. Another consideration is whether the contractor is replacing existing equipment or installing new equipment that needs holes drilled and other prep work completed.