Four Signs Your Central Air Conditioner May Need to Be Replaced
Are you ready for summer? How about your central air?
The last thing you want is to lose your air conditioning during the hottest months of the year. But, that’s when it’s most likely to break down: When it’s working its hardest.
Fortunately, cooling systems usually don’t just stop working out of nowhere. You can spot some warning signs that a problem is coming – and if that problem may mean you’ll need a new central air system soon.
In this article, we’ll look at four warning signs that you may need to replace your AC soon. Hopefully, you can use this information to nip the problem in the bud.
Four Signs Your Air Conditioner Needs Repairs or Replacement
Here are four telltale signs that you may need a new air conditioner:
- You Notice Strange Smells
- The System Makes Strange Sound
- Your Electric Bill Keep Going Up
- Your Older Unit Needs Frequent Repairs
Let’s take a closer look.
You Notice Strange Smells
An AC in need of repairs can make any number of bad smells. Rotten eggs indicates something died near the condenser, for instance. Urine, ammonia, or stale socks could mean mold in the system.
Those require repairs, but your system will likely work just fine afterward. However, there are a few scents that could mean you’re up for a replacement.
The two big ones here are sulfur or gunpowder — or something that smells alternately sweet or like chemicals.
Sulfur or gunpowder means an electrical problem: Something likely blew out or got fried. If the system’s still working, you may get away with just a repair. But, if you catch a whiff of this and your AC won’t turn on, it may be shot.
Now, that other smell — like something sweet or maybe chloroform — indicates a coolant leak. If you’ve had your system for less than ten years, you could only need a repair. If it’s older than that, however, you may need a new one.
Here’s why: in 2010, air conditioner manufacturers switched from R22 freon as the coolant to a different chemical. The EPA mandated the change as part of the R22 phase out, and starting in 2020 nobody manufactures it anymore.
So, we can repair and recharge a newer unit pretty easily. The new coolant is readily available. But, R22 supplies are dwindling.
Unless we caught the leak very early, it’s likely way too expensive to recharge — especially with a compressor that old. In most cases, we recommend replacement.
The System Makes Strange Sounds
You can always hear when your air conditioner turns on — there’s no mistaking the sound of forced air coming through the vents. But, that shouldn’t be accompanied by bangs, rattling, or the sounds of severe vibrations.
If you hear that, something’s up. And, you should call for repair right away.
Sure, the system may still keep you cool. But, those sounds indicate that, behind the scenes, your compressor is working extra hard to do the job. And, it won’t be able to keep up that pace for long.
Something’s wrong, and it could be any number of things: The blower motor, the fan, the list goes on. We can’t tell unless we come out to see it, or ask you some specific questions about what you hear and when.
Regardless, the clock is ticking. As long as the system is still working, you’ll likely “get away” with a quick fix from a professional.
But, if you run it to failure, there’s a good chance we can’t get it back on again. By then, whatever small problem there was got worse and worse until it caused a much bigger break.
Your Electric Bill Keep Going Up
Of course, you’ll pay more for electricity in the summer. Unless you’ve got a ductless system, conventional AC — even central air — makes a significant impact on your utility bills. But, if it’s going even higher than usual, you could have a bigger problem on your hands.
Like those weird sounds, a system that’s using more power is a system that’s struggling to do the job properly. And, once again, it’s worth calling someone early than waiting until you notice problems.
Of course, there could be other reasons for a rising electric bill — and, anyway, it can be hard to spot.
If you pay or view your bill online, you can check against how much you paid previous summers. Or, a smart thermostat can give you much more up-to-the-minute information. And, it alerts you if there’s a sharp spike in usage.
But, we couldn’t in good conscience tell you to call your HVAC company as soon as the bill goes up unless you can pinpoint the AC as the reason.
And, when it comes to your cooling system, age and history are big factors.
Your Older Unit Needs Frequent Repairs
How many times have you called your HVAC company over the past few summers? If the answer is “more and more,” your air conditioner could be on its last legs. That’s even more of a possibility if it’s more than a decade old.
Most central air systems last 15 to 20 years. And, that’s if you keep them maintained — more on that a little later.
So, if your system passed the ten-year mark and is showing signs of age, it may not make it through another summer.
We already discussed the problem with coolant leaks on these units. But, in general, repairs become less and less cost-effective when you’ve had it for over a decade.
You’ll get breakdowns or bad performances more and more often. After a while, you’re only throwing good money after bad with frequent repairs.
This is where having an HVAC company you can trust is essential: You want to feel confident that you’re getting the right information, especially if you have to make an emergency replacement during the summer.
But, with any luck, things won’t get that bad.
Prevent AC Breakdowns with Tune-Ups and Preventative Maintenance
We’ve given you a lot of doom and gloom in this article. So, here’s a little ray of sunshine: You don’t have to worry all the time about your air conditioner. And, you can greatly reduce the chances it will break down for good this summer.
How? Simple: Preventative maintenance.
Getting a quick tune-up each spring means you go into the warm weather with an optimized system that’s ready for the warm weather ahead.
With a tune-up, a tech comes in before you start using the AC. They’ll clean it out, lubricate that moving parts and inspect every inch of the system.
That means making minor fixes and replacing worn out or broken parts before you notice them.
If you’re already noticing any of these problems, give us a call here at John Cipollone. Or, if you want to go the preventative route, we’re ready to schedule a tune-up.