Wondering When to Replace Your AC Unit? Here are 8 Signs

If you’re a homeowner wrestling with the question, “When should I replace my AC unit?” you’re not alone. It’s a common query and knowing the signs can help you make a wise decision. In this guide, we’ll discuss factors that impact the life expectancy of your HVAC unit, tips for HVAC maintenance, indications of an aging AC unit, typical AC unit issues, and how to select a suitable AC replacement. With this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to decide if it’s time for a new AC unit. Let’s jump right in!


  • When it comes to comfort in your home, few systems are more important than your central air conditioner.
  • Here are eight signs that it might be time to replace your central air conditioner.

When it comes to comfort in your home, few systems are more important than your central air conditioner. This system removes excess heat and humidity from your home, keeping the air purer and the space more pleasant.

Homeowners spend $11 billion a year to power their AC units — and 6% of a household’s average energy usage goes toward cooling — so when something goes wrong with the central air, it can be a stressful experience.

Eight Signs That Indicate It’s Time to Replace Your Central Air Conditioner

1. The Air Coming Out of the Vents Doesn’t Seem Quite Right

If the air flowing from your vents seems a bit off, it may indicate a serious problem with the central air conditioner unit. For example, you might notice that the air blowing out suddenly feels warm. A central air conditioner that blows warm air means that something has broken within the system. It could be a broken compressor or a host of other potential causes.

Or you might notice that the airflow suddenly decreases. Some of the most common reasons for this problem include:

  • A clogged air filter.
  • Issues with the air ducts.
  • Problems with the AC unit’s blower motor.

What’s more, you might notice a strange smell coming from your air conditioner vents. Unfortunately, this odor can indicate a serious issue, like mold, that could affect the health of you and your family. Sears Home Services recommends immediately seeking help for strange-smelling air-conditioned air.

2. The Central Air Conditioner Doesn’t Respond Well to the Thermostat

In a properly functioning system, the thermostat controls the air conditioner unit and tells it when to switch on and off. If the thermostat doesn’t work correctly, you might notice certain areas of the home not being cooled well. The air conditioner unit might switch on and off at odd intervals or not switch on at all when the house gets warm.

Problems with the thermostat can indicate any number of issues and require careful evaluation by HVAC professionals to understand the source of the problem and how to address it.

3. You Find Yourself Calling the Technician Regularly

Although we recommend scheduled checkups, if you find yourself calling the technician often, it’s a good sign that it might be time to replace the entire unit. As repair calls become more frequent — along with repair bills — your system is reaching the end of its life.

Replacing your air conditioner system is more cost efficient and saves you from facing a potential breakdown. No one wants to find themselves without air conditioning, so give the system the care it needs now.

4. Your Air Conditioner Makes Strange Noises When Running

Many homeowners find strange noises coming from their central air conditioner disconcerting — and for a good reason. If you can hear strange noises, such as grinding or scraping, it’s a clue that something is wrong. For example, a belt may have slipped, or your unit may have worn-down bearings, causing the motor to fail.

Failing to take care of these issues immediately can quickly cause more damage to the air conditioner unit. You want to address the strange noise as quickly as possible to avoid a complete shutdown of your air conditioner system and the discomfort and costs associated with having no air conditioning.

5. You See Signs of Leaks Coming from the Unit

If you see signs of leaks around the air conditioner unit, you want to call Sears Home Services immediately. Leaks can result from a few different causes, typically either refrigerant leaking or moisture building up around the system. Both indicate that the system doesn’t work as intended and may need intensive repairs or a complete replacement. If the refrigerant causes the leak, it also poses a health threat to you and your family.

Leaking water can cause mold to develop in your wood, walls, and carpeting, which threatens the health of those in the home. If mold and moisture build up around the air conditioner, it can also result in large repair bills for the home, even after the central air conditioner has been repaired or replaced.

6. Your Air Conditioner Unit Is Well Passed Its Expiration Date

Most central air conditioners last 10 to 15 years. If the HVAC installation date on your unit shows it’s older than that, consider replacing it.

Like other types of technology, air conditioner units have improved tremendously over the years. Systems have become more energy efficient, which means they can keep your home comfortable with less energy.

However, as it gets older, the chance of your central air conditioner breaking also increases. Therefore, you run the risk of having no air conditioning until Sears Home Services professionals can get a new system installed.

7. Your Energy Bill Has Gone Up

If your energy bill has increased, and it’s not been hotter outside, that can be a sign that something is wrong with your central air conditioner.

A variety of problems can cause your system to work inefficiently. One reason is a leak in the ductwork, but Sears Home Services can only determine the source of your problem through a careful assessment.

8. You Feel Uncomfortably Warm in Your Home

Your central air conditioner should provide you with comfort. If it can’t adequately cool down the temperature of your home, you won’t be comfortable because your house is too warm and humid due to your AC failing.

When homeowners notice that their air conditioner is no longer cooling off their homes, they often have already begun to experience a buildup of moisture and humidity. Many people do not realize that their air conditioner both cools off the air and controls their home’s moisture.

When moisture levels get too high, it can encourage the growth of mold throughout the home, which can pose a danger to the household. Even the higher levels of humidity will diminish air quality.

Key Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Your HVAC Unit

The lifespan of your HVAC unit depends on several factors. Proper maintenance and usage play a crucial role in determining how long your HVAC system will last.

Here are some key factors that affect the lifespan of your HVAC unit:

Usage Patterns and Climate

The frequency and intensity of HVAC usage affect its lifespan. Usage is typically driven by the climate that you’re in. A system that is constantly running or subjected to extreme temperature changes may wear out faster than one used more moderately.

Thermostat Settings

Setting your thermostat at extreme temperatures (too low in summer or too high in winter) can cause your HVAC system to work harder, potentially shortening its lifespan.

It’s not a good idea to set your thermostat at 72-degrees when it’s 100-degrees outside in the summer. The air conditioner will typically run constantly and some units may freeze up the evaporator. Those units that sense excessive frost on the evaporator will stop cooling periodically to defrost the evaporator fins so the unit likely won’t cool your house down below 75-degrees anyway.

Set the thermostat as high as you can tolerate in the summer. At least set it at or above 75-degrees during the hottest part of the day. Setting it at 78-degrees is optimal during 100-degree days in the summer.

Follow the same pattern for setting the thermostat during winter. A setting around 65-degrees will likely keep you warm enough during extremely cold days and you’ll save wear and tear on your HVAC unit.

Location of the Outside Unit

The location of the outside compressor/condenser unit can affect your HVAC system’s lifespan. If the outside unit is exposed to harsh sunlight, debris, or environmental contaminants, it may experience more excessive wear and tear.

Although you want to keep the area directly around your outside AC unit clear of vegetation and plants to ensure proper airflow, planting a shade tree nearby the unit will typically help it last longer and work more efficiently.

Proper Airflow

Proper airflow is crucial for the efficient operation of an HVAC system. Poor airflow due to blocked vents, dirty filters, or ductwork issues can put additional strain on the system, leading to premature wear.

Regular Inspections and Maintenance

Early detection of issues can prevent them from becoming more serious problems that lead to system breakdowns. Regular professional inspections can help identify and address potential problems before they worsen. We recommend that you have your HVAC system professionally inspected and maintained in the spring and fall every year.

Best Practices for HVAC Maintenance

Keeping your heating & cooling system in top shape with regular HVAC preparation and maintenance won’t just keep you cool in the summer and warm in winter, it can help lower your electric bill. A clean and well-maintained air conditioner uses less energy as it cools your home.

Here are the maintenance steps you can take to keep your air conditioner working smoothly and efficiently all summer long.

Change the air filter

Replacing the air filter regularly is essential to the smooth operation of your heating and cooling system.

Dirty air filters leave particles like dust, mites, pollen and pet dander in the air, which reduces air quality in your home. Dirty air filters also make your cooling system work harder to move air, which raises energy bills and shortens the system’s life.

Changing the AC air filter regularly is an essential maintenance step that’s often missed by many homeowners. Set a recurring reminder on your smart phone will help you remember this step if you’ve been missing it.

Pour bleach or vinegar down the condensate drain vent

Many central air conditioners have a condensate drain pipe that carries water collected by the evaporator during cooling to the outside of your home. If that drain pipe gets clogged with mold, algae, snails or bugs, the condensate water will back up in the drain pipe and trip a float switch near the inside unit. The system will shut off when that float switch detects a clogged condensate drain.

Pour a cup of liquid bleach or vinegar down the condensate drain vent tube every month to keep the drain pipe clear. The bleach or vinegar kills mold and mildew that can build up inside the drain pipe and hose. To keep from killing the grass in your yard, stick a pan under the drain hose outside to catch the bleach as it runs out. And always remember to protect your eyes and skin when handling bleach and other harsh chemicals. You can get in the habit of doing this at the same time you change your air filter.

Keep plants and shrubs away from condenser coils

Don’t let vegetation creep in on your outside condenser unit. For good airflow, you’ll need to keep at least 2 feet of clearance on all sides of the condenser. Trim or remove any plants, shrubs or grass that grow too close to the condenser unit.

Keeping the condenser unit clear helps the condenser coils cool down the refrigerant before it enters the evaporator and expands to cool the air in your home. The AC unit cools more efficiently when the condenser coils cool the refrigerant down effectively.

Clean the condenser cooling fins

During summer, clean the condenser fins every month to keep cooling air flowing through the condenser coils.

A Sears Home Services Technician servicing a home air conditioner

Text taken from: https://www.searshomeservices.com

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