With the arrival of spring comes higher temperatures, and soon enough summer will be here again. High heat and higher humidity are common during the summer months, and without a reliable air conditioner, your home can turn into an oven very quickly. If your older AC unit is on its last legs and you’re not sure it can handle another season of daily use, now is the time to get it replaced: before it’s needed in earnest and while you still have time to plan and prepare for the operation properly. But is your existing air conditioner truly on its last legs, and what should you look for if you need a replacement? Here’s a few quick tips to help you out.
Determining if You Need a Replacement
Age and cost are the two key factors involved in deciding to replace and air conditioner. Typically, you want to see some combination of the two before determining if a new system is needed.
- Age. All air conditioners come with a warranty, typically lasting from 8-12 years. If the warranty hasn’t expired, then you’re probably better off looking into repairing the air conditioner when it runs into trouble, instead of replacing it. Even if the warranty has expired, your air conditioner can enjoy months or even years of reliable service with careful use and regular maintenance sessions. But if the warranty has expired and the system runs into trouble, the combination is usually enough to warrant a replacement
- Repairs. Generally speaking, if your system needs more than two repair sessions in a single twelve-month period, it’s time to start considering other options. Alternately, it may only be one repair call, but the cost is so large that the money would be better spent investing in a new system.
- Monthly Costs. Older air conditioners often use worn parts and show other signs of wear and tear. That can leech the system of efficiency and drive your monthly bills higher. Eventually, they may get so high that replacing the system is the best way to bring those costs down.
What to Look for in a New AC
A good technician can help you determine the best qualities in a new air conditioner, and your existing system can provide some hints as well. The most important qualities, however, need to be determined before looking at more luxurious bells and whistles:
- Power Load. The system’s power output needs to be carefully balanced against the size of your house, as well as other factors like sunlight exposure and the presence of insulation. If the air conditioner is underpowered, it will run constantly without ever getting your home cool. If it’s overpowered, it will cool the home too quickly and shut down, only to turn on again a few minutes later. (The phenomenon is known as short cycling and is very hard on your system.)
- Efficiency. Air conditioning efficiency is measured in SEER ratings, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Once you’ve determined the proper power load, find the system with the highest SEER rating in your price range.