You can find plenty of information about the average lifespan of a typical air conditioning system. While most sources will provide a rough estimate of around 15-20 years, the reality is that there's no way to know how long your system will last. Age alone should not be enough to condemn an otherwise functional air conditioner, so how can you know when you need a replacement?
Unfortunately, the answer isn't as simple as following a specific formula or looking for a sure sign that your system is past its prime. Instead, you'll often need to make subjective decisions based on your needs and budget. If you're facing a repair or think it might be time to refresh your system, these three factors can help guide your decision-making process.
1. Cooling Performance
Cooling performance is the most important aspect of your system, but it's surprisingly hard to judge. While it might seem that larger, more powerful systems will provide better performance, the reality is that any appropriately-sized system should cool your home effectively. A well-performing system should keep your home cool and run long enough to provide adequate dehumidification.
Signs of inadequate performance include cooling too quickly (which may leave your home humid) or running for a long time without reaching your thermostat setpoint. If your system has always performed poorly, it may be a sign of poor sizing and a good indication that you should get a replacement. Degrading performance can be another clear indication that your system is ready for retirement.
2. Utility Bills
Cooling performance is one-half of the air conditioning equation, with the other side being your system's energy usage. There's no getting around the fact that modern systems use much less electricity for equivalent performance and can even offer improved comfort with energy-efficient features such as variable-speed compressors.
If your system is already fairly old, it may be worth calculating how much you can save with a newer air conditioner. Find your current system's SEER rating and use an online calculator to determine how much you can save by upgrading to a more efficient model. You may find that you can enjoy significant savings just by upgrading to a unit that meets current minimum standards.
3. Repair Costs
The most direct indication that you need to replace your system is that it's becoming too expensive to maintain. Standard air conditioning maintenance costs should include air filter replacements and routine annual service. A well-maintained system should only infrequently require repairs, and these fixes shouldn't be too expensive.
If you have an older system that requires frequent or expensive repairs, it may be worth considering a replacement. While it's usually time to ditch a system once the compressor goes, you can also watch for smaller parts failing more often. These minor repairs can add up and make it much easier to justify a replacement rather than continuing to pour money into your old system.
For more information on residential air conditioning replacement, contact a professional near you.