Helpful Tips When Your AC Is on Life Support
Let’s face it, no one wants to buy a new air conditioner. It’s what we call a grudge purchase. You only buy one when yours is broken and cannot be fixed or will cost you more to fix it than it’s worth. So, in the spirit of limping along with that old, dilapidated AC, the team at Lancaster Brothers has gathered these AC tips to help get you through the rough times.
- Troubleshooting Tips
- Warning Signs to Look for
- Replacement Rule of Thumb (Great tool to know when it’s time to replace)
1. AC Troubleshooting Tips
The last thing you want in the middle of the summer heat is an air conditioner that isn’t working properly. Some common AC problems are easy to fix yourself, but others may require the help of professional service from Lancaster Brothers Heating and Cooling. If you are have having trouble getting your AC to work, the following troubleshooting tips can help you beat the heat and get back to enjoying cool air in your home.
Your AC Won’t Turn On
If your AC is not kicking on, you have several things to check.
Thermostat – check your thermostat to make sure that it isn’t set to the heat or off position. Also check to make sure that the batteries in your thermostat are not dead.
Tripped Breaker – check and make sure that the breaker connecting to your AC hasn’t been tripped.
Power Switch – look to see if the power switch on the side of your furnace is turned on.
The AC Is On, but the Air Isn’t Cool
Dirty Air Filter – One of the biggest issues that will cause this problem is a dirty air filter. Check your filter to see how dirty it and replace it if necessary. Remember, it is important to change your filter once a month to ensure proper airflow and cooling.
Ice Accumulation – ice in the outdoor unit can also cause your AC to run sluggishly. If you see ice you should turn off the AC and allow it thaw for a couple of hours.
Clogged Condensate Drain – If you are still having trouble, consider cleaning out the condensate drain. Algae tends to build up in these pipes and will cause your AC to fail.
Related Read: Heating and Cooling Myths – Do You Do These
Check Your Condenser Unit Outside
A safety precaution first – before you work on it, turn off the power to it at the panel. This is a 240-volt box and we don’t want anyone getting hurt. Also turn off the disconnect box located outside, near your unit. It will be either be a lever, fuses, or a circuit breaker to shut off the condenser. Then, allow about 30 minutes for the electrical charge that’s stored in the condenser’s capacitor to dissipate. Now, it’s safe to check the unit.
Clear Debris – Make sure the unit is clean and clear of debris. Clear away dirt, leaves, etc. Check the fan to make sure it is clear of debris as well.
Clogged Drain – Check the drain and make sure it is clear.
Broken Coolant Lines – Check the coolant lines (pipes that connect the condenser unit outside to the evaporator on the inside unit). They can get bumped around being outside.
Turn the unit back on. First, turn the thermostat in your home to OFF. Then turn on the power at both the disconnect box and at the main panel. Last, switch the thermostat to COOL. Give it some time and see if you feel cool air blowing from the ducts. You can also check your outdoor unit to see if the air blowing out the top is warmer than the surrounding air.
2. Warning Signs Your AC Is on Its Last Leg
As the temperatures soar this summer, you’re going to rely heavily on your air conditioner to keep you cool and comfortable. However, if it’s not working the way it is supposed to, you could end up breaking out the fans and waiting for repairs. The team at Lancaster Brothers Heating and Cooling wants to help you avoid this at all costs. That’s why we put together this list of warning signs that let you know your AC is not going to last much longer. If you observe three or more of these signs, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.
The Age of Your AC
The average lifespan of a home air conditioning system is somewhere between ten and fifteen years. This, of course, depends upon how often the unit is used and how well it has been maintained. If you use yours on a regular basis, or if you haven’t had it serviced regularly, you may have to replace it even sooner. However, a general rule of thumb is that if it is more than ten years old, you should consider replacing it.
Number of Recent Repairs
If you’ve had to call a repairman to get your air conditioner back up and running three or more times over the last couple years, it’s time for a replacement. Consider the amount of money you invest in simply fixing issues. A great example of this is having to add Freon to your unit every year because of a leak. The truth is, you’re probably going to continue to have problems, no matter how many repairs, or Freon charges you have done. A new unit, however, will require fewer repairs, and maintenance.
NOTE: Freon (R-22) prices are increasing dramatically because it is no longer legal to manufacture due to environmental issues. It will cost you several hundred dollars each time you have to add Freon.
Excessive Energy Bills
Many of us dread the time of the month when the electric bill arrives. If you and your family are having a constant battle over the thermostat because of high energy bills, your air conditioner may be the culprit. If your air conditioner is older, it will have a harder time keeping up, and it will run constantly, which increases your energy consumption. A new, energy-efficient air conditioner can save you as much as 20% on your energy bills, which is a welcome relief.
Are there rooms in your home that simply don’t cool down to a comfortable temperature? You may think that closing off vents to seldom used rooms will help, but doing this will only make those rooms hotter. The truth is, if you’ve got hot spots in your home, your air conditioner isn’t powerful enough to cool it completely. The solution is to have a new unit installed that is designed to handle the amount of square footage you have.
NOTE: Sometimes hot spots can be due to poor ductwork. We can inspect your ducts and make adjustments if that is the case.
3. How Many AC Repairs Are Too Many? Use This Simple Rule of Thumb
The weather outside is in the 90’s and you hear your air conditioner running outside but no air is coming from your vents inside, or if there is air, it isn’t cold. Your unit is older and you’ve had a few repairs on it already, which leaves you with one question. How many AC repairs are too many?
Look at Frequency of Repairs
Generally, if you have had your air conditioner repaired three or more times in the last three years, it’s time for a replacement. Parts are wearing, motors are losing their power, it’s losing efficiency every day and that is leading to higher energy bills. If your air conditioner is nickel and diming you to death and costing you more in high energy bills, it may make more sense to replace it with a newer, more energy-efficient model.
Replacement Rule of Thumb
Use the $5,000 rule. Multiply the age of your AC unit by the repair cost, and if that exceeds $5,000, then replace the unit. If less, go ahead and repair it.
For example, if your unit is 10 years old and the repair will cost $350, multiply 10 x 350 to equal $3,500. It is less than $5,000 so it is okay to have it repaired.
Consider the Rising Cost of Freon
Most older systems run on a coolant called Freon. If your repair involves adding Freon because of a Freon leak, you have something else to consider. If you have a Freon leak, you will have to add more every year and the price of Freon is rising each year. The reason it is rising is because about 25 years ago, the EPA ordered the phasing out of Freon as part of an international treaty focused on protecting the ozone layer. Production ended in 2010 for new air conditioning units. Production has also been reduced in subsequent years. By 2020, production of Freon will end, so the price will only continue to rise until then.
Let Lancaster Help with Repairs or Replacement
If your AC has several of the symptoms we listed, we will be happy to take a look and either repair or replace the unit so you and your family stay cool and comfortable. Lancaster Brothers is proud to install Lennox air conditioners, so if your air conditioner is on it’s last leg we will be happy to provide a free estimate. There are also rebates and financing available for qualifying systems, and our comfort specialist will provide you all of the available programs.