5 Tips to Make It through Summer with a Struggling Air Conditioner
Air conditioner problems aren’t usually at the forefront of your mind. A great AC just works. It keeps you in comfort and lets you go about your daily life…until it doesn’t. Most homeowners know when it’s time to replace their air conditioner. There are signs that let them know they are sitting on a ticking time bomb. But let’s face it, no one wants to buy a new air conditioner if they can squeak one more year out of the old one. So here are 5 tips from the AC pros at Lancaster Brothers for making it through the summer with an aging AC.
1. Set Your Expectations a Little Lower
On super hot days, your old AC may not be able to keep your home comfortable. If it’s 100 degrees, your home may stay in the upper 70s to 80 degrees. Even brand new air conditioners can only support a maximum temperature drop of about 20 degrees Fahrenheit between supply and return air (although it will likely be a bit lower since your indoor return air is usually cooler than the air outside).
2. Expect to Pay for Refrigerant
If your AC is older, chances are it runs on Freon. Since Freon was banned by the EPA (because it damaged the ozone layer) and is no longer being manufactured, the price has skyrocketed as demand has built and supply has decreased. If your system leaks refrigerant, more will have to be added to allow it to be able to keep your home cool. It will cost hundreds to recharge your system and leaks are very difficult to locate and fix. If you are paying for Freon, most likely you will continue paying for it until you replace your system. Newer systems use R410a, an environmentally safe refrigerant that costs much less. Unfortunately, older units are not designed to use the newer refrigerants.
3. Expect Higher Energy Bills
An older system won’t run as efficiently as a new one. New air conditioners are much more efficient by design, but an older system is not only built with less efficiency in mind, but also parts are older, connections are weaker, the system is dirtier, and most just don’t run smoothly or quietly anymore. The harder your AC has to work, the longer it will have to run to reach the temperature on the thermostat and the higher your electric bills will be.
4. Get a Tune-Up
A tune-up on an older system is a great idea. Not only will it help it run more efficiently, it will reduce the number of unwanted breakdowns and emergency service calls. It may be what gets your AC through the season. A technician will replace any worn parts, check all electrical connections, lubricate any moving parts, clean your system and repair any broken parts. Simply cleaning your air conditioner will help it run more efficiently too.
5. Change the Filter Monthly
A dirty filter will impede your system’s ability to push air through it, making it work harder and cost more. Make sure to change your filter every month. You’ll have cleaner indoor air too!
How to Decide Whether a Repair Is Worth It
If your air conditioner breaks down, the immediate question is: do you repair it again or do you replace it entirely? Thankfully, there’s a simple way to figure out which way to go. It’s called “the $5,000 rule”: It’s simple. Note the age of your AC and multiply the age by the amount of your most recent repair bill. If this results in a number less than $5,000, a repair is likely the best way to go! Of course, this is meant as a first step; a professional consultation from a trusted repair provider is another great data point to gather. But the decision is ultimately yours, and this is a great way to pin down what might be the best way to spend your money in the long run.
How to Know When It’s Time to Replace Your AC
The formula above is a start, but a few extenuating circumstances mean you might be better off with a full replacement anyway.
- Three repairs over the course of three years is a red flag. This implies a larger issue that a fourth repair might not address fully.
- If your energy bills remain exceedingly high after a repair, that’s another major warning sign that the overall health of your AC system is ailing.
- And finally, post-repair Freon leaks after multiple repairs implies that patching it up and refilling it yet again will not solve the systemic issues with your AC.
Don’t Wait Until Your AC Breaks This Summer to Replace Your Air Conditioner
Your local Kansas City HVAC professionals at Lancaster Brothers are always happy to help! We’re here for cultivating long-term relationships with our customers, not to upsell, so after you’ve thought about whether you think you need a repair or replacement, we can definitively point you in the right direction.