Air Conditioning Replacement 101: Everything You Need to Know

The last thing any homeowner wants to deal with is the frustrating sound of their AC unit shutting off on an extremely warm day. However, as the weather begins to get warmer and stay warm, there will be an increased strain put on AC units in homes around the country. For older AC units or AC units that have had historic problems, this can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, resulting in a total AC failure. 

How Long Does an Air Conditioning Unit Last?

First and foremost, the leading indicator for when an air conditioning unit needs to be replaced should be based around a current unit’s age. While the specific age during which an air conditioning unit fails will vary, the average lifespan for an air conditioning unit is 15-20 years. This can change depending on certain factors such as the level of use the air conditioning unit receives, the maintenance it receives, and more. 

How Does an Air Conditioning Unit Work? 

Understanding why an air conditioning unit may fail depends on looking at how the system actually works. The majority of people assume that an air conditioning unit cools a space by drawing in air from the outside and pumping it indoors, though this isn’t accurate. In reality, the way in which an AC unit works is the opposite.

When a person turns on their unit by lowering the desired in-home temperature, the air conditioner unit actually sucks air into the ducts through the vents. The air that is brought in through the vents is then used to cool gas within the evaporator of the system. The heat is then removed from the air, and released outdoors, while the newly cooled air is recycled cleanly back into your home until the desired temperature is reached. 

How Expensive is AC Unit Replacement?

Naturally, given the intricate process of cooling a home outlined above, any single part failing in an AC unit can spark the need for a replacement. Planning for an AC replacement, though, means setting aside enough money to afford the job in the first place. While the price can vary depending on a variety of factors, the most common air conditioner replacement cost to expect is somewhere between $4,000 to $21,000. 

5 Signs of a Failing AC Unit

Reacting immediately after an AC unit fails is a great way to take care of the issue before you are left without cold air for long. However, even better than reacting to a failed AC unit is taking preventative action instead. Watch for each of the following five common signs that an AC unit is failing: 

1. Poorer air quality in the home

Should you notice that the air quality in your home doesn’t feel quite as sharp as it used to, it’s possible that the air conditioning unit has suffered in efficiency. Keep an eye out for any additional signs such as having trouble breathing, inexplicably coughing or having congestion, or other similar symptoms of degraded air quality. 

2. Abnormal changes in utility costs

One of the largest indicators that something is amiss with an AC unit is when utility bills suddenly change drastically for no reason. The loss in efficiency that comes from an AC unit that is failing will result in a utility bill that appears, typically, higher than normal. This is due to the fact that the AC unit is struggling to meet its normal cooling capabilities. 

3. Only weak airflow comes from the vents

Another key indicator that an AC unit is beginning to fail is when the airflow coming out of the vents is significantly weaker than before. This will most likely first be noticed by the fact that your home isn’t cooling rapidly, followed by checking the vents only to discover the weak airflow. 

4. There is leaking around the AC unit

An AC unit that is beginning to fail will start to leak as condensation builds up over time. Therefore, should a person suspect their unit is broken, it’s worth taking a look at the physical unit outside the home to see if there are any noticeable leaks.  

5. Odd noises come from the unit 

Along the same line of thinking, it’s worth taking the time to inspect the unit outside of your home with your eyes, rather than just with your eyes. A major sign that an AC unit is failing is when odd noises consistently come from the unit for no explanation at all. 

Why Should an AC Unit Be Replaced?

After taking all of the above into account, it would be perfectly reasonable for a person to wonder whether or not they actually need to rush to get their AC unit replaced when it fails. This is mainly due to the fact that an air conditioner is typically attributed to being a creature comfort, rather than for health. 

However, AC units can negatively impact the air quality in a home which can lead to the development of respiratory infections, chronic lung disease, lung cancer, and more. By taking care of air conditioner replacement right when the system breaks, a person will be exposed to far less indoor pollutants than they otherwise would, thus keeping them healthier in the long run. Finally, while an AC unit is certainly also a creature comfort, nobody wants to be uncomfortable in their own home due to accumulated heat, so reach out to professionals who can fix your unit right away. 

The Bottom Line

Given both the decrease in comfort and even health risks that come from not replacing an AC unit, take action as soon as you notice it’s time to replace yours. Keep the average lifespan of these systems in mind before the warm weather truly starts to take hold. Additionally, while you may believe you are able to replace an AC unit by yourself, it’s always best practice to utilize the help of professional replacement services who can ensure the job is done as accurately as possible. 


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