An air conditioner is one of those modern conveniences people mostly don't think about — that is, until it's the middle of summer, and it suddenly quits working.
Replacing a unit can cost anywhere from $3,600 to $7,200, and if you haven't been thinking ahead and saving up, you might end up living with an uncomfortably warm house for the rest of the year.
Luckily, there are signs you can look for that will alert you when your air conditioning unit needs replacing. If you recognize your air conditioner in the following descriptions, consider replacing it in the spring to avoid suffering through the hottest days of summer.
There's a lag in your thermostat reading
A lag in the thermostat's reading is a common clue your A/C is on its way out, according to Nathan Culp, a technician with Cates Heating & Cooling.
"If it's set to 74, but the home's temperature stays at 78, there's likely a problem," he said.
Test the lag time by lowering the thermostat a few degrees, and then timing how long it takes your home's temperature to get there. If it takes more than an hour or so, it's time to schedule a maintenance check with an HVAC technician.
Your unit is no longer cooling the house efficiently
Have you noticed your utility bills are going up, yet your house is never quite as cool as you'd like? Culp says he often gets calls from homeowners whose utility bills are twice as high as they were the year before. Some units have parts that wear out, leaving the machine unable to work efficiently. Other units spring refrigerant leaks, which can be fixed, but if they are 10 years old or more, it's usually more cost effective to replace them.
A bonus for replacing an old, worn out air conditioning unit is you could also upgrade your home to a high-efficiency system. Not only would your system be functioning correctly, but machines certified by Energy Star could save you up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.
You notice excess dust, humidity or noise
Inefficient or worn out air conditioners will not cycle air through your home correctly. Leaky ductwork could be pulling air from your attic or crawl space into your home, introducing dirt to the air you breathe. Humidity may occur as the equipment begins to malfunction, which in turn could contribute to mold and mildew build-up in susceptible areas of the house. This, in turn, will also negatively impact your indoor air quality.
Do you have a noise problem? Increased banging or labored mechanical sounds when your unit starts up or has been running for a while could be another sign your unit is on its last leg.
Still not sure if it's time to replace your air conditioning unit? Make an appointment today with a Cates Heating & Cooling technician to get your unit and ductwork assessed before the summer heat arrives.