Is it Time to Replace Your Air Conditioner?

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With the arrival of summer, many Americans are finding out that after a long winter, their air conditioners are not delivering the relief the hot, sultry days of June require. 

While it is common for air conditioner systems to need minor repairs or maintenance work at the beginning of the season if they are to work optimally through the summer, some homeowners may find that common fixes like checking that the thermostat is working, changing the air filters, and topping up the refrigerant aren’t making a difference. 

The question of whether to repair or replace a malfunctioning air conditioner can be challenging. On one hand, no one wants to spend more money than they need to on new appliances. On the other, spending money to repair an aging unit every year can become just as costly. So how can you tell whether your air conditioner should be repaired or replaced altogether?

The 5,000 Rule

Fortunately, experts have an easy rule that can be applied to the question of whether or not you should get a new air conditioner: if the price of repair multiplied by the age of the unit exceeds $5,000, it might be time for a new air conditioner. 

While there may be situations in which the 5,000 rule doesn’t apply (and it’s always a good idea to shop around different air conditioner repair shops to find out whether the quotes you’re getting are inflated), it is a good rule of thumb that can help you from pouring too much money into a unit that will just need to be replaced next summer. 

Getting the Most Out of a New Air Conditioner

If you’ve concluded that it makes sense for you to replace your air conditioner you may be tempted to simply opt for the cheapest replacement unit. This impulse should be ignored. Of course, you can find a cheap portable air conditioner under $200 that fits the bill. Major improvements in air conditioning technology have been made in recent years, and if you’re paying to have a new system installed, you should invest in one that will provide excellent long-term service. 

In particular, you should consider investing in an air conditioner that meets the latest efficiency standards. Cooling a house uses quite a bit of energy, and choosing an air conditioner that will keep your home comfortable without driving up your heating bills. 

Websites like Energy Star offer an excellent overview of new models and their relative energy efficiency, but it’s also a good idea to ask your local HVAC experts to advise you about which models they would recommend for your home.  

As with any other home appliance, it’s important to be realistic about the state of your air conditioner. Nothing ruins your summer faster than an AC unit that can’t keep your home at a decent temperature, so if you find that your air conditioner is consistently underperforming and you’re looking at a substantial repair bill, remember the 5,000 rule and calculate whether or not it isn’t time to replace the system entirely.