Is it time to replace that air-conditioner?


Scorching in the Central Valley again this week.  And with Calironia’s get-it-while-it lasts appliance rebates that Kathryn just mentioned, here’s a question we’re getting frequently.  And it’s actually a great question anywhere in the country.

How do you know when it’s time to replace your air-conditioner?

There are several warning signs.  First, any air-conditioner that is more the 10 years old is a candidate for replacement. Energy efficiencies have improved dramatically, and top contractors like GreenHomes can install this new equipment so that you can get the most out of it.  Age of the equipment alone, though, isn’t the only sign that you may be ready. ENERGY STAR offers some guidelines for homeowners that make a lot of sense.  It’s time to call for help if any of the following apply.

  • Your equipment needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are going up. There are a variety of problems that can creep in over time to make your cooling equipment less efficient.  Although some can be repaired, occasionally replacement can be more cost effective.
  • Some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.  Improper equipment operation, duct problems or inadequate insulation could be the cause.
  • No one is home for long periods of the day and you do not have a programmable thermostat.  Install an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat or have a good contractor install one and instruct you on its use — to start saving energy and money while they’re away or sleeping.
  • Your home has humidity problems.  Poor equipment operation, inadequate or oversized equipment, and leaky ductwork can cause the air to be too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer. 
  • Your home has excessive dust.  Leaky ducts can pull particles and air from attics, crawl spaces and basements and distribute them throughout your house. Sealing your ducts may be a solution.
  • Your heating or cooling system is noisy.  You could have an undersized duct system or a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.  
  • Your score on the U.S. EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick is low.  The Yardstick helps you determine how your energy use compares to others in homes like yours.

If any of these apply to you should have your system evaluated.  Make sure though, that you get a comprehensive energy audit of your home first.  Many problems that appear to be with your heating and cooling equipment are actually caused by poor insulation, air leaks, windows, or other issues.  Unfortunately, these problems can be found even in newly constructed homes, and regardless of when it was built your home should get a thorough evaluation.

Much of the above applies to your furnace as well.  New “ECM” furnace motors are much more efficient than standard models and can lead to huge savings your electric bill.  Because inefficient motors actually generate waste heat, equipment with these new motors saves you twice with your air conditioning!  But we’ll revisit furnaces as we head into the fall.



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2 Responses to “Is it time to replace that air-conditioner?”

  1. Tim Says:

    Wow, cool tips!

    I guess too many people just get used to the AC they have even when it’s not working the best or the insulation is bad and this checklist can help focus

    Thanks for sharing
    Air Conditioning Van Nuys

  2. Dave Says:

    As far as energy efficiency is concerned, are the newer central units that much better than ten years ago? I’m always thinking about way to use less energy and sometimes think we might also want to consider the way we use an a/c unit, as well as the unit itself. So simple things like setting the thermostat a few degrees higher, or something more radical like maybe going with a split unit and only cooling a certain area (given a smaller house, let’s say) to conserve energy and save money might be a positive change.



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