If your home uses older HVAC equipment, turning your system on for the season can often feel like rolling the dice. You might worry that an older air conditioner puts you on borrowed time, just waiting for the day the compressor or another costly part finally fails. While no air conditioning system can last forever, you don't necessarily need to give up hope just because yours has a few years under its belt.
Of course, you also don't want to leave anything to chance. Taking a proactive approach to maintaining your current system can help you prolong its life, allowing you to avoid a more costly replacement for a few more years or maybe even longer.
What Steps Should You Take to Maintain Your Old Air Conditioner?
If you want to keep your system running for as long as possible, always start with the basics. Regularly changing the air filter will ensure adequate airflow across the evaporator coils, helping to prevent the coils from freezing and protecting the compressor from potential slugging. This small maintenance task can substantially prolong the life of your system.
However, an older system may need a little more TLC than just filter changes. If you can't remember the last time you had a professional look at your air conditioner, it might be time for a routine service and inspection visit. An experienced technician can examine your entire system, look for potential problems, and thoroughly clean the condenser and evaporator coils.
These steps might not seem like much, but they can often do wonders to restore the efficiency and performance of an older system. Since air conditioners rely on their coils for heat transfer, keeping them clean is crucial to maintaining system efficiency. More importantly, dirt and debris can act as insulators, affecting the refrigerant cycle and potentially stressing the compressor.
Once you've completed a thorough tune-up for your system, you should continue with yearly maintenance and service check-ups. These visits can often be enough to keep even a very old system running well past its prime.
When Should You Replace Your Air Conditioner?
While maintaining your old system is a great way to save money, knowing when to throw in the towel is also important. At some point, keeping an old system running will become more expensive than replacing it. The tipping point will typically come when the compressor finally fails since replacing a compressor can often be nearly as expensive as replacing the entire air conditioner.
However, you may also want to consider the system's overall efficiency. Older systems generally have lower SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) values, which can lead to higher operating costs. You may save a significant amount by upgrading to a higher-efficiency system, making a replacement more cost-effective than maintaining your old system.
Contact a local air conditioning service to learn more.