How to Tell When it’s Time for a New AC

cost versus value

We are often asked by our customers how they will know when they should invest in a new air conditioner.

The truth is, the breaking point between repairing and replacing is a bit different for everyone. But for most people, the threshold happens where the costs of repairs and electricity combined with the age of the unit adds up to too high a number. Once that happens it make more sense to just get a new one.

Here’s a breakdown of the factors you’ll want to take into consideration when you’re trying to decide between keeping the air conditioner you have and investing in a new one.

1. Age

Most air conditioners will last around 15 years – sometimes more, especially if they’ve had regular maintenance and cleaning. But over the last decade or so air conditioner design and technology have really improved. They’re now more efficient, much better for the environment, and a lot quieter.

If your air conditioner is anywhere over 8 years old, you’ll want to look into how much you’ll save by upgrading, and let the numbers decide for you.

2. Energy Efficiency

Using your air conditioner isn’t free – the cost of the electricity has to be paid at the end of the month. New air conditioners are up to 250% more energy efficient than the average old model (depending on the SEER rating of the new system you buy), and the savings can really add up.

That being said, if you don’t use your air conditioner that often you won’t save a lot of money by upgrading. But if you’re going to save $40 – $50 per month on electricity, that will add up to around $600 per year. In a few years, that will cover the cost of the new air conditioner.

How do you figure out how much of your electricity bills go towards air conditioning? The quick way is to figure out your average bill for months you’re not using AC, and compare that to the average monthly bill when you are. But keep in mind that other things like seasonal use of major appliances like your TV, stove and refrigerator can interfere. If you’re away on vacation in the summer, you won’t be at home using your AC.

There are more accurate ways to figure out how much you could save. Love to crunch numbers? Here’s how to calculate how much your AC costs to run per hour. If you don’t, this calculator will give you a ballpark figure.

3. Repair Costs

If your AC is no longer covered by a warranty, almost any repair is going to cost hundreds of dollars. If repair bills are happening too often or are getting close to the cost of a new cooling system, it makes financial sense to just buy a new one.

4. Noise Level

Some ACs may work fine but make a lot of noise while doing it. If they prevent you from enjoying your yard or irritate your neighbours, it may make sense to invest in a quieter model.

New central air systems can be as quiet as 55 decibels for premium models, and around 80 decibels for many other systems. That’s still a lot quieter than most older models (up to twenty times quieter), which weren’t very quiet even before age began to take its toll.

Here are some apps you can use to measure the noise level of your existing air conditioner. There are other ways too, including buying a meter.

5. Your Old AC Wasn’t Sized or Installed Correctly

An air conditioner needs to be correctly sized to the home – and bigger is not better. If it’s too big your AC’s evaporator coil (the indoor unit) will freeze up because the cooling ability will overpower the airflow. It can also endlessly cycle on and off, wasting energy and wearing out key parts too soon. If your central air system is too small, it won’t cool enough.

Proper installation is also critical for good performance. Things like a level footing for the outdoor unit, a reasonably short length for the refrigerant lines (under 50 feet), good clearance, and good refrigerant levels are just some of the things your technician has to be knowledgeable enough to do.

6. Your AC Uses Freon

Otherwise known as R-22, Freon is still legal in Canada but is being phased out because it’s very harmful to the ozone layer. Air conditioners being sold now use R-410A (also called Puron) and it’s much safer for the environment. While Freon is safe for your home, some people make a choice not to use air conditioners that use it.

Maintenance costs for Freon are also higher, as its price can vary dramatically even over the course of one day. R-410A isn’t being phased out, so is more plentiful and therefore cheaper.

7. Your Home’s Temperature is Uneven

If some of the rooms in your home are nice and cool, but others hot, the problem may be more that you need a zoning system. This will allow you to precisely control temperatures in every area of your home. A zoning system will require special ductwork as well as an air conditioner that can handle zoning.

In the End, It’s About Peace of Mind

Calgary isn’t as hot or humid as many other cities are, and we only have a month or two where it gets hot enough to make people want to turn on their air conditioners. Many people are fine toughing it out with their existing air conditioner. But for some people want the convenience and peace of mind that comes with a newer air conditioner that has good warranty coverage.

If you want or need an air conditioning system you can count on, it makes sense to go with a newer, more efficient model. You’ll be able to sleep soundly on the hottest nights, and save while doing it.

Learn More About Our Air Conditioner Installation Services >