5 Signals to Know When to Replace Your Old Air Conditioner/Heat Pump

The air conditioning/heat pump system on any home is a valuable, but expensive system. Properly maintained, they can last 10 to 15 years, often longer. Homeowners can often extend the life of their central air conditioner by performing routine maintenance on the system. But, even when doing this, it may require replacement over the long term. How do you know it’s time to replace your air conditioner?

Try These Steps First

Before replacing the existing air conditioner, start with a few steps that may get the system operational again. Generally, breakdowns of air conditioners will happen over the unit’s lifespan, requiring professional maintenance or repairs. If your system isn’t working, take these steps first:

  • Ensure all breakers are functional and do not need to be replaced.
  • Make sure the system is getting power.
  • Consider the fuse. If you have not replaced this device located near your air conditioner’s exterior unit, it may need to be replaced.
  • Check the system for Freon. If the system works but doesn’t blow cold air, this is often the problem.

If these steps don’t work, it is time to consider replacing or repairing the unit.

When to Choose Repairing?

The 5,000 Rule
According to Angieslist HVAC expert’s experience, multiply the age of the HVAC system by the first-time repair fee, and if that exceeds $5,000, then replace the unit. If less, go ahead and repair it.

How Much Will It Cost to Repair?

The cost of Freon, the most commonly necessary chemical to keep the system operational, can range from $40 up to several hundred dollars. It may need to be done again. Motor-related problems or replacement of the exterior fan unit, can drive up repair costs significantly higher. Replacing an air conditioner may cost $1,000 up to $4,000 depending on the home. In some cases, it makes sense to replace it and not have to worry about repairs again.

When to Choose Replacing?

Here are several signs that can tell you to replace your system now.

How Old Is the Air Conditioner?
Older air conditioners are inefficient. Those that are over 10 years old are most likely to be costing you too much to run. If your system breaks and it is over 10 years old, it may be more economical to replace it now instead of waiting. Most systems will last at least 10 years with good maintenance. Those that are significantly older may require repairs more frequently, costing you more in the long term to repair it than to replace it now.

How Much Noise and Dust Are Present?
Older systems, which tend to be harder to repair, are louder. They do not operate as quietly as they used to. More so, they pull in a lot of dust. That dust ends up in your vents and on your furniture. If you have a great deal of dust throughout your home, replacing your air conditioner can help to minimize that buildup. Keep in mind that if it is present on your furniture it is properly pretty backed up within your ventilation.

Is It Running at Full Capacity All the Time?
If your air conditioner is constantly running, that means the system is struggling to maintain the proper air temperature. If you have a newer programmable thermostat in place, this should help to reduce the workload by providing you with more control. However, a system that is always running (and one that gets louder and louder to run) is likely too small for the square footage of the home. Replacing it with a larger model not only saves you money (you’ll spend less trying to cool the home) but it also makes for a more comfortable space to live in.

Note: New two-stage AC/heat pump will run at low stage (low-capaticy), which is Normal, during most of the time. You can easily distinguish these two stages by the outdoor unit sound.

Is Your System Inconsistent?

Air conditioning is not just a comfort component within the home. It also controls humidity levels present. If the air conditioner is not consistent, mold and mildew can quickly grow. Look for signs of moisture along walls, floorboards, and behind cabinetry. If it is present, the system isn’t consistently controlling humidity levels. This is generally obvious when there is a musty smell present. Replacing an inefficient and inconsistent unit is nearly always a good idea.

Is that R22 (Freon) Leaking?
For the purpose of protecting environment, 99% HVAC manufacturers use R-410 instead of R-22 for A/C and heat pump since 2010. The cost of Freon, the most commonly necessary chemical to keep the system operational, can range from $40 up to several hundred dollars per pound. It may need to be done again. Fixing the leaking and adding in a few pounds of R22 can cost $500 to $1,000, according to HVAC expert. So if you run into the Freon leaking problem, just consider replacing the unit instead of repairing.


Replacing older air conditioning systems with efficient models, improving comfort levels, and reducing overall costs for cooling a home simply makes sense in most cases. A single repair call can cost as much as replacing the system in some situations. When there is excessive noise, odors, moisture, or humidity, the benefits of replacing the system grow even further. Talk to an air conditioning specialist to find out if your home can benefit from replacement of the existing central air system.

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