5 Signs That Your AC Is on the Decline

As a home air conditioning system ages, homeowners must often determine if now is the right time to replace their old unit. Maintenance and repairs may be enough to keep your AC running in a cost-effective manner. But frequent repairs and reduced energy efficiency can drive up your long-term costs. Often, this decision is best made by consulting with a trusted AC company in your area that can assess your equipment, evaluate your short- and long-term costs, answer your questions, provide professional guidance and so forth. Let’s look at five indications that the time is now to schedule that consultation.

1. Frequent Repairs and Maintenance Required

Every AC unit should be inspected and have a tune-up performed just prior to the cooling season each year. This essential maintenance is required by most AC warranties, and it ensures that you do not have to deal with any unexpected cooling issues and that you maximize your system lifespan. You should also have air filters replaced as needed and, if applicable, your ducts cleaned every three to five years. Beyond that, your well-operating AC system should not require any maintenance or repairs.

If it does, then it is time to pay attention to what is wrong, how severe the problem is and how frequently it is occurring. An isolated issue here or there over 15 years or more is not unexpected. However, if you are frequently calling an AC technician for something more than a tune-up, then you need to consider that the system is on the decline. Does that mean that the time to replace is right now? Not necessarily. You have to weigh the short-term expenses against the long-term costs.

2. Reduced Airflow and Cooling

Among the most common indications an AC system is on the decline is reduced or inconsistent airflow, which can lead to less-than-usual or uneven cooling. However, it is important to note that this is a rather common AC problem that can have multiple causes. If you do not schedule seasonal maintenance, it could be that your refrigerant levels are simply low. If you do, it could be that you have experienced a leak. It could also be that you are experiencing issues with your ducts, which can let cooled air escape. Another strong reason to have your ducts cleaned regularly is to have them inspected as well.

If those issues are ruled out, then it is likely something far more serious. A pressure imbalance can also be caused by a fixed-speed or variable-speed air handler that is faltering. It can also be caused by a compressor that is failing. The coils may be dirty, or you may be experiencing a sluggish fan due to bad bearing or other issues. There are numerous reasons that can lead to reduced airflow when it comes to the core components of an AC system, and some can be serious enough that the time to replace is now.

3. Strange Sounds and Smells

Unusual noises and odors are never a good sign, but whether they indicate decline depends on the context. If you suddenly start hearing lurching when the AC kicks on, then that can indicate bad bearings and other issues. This can certainly point to a decline, depending on the age of the system. The louder the noise, the more worrisome it is, and you should definitely have a tech come out to investigate. Problem noises include:

  • Clicking and buzzing
  • Clanking and rattling
  • Knocking and banging
  • Humming and whining
  • Screeching and squealing

When it comes to odors, it depends on the type of smell. If you sense an electrical smell when the AC unit turns on, this can be quite serious. You should disable the AC system immediately and schedule an AC technician for an emergency repair. If you smell mustiness when the air blows, that is usually less serious and indicates that your ducts should be cleaned due to moisture, mildew or mold.

4. Longer Run Times or Frequent Stopping and Starting

Homeowners tend to get to know their AC systems the longer they live in a home. Many people have their preferred target temperature. When the AC unit kicks on in order to maintain it, they know about how long it will run before stopping again, which is usually around 15 minutes. If you do not, this may be something you want to watch for. If that running time begins to take longer, it means that the system is working harder to achieve the same effect, and this is definitely an indication of an issue if not outright system decline.

Short running times can be just as problematic. When an AC system starts and stops frequently, this is an issue known as short cycling. This can occur because the system is undersized or oversized, but if the issue is sudden, then it indicates that something has changed. The simplest explanation is that your air filter is very dirty, so check that first. It may also be that you have a refrigerant leak that is leading to overheating, but it can also be that a component failure is what is causing the overheating.

5. Spikes in Your Utility Bill

Another way that you can get to know your air conditioning system is to track your utility costs on a per-month basis. Of course, in most areas, your electricity bill will get higher as you transition from spring to summer. But it is very helpful to be able to match the July bill from this year, for instance, to July bills in the past. Unless there have been major electrical additions to your home, the bill should not jump considerably from one year to the next. Rates just do not go up that fast due to government control.

It is not unusual for homeowners to experience spikes in their energy costs long before problems that require repair manifest. Be mindful that some decline in energy efficiency is to be expected as a system ages. But a sudden spike often indicates that a motor, compressor or other energy-intensive component is struggling to perform. This type of decline can be quite expensive over the long run, and while replacing the faulty part may be an option, it is often an indication to start considering replacement.

Here to Help You Make AC Choices for Tomorrow

Integrity Heating & Cooling is a BBB-accredited company with an A+ rating. We are locally owned and operated and have served the Greater Charlotte area for more than 30 years, and you can expect a 100% satisfaction guarantee whether we’re performing a seasonal tune-up or installing brand new equipment. Our company offers heating and air conditioning system replacement, repair and maintenance. We also offer service maintenance agreements, perform indoor air quality testing and install and work on standby generators. Whether you just have questions about the services we offer or want to schedule an appointment or consultation, call us today or contact us online.

Tags: , ,