Air conditioners don’t last forever, particularly in Florida where AC units are continuously exposed to harsh natural elements, such as heat and humidity and storms. But there are a number of other factors that also determine how long your air conditioner will operate effectively, including the manufacturer, type and size of the unit, how well the unit is maintained, and frequency of use. That said, on average AC units in the Sunshine State last between 8 and 14 years.
But how will you know when your air conditioner should be replaced? First, Easy AC has a dedicated team of trained AC technicians who can offer their expert opinion and help you make the best decision. Second, as your air conditioner ages, you can monitor its performance and look for these 10 common problems that could arise over time.
Common Air Conditioning Problems
- General Wear and Tear
- Build Up of Ice on the Evaporator Coils
- Refrigerant Leaks
- Electrical Failure
- Issues with the Fans
- Water Leakage
- Leaking Ducts
- Poor Air Quality
- Misaligned Sensor
Yes, regular air conditioner maintenance will help add years to your AC unit, but after a decade or more of use, there’s a good chance it won’t work as well as it once did and will probably take longer to cool your home. Add to that the effects of Florida’s severe weather and natural chemicals in the air, such as salt and sulfur, and your unit’s electrical and mechanical parts will likely wear out over time.
Beyond general wear and tear, your air conditioner could perform less efficiently than a new AC unit because it’s been slightly damaged in some fashion, whether it’s the fans, coils, or compressor. Any of these issues will cause your air conditioner to work harder and affect how it cools your home, which will result in higher energy bills.
There are times, particularly during extreme heat and high electricity demand, when you may see a bit of ice accumulate on parts of your AC unit. It may just be due to a dirty air filter, which can impede air from circulating around the unit’s evaporator coils. However, if you begin to see a lot of ice building up on the evaporator coils, this could mean that you have a larger problem, such as a refrigerant leak, broken fan, or a failing condenser.
If your AC unit is low on refrigerant, chances are you have a leak. Adding refrigerant will not solve the problem. Beyond affecting performance, refrigerant leaks can harm the environment. If the Freon leak is in the refrigerant line, it’s an easy fix, but if it’s in the air conditioner compressor, for example, it could make more sense financially to invest in a new AC unit.
As your AC unit ages, the chances of it shorting out go up. Some common electrical issues include failing capacitors, relays that have been forced open or sealed shut, or circuit breakers that are frequently tripped. Also, faulty wiring can contribute to electrical failure or more seriously, a fire in the AC unit. In addition, if your unit is not maintained properly and it’s overworked due to high temperatures, it can also catch on fire.
Your AC unit has two fans—one that blows air from inside your home over the evaporator coils to cool the air and another that blows air over the outdoor unit’s condenser, which discharges the absorbed heat outside your home. There are a number of reasons each fan may not work properly, including worn belts, damaged motors, lack of lubrication, or excessive dirt and debris. Regardless of the issue, the result could be restricted airflow, which could ultimately lead to air conditioner compressor failure if ignored. If the compressor fails, chances are you’ll need a new air conditioner.
Florida is known for its excessive humidity, which can cause condensation to build up in older AC units that have condensate drains. These drains can become clogged and blocked when too much water accumulates and the overflow pan is damaged or missing. This can lead to the water getting backed up, which can severely damage your AC unit. In addition, water leaks can damage your ceilings, walls, and even your furnishings, not to mention potentially creating mold growth.
As time goes by, holes or breaks could develop in the ductwork that runs inside your walls and is responsible for carrying the air that cools all the rooms in your home. This could simply be due to age; the sealing can begin to crack, which allows air to escape. Closing vents for long periods of time can also create cracks and holes, which are caused by a buildup of air pressure.
In addition, rodents, birds, or insects can build nests in your ducts, which restricts airflow. Or rodents can chew through them, creating holes. If this happens, the cool air will end up in your walls, which will result in uneven cooling of your home. In turn, your air conditioner has to work harder to cool your home, which again results in higher energy bills. Leaking ducts can also result in air quality problems, dirty air filters, and a buildup of debris in your system, which could damage your AC unit.
The older an air conditioner gets, the more often it needs to be cleaned. Mold and mildew, which can travel through the air transport system and create respiratory issues, can be a problem, particularly in Florida. As a rule of thumb, air ducts should be cleaned every 2 to 7 years to further reduce respiratory problems caused by dust, dander, pet fur, and other debris.
Over time, the thermostat sensor located behind your air conditioner’s control panel may become misaligned and come in contact or bend too far away from the evaporator coils. This can result in your air conditioner regularly cycling on and off, which can make your home too hot or too cool. Short and erratic cycles can lead to long-term air conditioner problems, so regardless of whether the thermostat sensor is to blame, you should address the issue immediately.
Regular air conditioner maintenance can prevent a lot of the problems mentioned above. However, after a decade or so, general wear and tear may cause the need for so much maintenance that it becomes more cost effective for you to purchase a new air conditioner. As your air conditioner ages, it’s important to keep an eye out for these potential problems. By doing so, you won’t be caught off guard by any expensive air conditioner repairs.
Easy AC’s skilled HVAC technicians can provide expert recommendations to help you decide whether you should repair or replace your air conditioner. And if you choose to replace your air conditioner, we offer affordable financing. To schedule an AC inspection, contact us today.