Whether you live in a scorching climate or you’re just trying to stay cool in the summer months, a dependable and efficient AC unit is essential to your comfort and well-being. So, if you’re experiencing issues with your AC unit and are considering an air conditioning replacement, take a look at our guide below for answers to commonly asked questions, including:
- How long do air conditioners last?
- When should you replace your air conditioner?
- What’s the typical air conditioner replacement cost?
- What should you look for in a new air conditioning replacement?
How Long Do AC Units Last?
On average, new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units can last approximately 10–20 years, and sometimes even longer. Of course, how long a particular unit lasts depends on many factors such as how heavily it’s used, the type of system it is, and how well it’s been maintained over time; for instance, if the system has regular tune-ups.
Other important considerations include whether the system correctly fits the home it’s in or was improperly sized for the home’s square footage at the time of installation. Too-small HVAC systems will be strained trying to accommodate the needs of a larger home, while a system that is too robust for a smaller home can result in wasted energy, poor air quality, potential humidity (a haven for mold and mildew), and poor unit performance.
If you’re not sure which size unit is appropriate for your home, or believe yours is incorrect, it’s best to consult with a professional HVAC technician, since the size is largely based on a calculation involving your home’s square footage, British Thermal Units (BTUs), and other factors such as your floorplan and the height of your ceilings, for example.
When to Replace an Air Conditioner?
Age also matters when you’re thinking about when to replace an AC unit. If you have a 30 year old air conditioner, you should feel lucky it’s worked well for you for so long. However, while that 30 year old air conditioner has hummed along for so many years, it’s less efficient at keeping your home cool in the hot summer months compared with newer models. What’s more, it’s costing you more money per month than a contemporary model.
The good news is that current HVAC technology has come a long way since your 30 year old air conditioner was new, and the efficiency of a new system will save you money—and keep you cooler—in the long run.
If you don’t have an older system, rest assured that other important clues also can help you determine whether you’re ready for an air conditioning replacement. For example, if you notice that your energy bills are starting to increase, it may be time to replace the AC unit. Additional tell-tale signs that can mean it’s time to call a technician may include:
- Excessive dust in your home
- Hot or cold spots around the house
- Higher-than-normal humidity levels
- Noticeably louder sound coming from the system when it’s running
A technician can evaluate your system and determine whether or not it needs repair or replacement.
Air Conditioner Replacement Cost Considerations
If you do your own online research and type “how much to replace AC unit?” into your browser, you’ll find that the average cost of an air conditioning replacement in a residential home can range anywhere from $4,000– $12,000, including labor and permit fees.
Keep in mind that many factors can affect your price, including the size of the system you choose, its features, power, and capacity, and the installation cost, which you should include in your total cost. Like any large purchase, it pays to shop around and know what to look for when considering an air conditioning replacement.
What to Look for in a New Air Conditioning Replacement Unit?
- Choose the correct size for your home. As mentioned above, a properly sized unit plays a huge factor in answering the common question: “How long do ac units last?” Talk with your technician to make sure you select a unit with the right number of BTUs to correctly support your home.
- Make sure it’s ENERGY STAR-certified. You’ve probably heard of ENERGY STAR, a government-backed certification program where manufacturers, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), produce cost-saving, energy-efficient items. Products bearing the bright yellow ENERGY STAR sticker have been independently certified to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly—so look for it on your new air conditioning replacement.
- Check the SEER number. What’s that? It stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio” and all AC units sold in the U.S. come with one. The higher the SEER number, the higher your air conditioner replacement cost will ultimately be—yet the trade-off is that you’ll get an extremely energy-efficient unit, and your monthly energy bills will be lower. The minimal SEER value is 13 on new AC units and they now go up to the low 20s. Some technicians believe that although units with higher SEER levels perform more efficiently, they are more costly to repair, so do your homework. You may not need a super high SEER rating if you own a smaller home, for example, or live in a mild climate where you don’t run your unit often.
- Consider features. Nifty perks like zoning (for isolating specific rooms or areas vs. a whole house), sleep mode, oscillating vents, “check filter” indicator lights, built-in air purification, and other features are available on some models. You may pay more for these, but they may be worth it depending on your lifestyle and budget.
- Dial down the noise. Especially if your unit is near a bedroom, you’ll want to pay careful attention to the noise rating on your air conditioning replacement. Every AC unit has a decibel (dB) rating; the lower the dB rating, the quieter the unit. Most are in the 40–60 dB range. Features such as noise-reducing fan blades and compressor insulation can help quiet a unit, so if noise is a concern, look for these on the model you're considering.
- Install a smart home thermostat. Upgrading to a smart thermostat makes a significant difference in how you use your new air conditioning replacement once it’s installed. And because usage is a factor in how long your unit lasts, starting on the right foot with a thermostat you can precisely—and conveniently—control anytime, anywhere via Wi-Fi and your smartphone will ensure that you’re only using your system when it’s truly needed.
HVAC Coverage with a Home Warranty
If your air conditioner is covered by a First American home warranty and it breaks down, you can simply request service from us. We'll work to find a certified professional who can schedule an appointment to visit your home, diagnose the problem, and determine whether to repair or replace your system.
And remember, besides HVAC coverage, home warranties cover many additional home appliances and systems, providing the peace-of-mind budget protection you need when covered items break down.
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.