Frequently Asked Air Conditioning Questions

Basic Air Conditioner Questions

How long will my air conditioner last?

Good air conditioners can last as long as 15 years if they’re properly maintained, but average air conditioners are expected to develop problems after seven to ten years if they’re neglected. If you want to get the most out of your new system, check your filters monthly and replace them as needed, keep your outdoor unit clean and free of debris, and shade the unit during the hottest parts of the day. By performing a little easy maintenance, you can greatly extend the life of your air conditioner and keep it working at its best.

What’s the best temperature to set my thermostat?

The best temperature for your thermostat is the highest one at which you and your family still feel comfortable.  For many people, this point is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit; for others it’s much lower.  Try setting the thermostat higher when summer first creeps up, then turn it down until you find a suitable temperature.

How do I maximize my air conditioner’s energy efficiency?

There are several ways to increase the efficiency of your air conditioner, including leaving all air vents unblocked, installing a programmable thermostat, doing regular maintenance on your system, and using ceiling fans to help keep rooms feeling cooler so you can comfortably turn the thermostat up.

Maintenance Questions

Should I have regular professional maintenance on my unit?

Yes.  Professional maintenance goes beyond what a typical homeowner is equipped to deal with, including things like checking your refrigerant level and cleaning the evaporator coil.  Having a professional examine your air conditioner once or twice a year will also help catch problems while they’re still small and manageable.

How often should I change my filter?

The number of people and pets living in your home and how frequently you run the air conditioning will affect how often you need to change your filter, but everyone should check their filters monthly.  When the filters are discolored or plugged, they need to be replaced; this is typically 30 to 90 days after installation.  During more frequent use (ie Summer) you may need to clean or replace filters every 2 weeks.

How do I take care of my outside air conditioning unit?

Regularly clean vegetation, leaves and debris out of your air conditioner and hose it down well with the unit turned off.  By keeping the outdoor unit clean, you’ll maximize its ability to exhaust heat into the environment, making it run more efficiently.

What do I do if my outside air conditioner has bent fins?

If you notice your air conditioner has bent fins on the outside unit, purchase a fin comb designed for air conditioners and gently straighten them. Make sure the unit is off before you attempt this simple procedure.

Repair Questions

What are some signs my air conditioner isn’t working right?

Air conditioners that suddenly start making new noises or produce new smells should be checked right away. Other signs that your unit  is having problems include its running constantly despite temperatures under 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or blowing warm air into the room, or utility bills that increase dramatically despite normal usage.

What should I check before calling for a repair?

Before you call us, check that the furnace filter isn’t clogged and that the air conditioner is on and set to a temperature that will cause it to cycle.  Check if the thermostat is operational, it may be possible that the batteries are simply bad.  If you know where the disconnects are located, check those as well, and note if anything smells, looks, or sounds unusual.

How cold should my air conditioner be blowing?

The temperature that your air conditioner blows at will depend on the temperature of the air entering the return.  Typically, room air should blow out at a temperature between 15 and 20 degrees cooler than when it went in, but if there’s excess humidity in the air, this range may vary slightly.  Allow your unit to run at least 15 minutes before you compare the return air temperature to the blowing air temperature.

When should I have my air conditioner charged?

Air conditioners are closed systems, meaning that refrigerant should never escape from the system. Therefore, regular charges are unnecessary. The only time you’ll need to charge your air conditioner is if there is a leak present.  If you do have a leak, have a professional fix it right away.

Why is there water around my indoor air handler?

Indoor air handlers do double duty, removing heat and moisture from the air in one go.  They are designed with a small pan to catch the moisture, but occasionally the drain line from the pan may become plugged.  If you see water around your indoor air handler, remove the drain line and give it a good cleaning by running bleach or vinegar water through it to help clear out build-up.

What does it mean if my air conditioner freezes up?

Usually, an air conditioner that has frozen is suffering from restricted air flow.  Turn the unit off as soon as you notice a problem and check the filter.  If it’s pristine, you may have accidentally blocked the air return or have a refrigerant leak.  Check your vents before you call a professional out to hunt down a leak.

Replacement Questions

How do I know it’s time for a new air conditioner?

Once your air conditioner has passed its seventh year, it’s likely that any major repair is going to be more expensive than replacing the unit. An older unit that’s showing signs of trouble and needs frequent visits from the repairman, that cools poorly, or suddenly creates much higher energy bills than in years past is probably ready to be replaced.

Can I replace my outdoor unit without replacing the indoor unit?

You can sometimes simply replace your outdoor unit and leave the indoor unit intact, but a mismatched system like this may cost you a lot more in energy use by reducing the efficiency of your new outdoor unit dramatically. Plus a new system may not run the same type of freon that your old system was using, thus not allowing you to keep one half of your system.  You’re always better off replacing all the parts of your air conditioner at the same time for maximum efficiency and performance.

Will a new air conditioner save me money?

Absolutely. An air conditioner that’s just 10 years old may be as much as 60 percent less efficient than a brand new baseline unit. Today’s energy efficient models do a lot more cooling with a lot less electricity, keeping operating costs low.

Should I buy a bigger unit than the one I’m replacing?

No. Bigger isn’t always better. Don’t be tempted to up-size your unit unless your old unit was incorrectly sized to begin with. A too-large unit will run in frequent short cycles, preventing it from removing humidity properly from your home and shortening its lifespan.