Unfortunately, many homeowners will eventually experience something very uncomfortable in their homes. It may begin with you being awakened in the dead of night during one of our sweltering Savannah evenings, sweating profusely, and trying to gather your senses while you reflect upon the nightmare that lurched you from your peaceful sleep. Except soon you realize that you were not having a nightmare. You realize that the dream has become reality, and that your sleepless night is actually because sometime during the night, your air conditioner stopped working.

We’ve been there, and we thought we would share with our customers some of the common problems we see with residential cooling systems. In some instances, you should be able to troubleshoot these issues prior to making a servic call. We would also like to discuss a few factors that could help you decide whether you should repair or replace your current air conditioning system.

Common Problems Observed with Residential Cooling Systems

Refrigerant leaks or improper charges. If your cooling system does not contain the manufacturer’s specifications for the proper charge of refrigerant, you could be facing a faulty system because the unit will not be able to perform as designed. As a homeowner, continuing to add refrigerant without checking for a leak could jeopardize any existing warranties and will damage the environment. Dirty coils. If your air filters and coils become dirty and congested, this will interfere with your system’s performance. This might be the cause of your unit working, but only emitting warm air. Dirty (or clogged) filters and coils are primary reasons for fans and compressors wearing out prematurely. Electrical issues. If your unit turns on and off a lot, your controls and compressors are at a higher risk of wearing out. Corrosion can occur in units and around wires, causing the system to break down. A homeowner’s first step might be to turn off all circuit breakers or fuses and let the unit shut down for a few minutes before attempting any breaker resets. Thermostat sensor failures. The control panel on your wall usually contains a thermostat sensor behind the panel. The purpose of this sensor is to measure the temperature of the air. If this sensor somehow gets shifted out of position, your unit could fail to work as designed. Check that the position is set to the “cooling” option on your panel.

Factors to Consider When Determining Whether to Repair vs. Replace

We always stress the importance of regular bi-annual maintenance to our customers. We have found that many of the common problems listed above could have been avoided by homeowners if they committed to a regular maintenance check of their cooling systems.

Before deciding to replace your cooling system, first check your warranties to determine whether the problem may still be covered. If your unit still has many years left on the estimated life expectancy, repairs should be the way to go. Remember that replacing parts on your old system will likely not help your old unit operate more efficiently. A good formula to bear in mind when deciding between the costs of repair vs. replacement is that if the repair will cost you less than 50% of the replacement cost, then the decision to repair is a sound fiscal decision (you will notice that the reverse argument is true as well).

The folks over at Energy Star recommend replacing if: your cooling system is over 10 years old; you find yourself having to make frequent repairs to your cooling system; your unit is noisy; your home has dust and/or problems with regulating humidity; or if you do not have a thermostat that is programmable. Many real estate experts would advise homeowners to consider replacement if they plan on moving soon because the new system might increase the sales price and value of the home when listed on the market. Many homeowners have been able to make use of potential tax credits when replacing old systems.

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