How Long Should My Central Air Conditioner Last?

Getting the Most Out of Your AC System in the Sacramento Valley

How long is your central air conditioner designed to last?  Have you ever heard of “programmed obsolescence” or “designed obsolescence?”  If you haven’t, it really plays a big factor in the way this question is answered.

How Long Should my Air Conditioner Last?

This is one of my favorite questions to answer. And it usually gets all the HVAC technicians and owners out there all stirred up.  The reason is that companies that are highly motivated by sales are going to tell you that your central air conditioner will not last as long as I’m going to tell you it will.

Air Conditioners Then and Now

I will tell you, they don’t make ‘em like they used to!  The original home air conditioning systems were built with quality parts and were extremely durable for up to 30 years.  But the industry quickly realized, just like car companies did back in the 1920s, that sales were stagnating.  It was like they were building them too well for those companies to sustain growth, and more importantly to them, become rich. Companies began making their products just a little bit less durable and instilling in the buyer the desire to own something “a little newer, a little better, a little more efficient,” and just a little sooner than necessary.

So, how long should your air conditioner last?  As with anything, the answer to that question depends heavily on how well your system has been maintained.  Rental properties are notorious for having tenants that just plain old refuse to change their air filter. So, of course, that system is a crapshoot.  Who knows, right?  It might last 10 years, it might last 20 years.

Periodic Repair and Maintenance

But if you have the system cleaned and maintained every now and then, there is no reason your system can’t last you 20 years.  True, parts will fail now and then, and everyone expects they’ll have to make certain repairs to their aging system, but if the parts are available, there’s no reason to have someone convince you to buy a new air conditioning system.

That’s just another example of planned obsolescence!  Someone putting in your head that you need a new system at 12 years is almost like being a bully.  They know more than you do about that air conditioning system, and it would be pretty easy for any “technician” in a white button-up shirt with an American flag on it to deceive you about your air conditioner.  The big companies around town are banking on it.

I live in a 21-year-old neighborhood built by, let’s call them a fictitious name like BK Homes.  The HVAC contractor who won the job to install all those units did so because it was the lowest bidder who could install them the fastest.  Those contractors aren’t putting in top of the line systems either.  They call them contractor grade HVAC systems.

It’s Your Decision

My system is 21 years old this year, and I’m going to try and make it last one more year.  A lot of us say that!  But when that system was 11 years old my compressor failed.  Well, for most people, that’s about a $2,000-$3,000 job to make that repair and refill the refrigerant.  So yes, major failures like this do happen.  Is it planned obsolescence?  Maybe. But it’s also a machine, and machines break sometimes.  I happened to know a guy (me) who could get a good deal on a compressor.  So I fixed it.  And the system has run great ever since.

The point I’m trying to get across is, it’s your decision how long you want to keep your system around.  If the parts are available, your system can be repaired.  Old systems blow cold air out of your registers the same temperature as the newer systems, but here’s where those words “planned obsolescence” come back around when the pushy sales guys start telling you you need a new air conditioner.  They’re just trying to persuade you that you need something a little newer, a little better, a little more “efficient,” and just a little sooner than necessary.

Why I would be interested in changing my air conditioner

I changed my compressor when it was 11 years old.  That was almost 10 years ago!  That air conditioner is a lot noisier now that it ever has been.  I’m kind of over it… every time it comes on and I’m out on my patio, it comes on loud and turns off loud.

If I had to complete additional major repairs like the compressor was, I would have gotten to the point that I was tired of putting money into the old system and would instead want to invest my money in a new system.

If I was leaking refrigerant every year and we could find the leak, I would want to change my system.  Not only because of the hight cost of the refrigerant, but it’s just very bad for the ozone layer to be exposed to all that chlorine, and future generations will suffer because of it.

If the system was installed wrong in the first place, it’s tough to fix that without taking everything out and putting it back together the proper way.  This could be another reason to start all over with a new system.  As an installer myself, I know how people can suffer from a system that never worked right or was too small in the first place.  The most important day of a system’s life is the day it was installed.

Reasons companies that are motivated purely by sales will advise you to get a new system

Extremely salesy companies will tell you (and you see it written in blogs all over the internet too), that if your system is over 12 years old, you need a new system.  They’ll tell you it’s not worth repairing, or the parts aren’t available, literally lying straight to your face.

They say if you’ve had the system over a decade, it’s time to replace your system. This also doesn’t compute for me.  Why?

Some of my customers have told me another company told them R-22 freon wasn’t available anymore.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, it’s on its way out, and super salesy technicians will say big words like “Montreal Protocol” which states we have to phase out of producing R-22 by 2020, but there are also alternative refrigerants we can use for a long time, at half the price!

R407c can be used to replace the R-22 in your system.  Your experienced technician will remove the existing R-22, and without getting all technical, replace it with the new R407c refrigerant.  There are plenty of other alternative and safe refrigerants to use out there.  Just don’t let them add the alternative stuff on top of your existing R-22.  That would not be acceptable as the refrigerant needs to be either-or.

Even after they stop making R-22 freon, there will still be recycled R-22 available for years.  It might be more expensive then than it is now, but it’s still an option that you get to decide on, and not a misleading technician.

The Bottom Line

You should know the real truth about how long your central air conditioning system should last.  You can get about 20 good years out of your system as long as it was installed correctly.  And that assumes your installer followed several detailed instructions from the manufacturer.

Anyone can put a few boxes together up in your attic for a really cheap price and call it good.  And you’ll believe them too.  It’s sad because these types of companies continue to give HVAC a bad name, while companies like Fox Family are trying to lift the HVAC industry by following instructions closely so your system will last a good 20 years.  Of course, that’s with proper maintenance.

Thank so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you at my next blog.

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

How Much Will a New Central Air Conditioning System Cost in 2019?

In the spring of 2019, a lot of people will begin wondering, “how much does a new central air conditioning system cost?”

Every January a nice letter crosses my desk from the manufacturers of all the HVAC systems we use.  They let me know the cost of their equipment will be rising again in 2019.  The cost of systems has been rising by a few hundred dollars every year.  This is a reliable fact and there is no chance of those prices going down for obvious reasons.

When it comes to replacing your air conditioning system, people seem to be driven by one of three things:  low prices, good value, or top-of-the-line gear.  When it comes to the overall price range for a new air conditioning system you should factor in a few things.

It’s a lot like buying a new car.  Some people will get the most basic thing that will get them to work, or they’ll seek out the nicer but middle-of-the-road car they’re proud to own, and it’s very reliable.  Others will look for the latest and newest smart car on the market.  In much the same way, the price for a new central air conditioning system in 2019 will run anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000.  When you bought your new car, you probably got some upgrades.  The seat warmers and self-park feature were a must!  You can get a similar variety of upgrades when choosing your new air conditioning system too, and it doesn’t have to be anything overly lavish, either.

Efficiency Ratings

In 2019, your first consideration when purchasing a new HVAC system should be the efficiency rating.   Finding a company that will give you three or four options, not just one, for your new air conditioner, is important.  You’re limiting yourself if you don’t.

In 2019 you should be seeing options from 14 SEER all the way up to 25 SEER. This SEER rating is like miles per gallon on your car.  That’s a great way to think about it, actually.  The higher the SEER rating, the better and more efficient the equipment will be.  If you chose the 14 SEER or the 25 SEER, you can expect either system to last about 15-25 years.  “Anything after 20 years,” I tell people, “and you’re on borrowed time.”  And that’s fine too because 20 years from now, you’ll probably want that next generation of central air conditioning systems for your home.

A 14 SEER system is going to cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $16,000 in California, depending on where you live and which contractor you choose.  But a lot of that has to do with the type of installation you choose for your new central air conditioning system.  Some people are DIY’ers who thrive on the challenge of replacing their home appliances themselves.  Changing an HVAC system is hard work, but it can be done.

Upgrades

The most popular upgrades after choosing your efficiency are:

  • Dividing your home into two or more “zones”
  • Smart thermostats
  • Wireless thermostats
  • Contactor containment (SureSwitch contactors)
  • Compressor start assist kits
  • Condensate flood switches
  • Air quality products
  • Virtual assistants / smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa)
  • Insulation blown into attics
  • Whole house fans
  • Surge protectors for furnaces or air conditioners
  • Thicker air filters
  • Ductless mini-splits
  • Compressor sound blankets
  • New higher insulated ductwork

If you ask most people why they get upgrades on their newly purchased vehicle, they’ll say it’s about getting what they want the first time, so they don’t have any regrets down the road.  There’s a lot to be said for that when the time comes to buy a new central air conditioning system.

I suggest finding a contractor that not only offers you the new air conditioning system but many of these upgrades as well.  It’s not uncommon for a company to actually throw in the upgrades in their price.

An upgrade like a compressor start kit will add years of life to your system without you even knowing it.  This device cuts down the start-up time of a compressor, which increases the lifespan of your AC system by years! Wouldn’t you rather just have that on your system from the start rather than having a technician sell you that part later on down the road?  Of course, some upgrades are too costly to be “thrown in for free,” but little things like that add a lot of value to the cost of a new air conditioning system.

DIY

Some people thrive on the chance to replace their own appliances.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  Installing HVAC is not rocket science, but there are some licenses and certifications required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to safely handle the refrigerant that goes into a new HVAC system.  Some people will buy their system online for as low as $2,000 – $12,000.  Apparently, you can now buy systems and have them delivered to your door.  The purchaser installs the system according to the installation manual, and when it comes to the refrigerant lines, they’ll have a technician come in do the rest.   One word of warning:  manufacturers do not like to warranty their products when an unlicensed technician installs them.

Price-Only Shoppers – The Most Basic Systems

Some people who can’t or don’t want to install their own system will reach out to a contractor, or some guy on JohnsList where they’ll pay someone to install the system.  I know of HVAC contractors and other handymen in California who can get a basic 14 SEER system into your house for as low as $7,000, maybe even lower.  Have you ever heard that another company with more employees and a bigger shop will sell a similar system for $16,000?  In 2019 that can happen.

Value-Driven Customers Usually Pick in the Middle

When you have three or four options, the middle options will be where most buyers make their purchase.  They’re looking for something good for their home, but maybe not the absolute best on the market technology-wise.  These “middle options” were the top options years ago.  The technology has been perfected and mainstreamed into quality homes everywhere.  You will find these air conditioning systems in the price range of $10,000 to $20,000, depending on which contractor you choose.

Best of the Best

Elite customers are looking for the latest in technology and will tolerate the bumps in the road that can come with such technology.  They prefer systems that are whisper quiet and run at ultra-low amps, making their electric bills much lower!  The technology in 2019 that continues to make a splash is the inverter technology of compressors offered in new air conditioners.  Someday these will be mainstream, but for now, they come at the premium price of $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the contractor.

Depending on Your Contractor

Will they be there when it counts, down the road?  That’s a big question when it comes to the warranties on your new air conditioning system.  Those warranties won’t matter if they aren’t around to make it right for you.  These companies charge too little to keep a legitimate company going for long.

It’s a game we as contractors are always having to play to earn your business.  If we price too high you won’t take us seriously; if we price too low it only entices the price shoppers.  When you hear me say a 16 SEER system could be between $10,000 and $20,000, it’s best to find a contractor whose price lands in the middle of those two.  Your best value will land in this range.  That’s why it’s important to get different quotes when you get your new air conditioning system.  You’ll learn that the price for the same 16 SEER system will be somewhere between that 10 and 20-thousand-dollar mark.

Good luck with your upcoming purchase decision.  There are some really great products you can add to your system to enhance its value for many years.  Choose your contractor wisely; someone who is going to be there down the road; someone who has good reviews online.  It really is all about customer service.  HVAC companies should be trying to take care of you not only for the day of the install but after the install.  Maintenance and preventive cleanings are very important.

Thanks so much and we’ll see you on the next blog!

How Long Should My Air Conditioner Last?

[mk_page_section full_width=”true” top_shape_color=”#ffffff” top_shape_bg_color=”#ed4622″ bottom_shape_color=”#ffffff” sidebar=”sidebar-1″][vc_column][mk_padding_divider][mk_fancy_title size=”32″ font_family=”none” align=”center”]How Long Should My Air Conditioner Last?[/mk_fancy_title][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1531609092741{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]How Long Should My Air Conditioner Last? Many Sacramento homeowners are interested in knowing how long their air conditioning units will last upon installation. While there is no exact answer to that question, Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar technicians point to several factors which may affect the longevity of the AC unit. This article discusses some of those factors.

The Quality of the AC Unit

On average, air conditioning units last for about 15-years. However, this expected lifespan can vary widely based on the quality of the components which were used to manufacture a given AC unit. It is therefore important for you to select a product from a manufacturer who has a reputation for making durable equipment. Work with air conditioner replacement experts in Sacramento to identify and invest in the best brand if you want long life from the AC installed.

Proper Sizing

AC unit durability is also affected by the appropriateness of the unit for the home or other building. Oversized units wear out sooner than correctly sized units because the oversized unit will have shorter cycle times (intervals between running and turning itself off once the desired temperature is attained).

Short cycle times strain the different components of the system, such as the compressor, in several ways. First, the energy surge during startup strains the electronics of the AC. Secondly, friction is higher during the startup period since the lubricant will have settled at the bottom of the components. Consequently, the AC will age faster if it turns on and off at shorter intervals. Undersized units also wear out quickly since they work harder to combat the heavy loads which have been imposed on them. Such threats to your investment can be avoided by hiring a heating and air conditioning company in your area to size the unit correctly before you purchase it.

Frequency of Use

Air conditioning units that are used for more months of the year wear out faster than AC units used for a shorter time each year. AC components are designed to work reliably for a given number of usage hours. Using your unit for more hours each day depletes the useful life of the unit quickly. It may, therefore, be helpful for you to restrict your use of the AC to the periods when you need it. You should also adjust the thermostat settings to a level that doesn’t strain the unit excessively. For example, don’t set the AC to cool your home to the same temperature as what you would find in a walk-in cooling unit at a mall.

The Installation Location

How the AC is installed can also affect its longevity. For instance, outdoor units which are exposed to direct sunlight will age faster than those in a shaded area. Similarly, places with contaminants, such as homes near farms where pesticides and other chemicals are used routinely, lead to faster aging of ACs. Coastal areas also pose corrosion risks to air conditioning units due to the saltwater to which the units are exposed. Always let the AC technician that you have hired in Sacramento to select the most appropriate installation location so that any environmental threats present there are minimized or avoided.

System Maintenance

Maintenance is important to air conditioner longevity. Poor maintenance, such as ignoring to provide adequate component lubrication, will result in accelerated wear of the AC. A high-quality unit will, therefore, fail prematurely if it isn’t well maintained. Conversely, a unit of lower quality may last longer if it is given the necessary preventive maintenance and it is repaired promptly before a defect affects other components. Work with Fox Family Heating and Air conditioning so that a customized maintenance schedule can be designed for the AC in your Sacramento home to avoid premature system failure.

Having a durable air conditioning unit starts by identifying the best heating and air conditioning company to size, install and maintain that air conditioning system. Talk to several air conditioner replacement professionals in Sacramento and select the best company, Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar, to trust with your investment.[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section bg_color=”#ed4622″ full_width=”true” has_top_shape_divider=”true” top_shape_color=”#ffffff” top_shape_bg_color=”#ed4622″ bottom_shape_color=”#ffffff” sidebar=”sidebar-1″][vc_column width=”2/3″][mk_padding_divider][mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h3″ color=”#ed4622″ size=”36″ force_font_size=”true” size_tablet=”20″ size_phone=”15″ line_height=”90″ font_weight=”bold” txt_transform=”capitalize” margin_bottom=”0″ font_family=”Lato” font_type=”google” align=”right” drop_shadow=”true”]Need Service? Call Now: 916-877-1577[/mk_fancy_title][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_padding_divider][mk_button dimension=”flat” size=”large” align=”center” margin_right=”0″ bg_color=”#0066cc” btn_hover_txt_color=”#ed4622″]BOOK NOW[/mk_button][/vc_column][/mk_page_section]

Repair or replace my AC?

Repair or replace my AC?

Does your Air Conditioner really need to be replaced?

We never want to create more industry skepticism but it is important to note that just like going to a surgeon, mechanic, dentist, second opinions can give you a different outcome.  Today’s VLOG you will ride along with me, Greg Fox for an air conditioner repair call in Sacramento. This particular call was a second opinion for a lady who was told she needed to replace her older air conditioner by another HVAC contractor. She didn’t have the money to replace it and felt a second opinion was needed. Check out the full video to find out how I got her AC running again potentially giving her two or more years of life on her system.

Homeowners: There are times when replacing your HVAC system is a better investment, but we encourage you to get a second opinion if you feel your technician has not done his best to fix your air conditioner.

HVAC Technicians: If you don’t know how to fix something, ask for help. Be sure to exhaust all of your resources before you conclude that replacing the air conditioner is the only choice.

Be sure to check out our Blog for more “how to” HVAC videos and tips.