Air conditioners: How to tell when it's time to replace your AC, according to an expert

·Shopping & Lifestyle Editor
·4 min read
HVAC Air Conditioner Compressor and a Mini-split system together next to each other, next to a brick home.
Bookmark these expert tips before buying your next air conditioner. (Getty Images)

Yahoo Lifestyle Canada is committed to finding you the best products at the best prices. We may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

Summer in Canada can be unpredictable, and after record-breaking temperatures across the country in 2021, it's worth preparing for just about every weather scenario.

Air conditioner units are an essential way to keep cool when the temperature starts to climb. However, without proper maintenance and care you may find your AC unit on the fritz at the worst possible time.

Whether you're looking to replace an old air conditioner with one that's more efficient and reduces energy costs, or are adding one to your home for the very first time, it can be difficult to know what to look out for.

To get the lowdown on all things AC, we at Yahoo Canada hatted with David Erb, Vice President of Residential Sales Enercare Home & Commercial Services, to help you get ready for summer.

How do air conditioner units work?

Put simply, air conditioners work to cool a room by drawing in warm air from the home and passing it over an evaporator coil that absorbs heat and removes humidity, which helps cool the air. The AC unit then expels the heat outside and pushes the cold air back into the room.

According to Erb, humidity removal is a big part of what helps us feel comfortable during periods of heat.

brunette with long hair in ponytail turns on air conditioner with remote control and smiles standing near white wall
There is more than just one type of AC units. (Getty Images)

When should you consider replacing or upgrading your air conditioner?

It depends on how the equipment is installed and used, but the general lifespan for an air conditioning unit is 15 years. Other signs that it may be time to replace your AC?

  • It takes a long time for your house to cool down after turning on the AC

  • If any part of the air conditioning system is loud or making unusual noises, including bangs, squeaks or scrapes

  • If you’ve had previous equipment breakdowns or the outdoor unit is showing signs of deterioration

  • If you are concerned with high energy consumption with an older AC unit

What are some common types of air conditioners?

Central air conditioners are some of the most common types of AC units used in Canada, particularly in homes that already have a ductwork distribution system. The furnace blower drives cold air through the home when the thermostat is set to cooling, and the movement of air also helps to dehumidify the home during the process.

And while central air is the most common form of AC in Canada, it's also not the only one.

"Ductless air conditioners can be used in lieu of central air in residences that do not have ductwork for the air to flow through to all parts of the home," Erb told Yahoo Canada. "The ductless 'head' mounts on the wall and circulates the cool air from that single point and will also remove humidity as it recirculates the air."

Depending on your home's existing heating and venting system, you can also choose from window-mounted air conditioners and wall-mounted air conditioners, which are meant to cool small spaces like an individual room or a small apartment, or portable air conditioners.

No matter which type you choose, Erb recommends having the equipment sized and installed correctly by a reputable, certified company.

"Even the best equipment if not installed correctly will not do a good job," he says. "The most important day in the life of a new home comfort system is the day it is installed."

Old air conditioner system compressor next to home, needing maintenance.
Do you know when it's time to replace your air conditioner? (Getty Images)

How to keep your AC unit running properly

Homeowners can care for their AC units by ensuring the outdoor portion is kept clear of weeds, grass or debris and has plenty of space for ventilation.

"That is the core purpose of that unit— to drive the process of refrigeration but also dispel the heat it removes from inside the home. It needs to breathe," says Erb.

Additionally, the unit should be covered in the winter with a proper fitting cover that does not choke off air from being able to move through it.

In central systems, homeowners should make sure their furnace filter is changed and clean as well as the furnace being serviced effectively. A quality licensed service technician is also your best bet to perform maintenance to the AC as prescribed by its manufacturer.

In case you're looking to purchase a new AC unit now that summer is in full swing, shop a selection of air conditioners below.

GE Ahv05lz 5050 Btu Window Air Conditioner

GE Ahv05lz 5050 Btu Window Air Conditioner. Image via Best Buy.
GE Ahv05lz 5050 Btu Window Air Conditioner. Image via Best Buy.

$270 at Best Buy

SereneLife Portable Electric Air Conditioner

SereneLife Portable Electric Air Conditioner. Image via Amazon.
SereneLife Portable Electric Air Conditioner. Image via Amazon.

$440 at Amazon

Rheem Mini Split Wall Mount Air Handler Heater and Air Conditioner

Rheem Mini Split Wall Mount Air Handler Heater and Air Conditioner. Image via Home Depot.
Rheem Mini Split Wall Mount Air Handler Heater and Air Conditioner. Image via Home Depot.

$700 at Home Depot

Energy Star Ductless Mini-Split AC and Heat Pump

Energy Star Ductless Mini-Split AC and Heat Pump. Image via Lowe's.
Energy Star Ductless Mini-Split AC and Heat Pump. Image via Lowe's.

$2,059 at Lowe's

Vazzidea Portable Air Conditioner Fan

Vazzidea Portable Air Conditioner Fan. Image via Amazon.
Vazzidea Portable Air Conditioner Fan. Image via Amazon.

$55 at Amazon

Let us know what you think by commenting below and tweeting @YahooStyleCA! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram.