Is your air conditioner letting you down?

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CROMWELL — If your air conditioning system struggled during the recent heat wave but didn’t deliver, Connecticut Better Business Bureau recommends following a checklist to determine whether it is time to replace it.

Start with the unit’s age. The average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is between 15 and 20 years. Air conditioners, like furnaces and cars have a limited lifespan. Some consumers can extend the useful life of central air conditioning by performing annual maintenance and repairing the unit when needed. When repair bills start adding up over a short period, it may be time to pull the plug on the old unit.

Other signs that you may need a new air conditioner include:
• Thermostat problems
• Poor air flow
• Substandard performance
• Strange sounds
• Strange odors
You can find out the extent of the problems and the estimated remaining life by consulting an expert contractor. BBB has heard of simple problems like a bad part, but if there are major difficulties with the compressor system, it would likely be better to begin shopping around for a replacement. You may choose an expert HVAC contractor from our Accredited Business Directory at bbb.org/Connecticut.

Obtain estimates from three companies to make sure you fully understand what may be needed and to compare estimated costs.

New technology over the past several years allow a number of substantial cost savings, such as improved indoor air quality and significant improvements in efficiency. New air conditioners reduce carbon emissions, and most important, they require an impressive 30 to 50% less energy to operate, resulting in lower summer electricity bills. They are also quieter than older central air systems.

The price is always a major consideration. A central air conditioner can cost between $3000 and $10 thousand. The price will depend to on, among other criteria, the size of your home and quality of the system you want to buy. Estimates from 2014 reveal the cost for cooling a typical home with a new central air unit is $5200 dollars. The actual cost may vary.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau offers some tips on replacing your air conditioning system:

Don’t go for the lowest price – A low price does not always equal the best value. A higher efficiency system might cost an extra $800 up front, but could save you $300 per year in energy costs. Don’t forget to ask whether there are any available manufacturer’s rebates.

Consider a maintenance contract – This can come in handy when a system needs repairs at the worst times-like during the recent heat wave.

Get a programmable thermostat – Most consumers who have them don’t use them. A programmable thermostat can help you save even more money than having the unit on all day long.

Temporary fix with window units – This may buy you some time until it is convenient to have the major work done. If health and safety are an immediate concern, buy a few window units

Check your furnace too – The AC and furnace may have been installed together. Have it evaluated by the expert, and obtain several estimates before signing a contract.

For additional tips and advice you can trust, or to select a trustworthy BBB Accredited Business, visit bbb.org/Connecticut.
Howard Schwartz, Executive Communications Director, CT BBB.