Knowing when it’s time to replace a central air conditioning system isn’t always that easy. The worst thing you can do is to wait too long to replace your AC and have it suddenly die when you need it most. That’s why we always recommend being proactive and focusing on all of these factors that can indicate it’s time to get your AC replaced.

Age of the System

A central AC system usually has a lifespan of about 15 to 20 years on average. There are definitely times when a central air conditioner can continue working for more than 20 years. This is more common in less hot, drier climates where the AC doesn’t run that many hours a year. In the San Antonio area, a central AC system typically runs for more than 2,000 hours a year and thus usually won’t last for more than 15 years.

Even if your AC has the potential to last for more than 15 years, we generally wouldn’t recommend risking it. The reason is that there is an increasingly high chance that the system will suddenly give out the older it is. Should this happen, you’d usually be forced to sweat it out in the heat for at least a few days before you’d be able to get a replacement system installed.

Another issue is that you’ll often have to pay at least a bit more to replace your AC in the middle of the summer. This is compared to if you had the new system installed in the spring or fall. Part of the reason for this is that AC manufacturers often offer better deals when you purchase a new system outside of the peak cooling season. The middle of summer and winter are also by far the busiest times for HVAC companies, and there are some companies that charge higher rates during the busy season. Alternatively, some companies may consider the installation an emergency situation and also charge a higher rate as a result.

Poor Efficiency and High Energy Costs

Another thing to consider when deciding whether or not to replace your AC is that older systems are typically not as energy efficient as newer systems. The minimum energy efficiency requirements for air conditioners have increased several times since 2006. The minimum requirement up until 2006 was only 10 SEER, which is considered extremely inefficient by today’s standards. The requirement then increased to 13 SEER at the start of 2006. For Texas and the rest of the southern U.S., the requirement increased to 14 SEER in 2015 and then to 15 SEER in 2023.

In 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy also introduced the new SEER2 rating requirements. They created separate requirements for systems with a capacity under 45,000 BTUs and systems with a capacity of 45,000 BTUs or greater. ACs under 45k BTUs now have to be at least 14.2 SEER2 while those over 45k BTUs only have to be 13.8 SEER2. Understanding the specific differences between SEER2 and the old SEER ratings isn’t really necessary since most manufacturers still list both ratings to make it easier for consumers.

The difference between a 13 SEER and 15 SEER (14.2 SEER2) AC system may not seem all that big. The truth is that a new 15 SEER system should use at least 14% less energy than a 13 SEER system. Each higher SEER rating equates to an approximately 7% improvement in efficiency. A new 15 SEER AC would likely reduce your energy costs by much more than 14% since the efficiency of AC systems tends to decrease with age.

While 15 SEER is the minimum, we’d always recommend choosing the most efficient system you can find within your price range. Even though a higher-efficiency system will cost you more upfront, it will usually cost less overall due to how much it will help you save on your energy bills. For instance, a new 20 SEER system would usually cost between $100 and $500 less to run per year depending on the size when compared to a 13 SEER system. This means you’d likely end up saving at least a few thousand over the life of your new system.

Frequent or Expensive Repair Needs

Annual maintenance is the best way to reduce the potential repair needs of an AC system, but almost all systems will need at least some repairs over their life regardless. An AC system that frequently breaks down or experiences issues that force you to have it repaired is typically a sign that it’s beginning to fail. Then, it doesn’t have much life left. In this case, it generally doesn’t make very much sense to continue repairing a system that is already on its last legs and will need to be replaced soon anyway.

Any time you need to get your AC repaired, you also need to consider the cost of the repairs. This is to determine whether it’s worth it or if you should just replace the system. Some repairs are relatively inexpensive, but a more major repair like having to replace the evaporator can easily cost $1,000 or more. Unless you can reasonably expect that your AC will last for another five years or more, you’re generally better off opting for a replacement when facing a much more costly repair.

One thing that can help when deciding whether to repair or replace your AC is to consider how much you paid for the system. Also, consider how much it will cost to repair it. Let’s say that you have a 12-year-old system that you originally paid $4,000 for. If you were to break this cost down over 15 years, the system would cost you approximately $267 a year. If the system needs a $500+ repair, replacement is the better option considering that the system may not last another three years even after being repaired.


One last thing to consider when deciding when to replace your air conditioner is how effectively it works. Most AC systems will slowly start to cool less and less effectively over time, leading to increasingly high energy costs. If you’re experiencing issues where your AC often struggles to keep your home sufficiently cool and comfortable on hotter, more humid days, it’s probably time to start considering a replacement. The same can be true if you frequently have issues with some rooms rarely or never getting as cool as you want. In these situations, installing a new system can greatly improve your comfort while also helping you to save quite a bit of money on your electricity bills.

Bacon Plumbing Heating Air Electric is a family-owned company that has been helping residents in Rockwall and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with all of their home service needs for more than a decade. As one of the most trusted HVAC companies in the area, we’re ready to help if you need to replace your air conditioner or need any other cooling or heating service. Our team can also help you tackle any indoor air quality issues your home has, and we offer the full range of plumbing and electrical services as well. If you’re considering a replacement AC system, contact us today to learn more about all of your options and the benefits a new system will bring to your home.

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