And When Is It Time to Replace Your AC Unit?


Picture this. It’s 99 degrees outside in Central Minnesota. You could fry an egg on the sidewalk. Anyone who gets into a car with vinyl upholstery has to be rushed to the hospital for fourth-degree burns. We’re saying it’s hot!


You’ve managed to survive the whole ordeal by staying at home where your trusty air conditioner can protect you. But all of a sudden, an odd noise clanks out of vents, and then … nothing. Your AC has kicked the bucket. Given up the ghost. Broken down, no less! And you’re none too pleased about it. You can already feel the heat creeping in through your windows…


What could have caused your AC to break down? Let’s review some of the likeliest reasons.


  1. Thermostat Malfunction


Your thermostat is equivalent to your AC’s brain: without it, it doesn’t know what to do. If your thermostat runs on batteries, then reviving your AC may be as simple as swapping out a battery. This is known as a “cheap fix.” It is also possible that your thermostat isn’t turned on or set to cool – an even cheaper fix.


If your thermostat appears to be broken, then you can still look forward to an affordable repair. There are a few options on thermostats to choose from, to fit anyone’s budget.  The options range from inexpensive manual thermostats to a professionally installed state-of-the-art Wi-Fi enabled smart thermostat.  If you are upgrading your thermostat to a smart thermostat, you may be eligible for a rebate.  You will need to check with your energy provider.


  1. Evaporator Coil Malfunction


An AC system’s evaporator coil serves an indispensable function: it absorbs heat and humidity from the air inside your house and transfers both outside where they can no longer discomfort you. The evaporator coil also sends cool air inside the house, thus making it doubly important to the unit’s functionality.


An evaporator coil ceases to absorb humidity and heat when it becomes very dirty. Cleaning thick crud off of an evaporator coil requires solvent (such as Evap Foam No Rinse) and liberal application of a soft-bristled brush. But if your evaporator coil is accumulating ice or leaking refrigerant, then it’s probably in need of replacement.


  1. Condenser Coil Malfunction


An AC system’s condenser coil serves an equally indispensable function: it releases the heat the evaporator coil removed from your home, thus allowing the other coil to carry cool air back inside. Without its condenser coil, an AC unit is incapable of carrying out the heat exchange process.


The dirtier a condenser coil gets, the more efficiency it loses – one more reason why regular AC maintenance is so crucial. If a condenser coil is blocked, leaking or otherwise damaged, then it’s nearly certainly in need of replacement.


  1. Leaking Refrigerant


R-410A (Puron) and R-22 (Freon) are both refrigerants that are commonly used in residential AC systems. Both serve the same function: absorbing heat and transferring it to cooler air. Refrigerant is effectively the lifeblood of any AC unit. Without it, it can’t function.


If your AC’s evaporator coil is becoming too encrusted in ice to do its job effectively, then the culprit is likely low refrigerant. Likewise, an AC which only produces warm air may have lost too much of its refrigerant to function. If your AC cannot operate without producing hissing noises or air that smells like exhaust, please discontinue operation at once and contact an HVAC technician, like Gilk Services.


  1. Condensate Line Malfunction


The condensate line (aka drain line) carries excess condensation away from the AC unit’s evaporator coil. In addition to preventing corrosion, it wards off hydrophilic mold and algae that could colonize the inside of the unit. When the condensate line fails to do its job, it can cause extensive enough damage to grind the entire unit to a halt.


Some condensate line clogs are easy for a DIYer to clear. Others are so stubborn that they necessitate replacement of the entire line, as well as other repairs if excessive corrosion is present.


  1. Malfunctioning Capacitor


A capacitor is akin to an AC’s starter motor: essentially a small yet powerful battery that commences the cooling cycle each time it sparks to life. If a capacitor supplies insufficient voltage, then the AC may no longer run efficiently – or cease functioning altogether. If a capacitor has lost its charge, burned out or deteriorated (i.e. “pitted”), then immediate replacement is necessary.


Signs an AC Unit Needs Replacement


Naturally, an AC unit which no longer works is of no use to anyone. But which signs should you look out for if you would rather replace your AC before it forces you to sweat inside your own home?


  • Old age. A central AC unit typically lasts 10 to 20 years. Replacing it sooner can prevent problems down the road.
  • High electricity bills. Are your electricity bills abnormally high during the summer? Assuming that inflation and rising energy costs aren’t to blame, your aging AC unit is probably the culprit.
  • Strange smells. If your AC supplies funky air, it’s probably because mold and bacteria have colonized the insides of its coils. It is possible to kill the microbes, but replacement is the surest solution.
  • Frozen coils. If you have noticed ice forming around your AC’s coils, then a refrigerant leak may be to blame. Immediate repairs can prevent the compressor from overheating, although replacement once again represents the surefire solution.
  • Unreliable operation. All of an AC unit’s moving parts will gradually wear out and lose efficiency over time. If several of its parts are on the verge of breaking, then there is no sense wasting money on multiple repairs when it could have gone toward replacement.


If your AC breaks down this summer – or if you would like to invest in the preemptive replacement that will secure your summer comfort – then Gilk Services is at your service. Contact us today to learn more about our residential and commercial HVAC services in St Cloud, Waite Park, Sartell, St Joe, Albany, Avon, St Martin, Greenwald, Richmond, Eden Valley, Paynesville, Hawick, New London, Cold Spring, Rockville, Lake Henry, Farming, Roscoe, Regal, Atwater, Grove City, Belgrade, Spring Hill, Watkins, Kimball, Marty, and St Augusta.