What Should You Expect When Replacing An AC In An Older Home?

Retrofitting an air conditioner into an older home without existing ductwork can be challenging, but replacing an old or non-functional central air conditioner can also pose a few hurdles. Although manufacturers typically quote 15-20 year lifespans for their systems, air conditioners can sometimes last much longer.

Replacing these ancient systems can often be smart, with benefits for your bottom line and some environmental advantages. However, the installation may not be as straightforward as replacing one modern system with another. If you're considering this upgrade, here are three things to expect during installation.

1. There May Be Some Environmental Fees

Air conditioning systems move heat energy rather than "create" cold air. To perform this feat, your air conditioner uses a class of chemicals known as refrigerants. While no refrigerant is safe for atmospheric release, the refrigerants such as Freon found in older systems are particularly damaging. These chemicals can have potentially severe impacts on Earth's ozone layer.

As a result, your installers will need to evacuate and store the refrigerant from your old system. Depending on your installer and local regulations, you may need to pay extra disposal and recycling fees. The good news is that updating to a modern system means you'll be using newer and safer refrigerant chemicals without Freon's ozone-depleting properties.

2. You'll Probably Need a New Line Set

Your line set is the plumbing that carries refrigerant throughout your system. This plumbing runs in a loop from your indoor evaporator unit to your outdoor condenser unit, allowing refrigerant to flow from the high-pressure side of the system to the low-pressure side and back again. Unfortunately, different types of refrigerant cannot mix, and contamination is a potentially major issue.

Installers usually recommend replacing your whole line set to avoid cross-contamination between your old refrigerant and more modern, environmentally-friendly chemicals. Most air conditioners also require specific specifications for their line set size, so your old one will likely not be compatible with a much newer system.

3. You May Need to Alter Your Ductwork

Ductwork will potentially be the costliest aspect of upgrading your old system. Achieving maximum efficiency will require using appropriately-sized ductwork for your new system. Your installer can help you select a system that's a close match for what you already have in your home, but you may still need to make some modifications.

Additionally, old ductwork may have numerous leaks or other issues. These problems can reduce the efficiency of your new system or even cause critical components to wear out more quickly. By addressing your ductwork problems during installation, you'll avoid these issues and ensure your new system operates at its rated efficiency.

To get started, contact an air conditioning installation contractor in your area.