When our air conditioner abruptly stopped working 2 years ago, we made a huge mistake. This mistake, admittedly cost us thousands of dollars. As a new home owner, neither my husband, nor I knew much about the HVAC system in our house. We just knew that it was the middle of summer with sweltering heat and we needed to get our house cool ASAP, especially with 3 small children.
Note: I’ve made a list of annual home maintenance requirements that we’ve been working through. Grab it if you’re a new home owner too!
I hope that after reading this post about our air conditioner problems you get an idea of some steps you can take, questions you can ask, and some answers that you might expect. I still don’t think I am an expert, but I am here to help you with tips that should help you save money, and frustration.
Phase 1: Assess any easy fixes in your Air Conditioning System
When our air conditioner stopped working 2 years ago, we were clueless. We would turn it on, and initially, we could feel it pump cold air into the vents of our home. However, after an hour, the air would not be cool. It was actually warm air. The temperature of our thermostat stopped going down. On a hot day, our home felt like an oven. Here’s the first few things you can try:
1 – The most obvious thing is to change your furnace filter. If your air filter is dirty, the air cannot pass through and be cooled
2 – If the air is still not cooling, go outside and inspect the AC unit. Is there any obstruction around the unit? Has a skunk or rabbit made its home in the unit? Any branches or wood preventing the blade from turning?
3 – Open up the side of the AC and remove the panel. Give it a good wash down with your hose.
4 – Go back to your furnace room and home. Inspect any ductwork that is exposed to see if the ductwork may have gaps or come loose. It’s possible that the ducts have come loose so the cool air cannot travel to the vents. Our basement is finished so the only place we could see the ducts is in the furnace room, and there were no gaps. If there are any gaps that are visible, get aluminum duct tape and seal up the edges. None of these worked for us, so on to phase 2
Phase 2: Call the manufacturer
This is where we made our biggest mistake, we forgot to call the manufacturer. We moved into a brand new house and the AC was only 4 years old. We were baffled at why such a new AC was not working. “Shouldn’t this AC work for 20 years?”
I WISH we had called the manufacturer. It didn’t even cross my mind. We called our home builder who installed the AC. They informed me that it was not covered under their home warranty after 3 years. They didn’t even mention that I should try reaching out the manufacturer (who was Lennox).
Our Mistake with our Air Conditioning problems
I think when something like this happens, and you know nothing about the unit, you feel helpless. I asked my friends and family to help if anyone faced a similar situation. My cousin recommended a friend of his who is an AC repairman, let’s call him Jack. I called him.
When I called a few other air conditioning repair services, they charged $100 just to come to our home for assessment, and then additional fees for repair. Jack would include the assessment fee into the repair.
When he came, he told us there was an issue with the air compressor. When we looked closely, there was a ball of ice that gathered around the pipe on the outside of the AC (specifically on the pipe that connected the AC to our home). Our coolant was leaking out of the unit, and it was preventing the AC from actually cooling the unit. We needed to fill more coolant into the AC. It was not cheap. It was $600. I was actually livid because this Lennox AC is supposed to be the top of the line AC, but here it was, only 4 years old and needing repair.
When you don’t have an AC in a heat wave, you realize how badly you need it. It gives your home comfort and improves the air quality. We got the repair done which solved the refrigerant leaks. The repair only had a 90 day warranty.
Again, I re-iterate that when I look back, I cringe because we didn’t think to call the manufacturer.
When our Air Conditioner Broke AGAIN – only 2 years later
This year, we turned on our AC. For the first few weeks, it was okay. Everything was working well. But to our horror, the air stopped cooling 1 hour after turning it on. To say I was shocked, was an understatement.
I thought we were in the clear because we had purchased the Enercase service plan. When they sold it to us, they told us that “almost everything would covered under this”. The plan was $20 a month. We went through the route of calling Enercare. The first time the technician came, he informed us that we had the same issue – the coolant was leaking from the air compressor. It seemed like Lennox gave us a LEMON of an air conditioner. It was only 6 years old and the same issue was recurring. I was still calm until the technician told me that the dude that “fixed” our AC a few years ago didn’t actually fix the source of the issue. He only filled new coolant but didn’t repair the leak.
I was so angry at him!!! He didn’t do his job correctly. Initially I thought Enercare would repair this, but then I was informed that this was one issue that they did not cover. Because the air compressor was leaking, they recommended we replace the air compressor because there was damage to the evaporator coils and get new coolant filled. He estimated that it would cost $2-3k.
This is where I started to feel overwhelmed. We are in the middle of a recession. Interest rates are sky high and we are a family managing our budget as best as we can, just like everyone else.
He also suggested a few other options: we could rent or purchase a new unit though Enercare. He asked if we had called Lennox and it didn’t even occur to me!
Our MISTAKE: Call your Air Conditioner Manufacturer
I WISH I had called Lennox initially, 2 years ago when the unit was only 4 years ago. I don’t know why but it totally slipped my mind.
When I called them at year 6, they informed me that my AC unit was more than 5 years old and I was no longer in the warranty frame. I was SO upset. If I had called them initially, the parts would have been covered. There was nothing they could do at this time. They were firm on their policy.
Tip: Make sure you know what the warranty period is.
It turns out, our Lennox AC had 5 years parts and 1 year labor warranty. If we had know that, we may have been able to get this fixed properly in the first place. I was totally kicking myself.
Why we decided AGAINST renting an Air Conditioner
Initially, Enercare tried to sell us on renting the AC. It seemed like a good plan. Your monthly rental fee included a comprehensive warranty. If anything EVER happens to it, Enercare will repair or replace it for free.
However, when you look at the monthly amortization schedule, it was unfavorable. In short, you pay $80 a month, but the majority goes towards the interest. In 1 year, you pay $960. To purchase a new AC costs about $4-5k. In theory, you should pay it off by 5 years. However, in 5 years, you only pay 92% of the principal (the cost) of the AC.
We debated long about renting the AC. However, we concluded that renting an AC should be done in 2 circumstances1 – You don’t have any other purchasing power, money saved up, or credit cards with less interest 2 – You are certain you will be moving in the next few years. In that case, you pass the rental agreement on to the new owner.
Getting the best value and service on our new AC
Although we hope to move to a new home in a few years, we have stayed in this home longer than we anticipated. We figured, we should purchase a new AC because it was pretty obvious that we got a lemon. I was worried because it seems like a lot of AC installer were individually owned. It was hard to find someone recommended since my friends also mostly live in newer homes. I wanted peace of mind that the AC would be installed properly. In searching online, I found that Costco offers AC installation (This is not sponsored by Costco. This is my honest opinion). I called Enercare, Costco and a few independent techs. Enercare and Costco offered the same AC unit, but Costco had a clear advantage
The details of the Costco AC:
- 1 year labor warranty
- 10 year parts warranty (Enercare has 5 year parts warranty)
- 10% back in Costco Gift cards
- Overall, $1200 cheaper than Enercare for the same unit
It seems like Costco is the safest and cheapest option. We went ahead and got the unit installed. The customer service was excellent. The install took 8 hours to remove the old unit and install the new one, but they also took away the old unit, so there was nothing for us to dispose of.
So far, it’s been a few weeks and everything is working great. I hope that reading this will help make your experience with air conditioner repairs a bit easier. Figuring out whether to repair or purchase a new AC is a difficult decision. I’m happy to answer any air conditioner questions. Drop them in the comments box below. 2 years ago, all I knew was that we had a central air system, and a furnace with a water heater. That’s about it. Through this trial and error, I learned a lot more about the air conditioning system in our home.
Summary of questions to ask if your air conditioner stops working
- Do I need a new furnace filter?
- Are there obstructions around my furnace filter?
- How long has it been since the external Air Conditioner unit has been cleaned?
- Are there any visible loose vents or gaps in the ducts?
- Does my unit still have a manufacturer warranty?
Deciding to repair, rent or purchase a new AC
- How much does the new repair cost?
- Is there a warranty on the new repair?
- How much does the rental cost
- How much of the rental fee goes towards the principal?
- When will the new AC be paid off?
- Can I switch from renting to purchasing easily? Is there a fee to revise the terms ?
- What is the warranty on the unit (both parts and labour)?
- How much is the purchase price
- Can I finance the AC?
- What is the warranty on the unit (both parts and labour)?
- What size is appropriate for my home (based on level and sq footage)?
If you have other suggestions on Air Conditioner questions and answers, drop them into the comments and I’ll update this list.