outdoor air conditioner unit

6 Reasons Why Air Conditioners Break Down Before They Get Old

Buying and installing a new heating and cooling (HVAC) system is the most expensive purchase most homeowners will ever make. Half of that cost comes from buying and installing the air conditioner. Because new AC units come with such a large price tag, you want yours to run as efficiently as possible for as long as possible to ensure you’re getting a good return on your investment.

Here’s the problem: you might be shortening your AC’s lifespan without even realizing it. Below, we’ll explain some of the top mistakes homeowners make that cause air conditioners to break down prematurely.


According to the National Association of Home Builders, air conditioning units last 10 to 15 years—although we’ve seen well-maintained units last even longer! Avoid these mistakes that can dramatically reduce your air conditioner’s lifespan.

1. Forgetting to Change the Air Filter

If you’ve ever tried to breathe through a grimy, dusty, hair-covered gym sock while jogging a mile, then you have some idea what it’s like for your AC during summer when you leave in an air filter too long. A dust-clogged air filter blocks much-needed airflow into your AC system, which can cause the equipment to use excess energy, overheat, and even break down.

2. Giving Your AC Extra Work

Having an air conditioner is a luxury that can be easy to take for granted sometimes. But remember: the more you use your AC, the more wear-and-tear the equipment goes through.

You can reduce your dependence on your AC during warm weather by:

  • Using floor, table, and ceiling fans in the rooms you’re occupying
  • Using energy-efficient window attachments in sun-facing rooms
  • Only running heat-generating appliances earlier in the morning or later in the evening
  • Switching out incandescent light bulbs for LEDs, which don’t emit as much heat
  • Sealing air leaks around doors and windows
  • Installing energy-efficient windows
  • Upgrading your home’s attic insulation

3. Crowding the Outdoor Unit

Your outdoor AC unit releases the heat extracted from your home’s indoor air. This means that this unit needs room to breathe to avoid overheating. Make sure there is at least 12 inches of horizontal clearance on all sides and at least 6 feet of vertical clearance overhead.

4. Blocking or Closing Vents

Closing vents used to be a hot tip that people used to “redirect” air to other rooms in the house and save money. Unfortunately, central AC systems don’t work that way. By closing an air vent, you’re going to trap the air in the air duct and cause a pressure build-up that can lead to air leaks.

Furthermore, air conditioners need to send out the same amount of air that they take in. Blocking vents throws off that balance, which causes the system to perform less efficiently. The less efficient your AC is, the more it strains to perform, which, in turn, shortens the equipment’s lifespan.

5. Skipping Maintenance

It’s virtually impossible for your air conditioner to get by its entire lifespan without needing some kind of tune-up. Over time, as the equipment runs and vibrates, parts loosen, move out of place, wear down, and lose lubrication. Getting your air conditioner tuned up allows you to get ahead of these problems before they get worse and cause some heavy wear and tear.

6. Ignoring “Small Problems”

If your air conditioner starts making a strange noise that it never did in the past, trust us: that problem is not going to sort itself out. Odd sounds and smells can signal “small problems” that occur before “big problems.” They can also mean that an essential component of your AC is about to fail and leave you without cool air during the middle of summer.

Bottom line: since the problem, big or small, will not go away on its own, it’s better to get it checked out by a professional. This can help you avoid needing a major part replacement or a new AC altogether.

At Tom's Mechanical, Inc., we’re proud to offer reliable AC repairs throughout Arlington, TX. Give us a call today at (972) 388-3669 or contact us online!