Air conditioning isn’t something you can afford to live without, not in the Texas heat. But every year after you buy and install a shiny new one, it grows a year closer to retirement. If you’ve recently read more about new air conditioning units than you’d like to admit, chances are you already know what’s in your future.
But if you’re still unsure, here are 5 signs that one of the hardest working appliances you own will soon need replacement:

#1: It Rarely Shuts Off, but Your Home Isn’t Noticeably Cooler

It’s normal for air conditioning to run for long cycles when the weather is blistering hot. But when a unit runs and rarely seems to shut off, there could be a problem. This is especially true if for all it’s effort, your home isn’t as comfortable as it should be. If the burden is too high for it to keep up, you’ll probably need a replacement very soon.

#2: You’ve Owned it for a Decade or More

It’s an unfortunate truth that even with the best of maintenance and care, eventually all air conditioners wear out. They’re not cheap, either, so it’s natural to want to extend the life as long as possible. But if the unit is approaching 10 years old or older, it’s time to budget for a new one. Most don’t survive longer than that, no matter how often the filter has been changed or how many checkups it’s had.

5 Signs Your Air Conditioner Is On Its Way Out

#3: You Notice Strange Noises from the Unit

Unusual noises from an otherwise quiet unit means something’s not right. It could be something minor, as simple as a leaf or small twig caught in the fan. But it could mean that its parts are starting to age and are not operating smoothly. You can check for obstructions just by looking into the fan housing. But if the problem isn’t obvious, you’ll need a service call to locate the source.

#4: Your Energy Bills Have Gone Up Noticeably

As much as 60 percent of your monthly energy bills are devoted to cooling costs. But if your expenses really go out of sight, the unit is likely in trouble. An air conditioner that’s working too hard, working inefficiently, uses more electricity. You’ll probably notice at the same time that the unit doesn’t shut off as often as it once did. The good news is that a new, efficient model can save you as much as 50 percent on cooling, according to the U.S Department of Energy.

#5: Service Calls are More and More Frequent

You should schedule an HVAC checkup every year, just to be sure it’s in good working order and ready for a season of hard labor. Once a year is normal. But if you find yourself making calls throughout the summer for new problems or recurring ones, those little things are likely to grow into larger problems. A single repair costs less than buying a new unit. But repairs add up, and they rarely happen with less frequency over time.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that air conditioners never decide to give up for good at a time when it’s convenient for you. But there are signs that help prepare you for what’s coming. If your instincts tell you that something is wrong, despite your best care and maintenance, you’re probably right.

If you haven’t shopped for a new unit in a while, you might be surprised by what’s available now. Efficiency keeps advancing, so your choices are much better than what was available the last time you were in the market. You can only keep your air conditioner on life support for so long. If the signs show that it’s time for a new one, there’s little reason to put it off.