Q. My 8-year-old window air conditioner isn't cooling like it used to. Is it time to buy a new one?

A. Units should last eight to 10 years, but troubleshoot yours before replacing it. (If you really do need to get rid of it, make sure you follow our tips on how to get rid of practically anything.)

First, inspect the seal around the unit to make sure no warm outside air is leaking in. Replace the weather stripping if it has loosened over time. Next, remove the filter (usually located just behind the grill) and clean it with warm, soapy water. While the filter dries, check the now-visible evaporator coils. If they’re covered in dust, clean them with your vacuum’s upholstery brush, taking care not to bend the fragile fins.

"If the air coming from the unit is still too warm, you may have a problem with the compressor or the level of refrigerant, and should replace your window air conditioner if it’s out of warranty," says Chris Regan, CR’s senior air conditioner tester. Warranties usually last between one and five years. The good news? Newer units are more energy efficient than the one you own, so you’ll save money on your utility bill. Look for a model certified by Energy Star.  

For related information, check our air conditioner buying guide, which includes details on both portable and window air conditioner.

And if you're thinking about upgrading to a whole-house air conditioner, you'll want to find a reliable central air conditioning system.



Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the July 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.