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How Older Air Conditioners Can Pose Health & Safety Risks


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Most central air conditioning systems will last about 12 to 15 years before they need to be replaced, while some well-maintained models may last as long as 20 years. Any air conditioner will tend to become less reliable and efficient as it ages, and in some cases, it may prove to be a health and safety risk, as well. There are three primary ways an air conditioner can prove to be dangerous.

Old Refrigerants

Refrigerants like R-22 have been phased out in response to their damaging effects on the environment. Older refrigerants like R-11 and R-12 are even worse. These are long-term consequences, but refrigerants can also be dangerous to health and safety in the short term. Exposure to refrigerants can be harmful to your lungs, even collapsing them in some cases if inhaled. Older air conditioners are prone to refrigerant leaks, especially in the coils, where vulnerable areas can be eaten away by corrosion.

Electrical Problems

Electrical problems in older air conditioners can also pose a significant safety risk. Loose connections or corroded copper wiring can increase resistance in the circuit, heating up the wiring and causing a fire hazard. Old wiring insulation can deteriorate, increasing the chances of a short or arcing. Contactors and relays can heat up and melt the contacts, welding themselves into an open position. Faulty capacitors can also cause a short. All of these can lead to fires, as well as health concerns as the plastics melt and burn.

Microbial Contamination

The primary health concern with old air conditioners is the presence of bacteria, viruses, and mold in the evaporator, air filters, and ductwork. Legionella bacteria thrive in wet environments like air conditioners, and they can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe type of pneumonia that can be quite dangerous, especially for those with compromised immune systems. Mold spores are also a concern, with some species causing or contributing to severe illnesses like lung infections or central nervous subsystem damage. Finally, viruses like the flu, colds, and COVID can be transmitted through the air ducts and ventilation system, making occupants sick.

Air Conditioning Replacement in Grand Rapids, MI

Although a thorough deep cleaning and sterilization of an air conditioning system can go a long way toward reducing health dangers, there is a good chance that some problems will be missed. If your air conditioning system is over 15 years old or is in poor condition, the best thing you can do for your safety and comfort is to replace it. A new air conditioner will offer better air quality and safety, as well as significantly lower energy usage and cooling costs.

When you are ready to replace your air conditioner, turn to our experts at Grapids Heating & Cooling. We serve all of the Grand Rapids area, and we offer professional AC installations and AC replacements. Our company was founded in 1999, and we feature experienced HVAC technicians who service all brands, excellent customer service, and quality workmanship backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Give us a call at (616)-453-1099 or contact us online to request your free, no-obligation estimate for an air conditioning replacement in the Grand Rapids area.

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