How long would you like your air conditioning condenser to last? As long as possible, right? Modern air conditioning condensers will typically last about 20 years. If your condensing unit did not last quite that long, it’s possible the cause of the failure was preventable. So, unless you enjoy buying a new condenser sooner than anticipated, read on.

I‘ve been evaluating air conditioning systems for many years and have noticed some common conditions that can lead to premature compressor failure. The compressor is the major component located in the condenser. Some of these failures can be attributed to a shortage of refrigerant, commonly known as a “Freon” leak. (Note: Freon is the generic term used for the refrigerant used in residential air conditioning systems.) The compressor also depends on the same Freon to keep it cool.

However, I have found that the most common reasons for premature equipment failure are 1) improper duct sizing, and 2) incorrect refrigerant line sizing.

When the ducts or the refrigerant lines are not sized correctly, several conditions can occur which will eventually lead to premature compressor failure. These conditions are too technical to list here, but if anyone would like more specific information, don’t hesitate to contact me directly or attend one of our workshops.

It’s a sad fact that the sizing of the supply ducts and refrigerant lines are not governed by local building codes. So, when inspectors check the installation, they have no jurisdiction to address these critical issues. Unfortunately, there are some disingenuous (aka shady) contractors who will gladly take your money but not address these issues. That’s because doing the job correctly would certainly cause their price to be higher. Then their bid would be too close to the price of the reliable contractor whose proposal would likely have included these items.

Since heating and air conditioning is something that’s purchased infrequently, homeowners require a lot of information to make the right choice. Given that the cost to install or replace a heating or air conditioning system typically runs more than homeowners expect, they will sometimes elect to have the job done for the lowest amount. If the lowest bid is your most important criteria, get to know your service company, because you’ll be seeing them on a regular basis. When deciding about heating and air conditioning systems – it’s what you don’t know that will end up costing you more in the long run.

If there is a specific subject related to air conditioning or heating that you would like to learn about, please let me know. Please accept this as an invitation to join us at our next Homeowners Workshop this month when we will be discussing air filtration. All questions will be addressed, so bring your list. There is no cost, so bring your friends, neighbors, and relatives. If you are interested in attending, call Alex at (818) 886-2600 to make a reservation. Join us for a couple of hours and you’ll take home some useful information.

Jim Berry was a heating and air conditioning service technician prior to becoming a Sales Consultant for Kahn Air Conditioning. Kahn hosts free monthly workshops to help homeowners learn more about heating and cooling systems. For questions regarding heating or air conditioning, send an e-mail to Jim at

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