Buying a used air conditioner: the ultimate guide post image

Buying a used air conditioner: the ultimate guide

With temperatures rising to higher levels each year, purchasing an air conditioner has become a priority in many households.

As a cooling solution, air conditioners are often our first choice for making our living spaces comfortable. But for some, the decision to buy an air conditioner is followed by the question “should I buy a brand new air conditioner or get a used unit?”Β 

If you are facing such a confusion, this article can be of help to you. Here, we have compiled an ultimate purchasing guide, listing the pros and cons of buying a used air conditioner along with the factors you need to consider when selecting the unit.

Without further adoΒ  let’s move on to the pros and cons of buying a second-hand air conditioner

An excellent tool

A Portable Air Conditioner Unit

Pros of buying used air conditioners

The advantages of buying second hand air conditioners include:

  • Lower cost: Second hand units are generally priced at lower rates than a brand new unit. This means that you can get a used unit for half the price of a new one. If you are on a tight budget and planning on saving money, then you should consider choosing a second hand unit.
  • Long lasting: If you are lucky to get a near-new air conditioner, or one that has not been used for long, it can serve you for many years just like a new one would do. This means that there will be no additional repair costs. Most dealers inspect and test used appliances before selling them to their customers. The chances of obtaining a faulty item from such dealers are usually low.
  • Temporary use: Second-hand air conditioners are ideal investments for individuals who plan to use it temporarily (living in apartments or on rent) or for short duration (college life).

Cons of buying used air conditioners

The other side of the coin of buying used air conditioners include:

  • Limited warranty coverage: In most cases, the warranty period of the unit might have expired or is about to expire. The warranty may also not cover all problems but may extend only to specific issues or parts of the appliance. If so, and if you are purchasing a unit that is old (used for more than 2 years), know that you might have a high maintenance cost. To overcome this hassle, check with your dealer and explore your options. For instance, see if you can extend your warranty period by paying extra or if you can buy an extended warranty that covers specific problems that might arise with the unit.
  • Visually non appealing: If you are looking for unit that has a new look to it, then it is best to purchase a new unit. Used units may have dents or scrape marks on it,Β  faded exterior colour and may not be visually appealing.
  • Availability of spare parts: A common issue faced when buying any used appliance is the problem of obtaining its specific spare parts. The unavailability of these parts could be due to the ceased or decreased production of that particular model as more advanced models enter the commercial market. Since procuring replacement parts can be difficult and time consuming, it is important that you check and have a clear understanding about the unit, its parts and the availability of parts before purchasing the unit.
  • High maintenance cost: Older units may incur higher maintenance cost as it may require fixing regularly. To avoid this, look out for units that are in near-new conditions. Although they can be a little more expensive, it can be considered an investment especially if you were to compare it with the cost of repairing an older unit.
  • Installation costs: Unlike a new unit which would be installed for free, installing second hand units may be costly especially if we have to avail the services of a professional. If the unit is not locally sources, you might also have to consider the transportation or shipping cost of the unit.

Selection criteria- what to look out for when buying a used air conditioner?Β 

Although a second-hand air conditioner, the unit is still an investment. Thus to prevent yourself from wasting any money, make sure to check off these following factors when selecting and deciding on a unit.

Condition of filters:

Dirty Air Filters. Source: Scott Brothers Heating and Air

Filters are one of the most essential parts of an effectively functioning air conditioner. Therefore, inspecting the condition of the filter must be high up on your list of “things to check before buying.” The filters of the unit being considered must be well maintained, in good condition without signs of wear and tear, and clean without any dust accumulated on it.

Refrigerant levels:Β 

A Manometer. Source: Champion AC

It is crucial to check the refrigerant level of the unit. Low refrigerant levels can affect the functioning of the unit causing overheating and damage to the compressor. Units with low refrigerant levels will also require more energy to cool the room, in turn increasing our electricity costs. Older second-hand air conditioner units are more prone to having low refrigerant levels as compared to newer ones.

Thus check to see if the refrigerant level of the unit is maintained at optimal ranges. Take help from a professional to check the refrigerant level of the unit. You must also ask them to check for the presence of any holes or leaks in the gas lines, as leakage of refrigerant too can damage the compressor.

Energy consumption:

Checking EER of a unit. Source: EMCOR

Older units may consume more energy that newer or near-new models. As the energy consumption of the unit affects our monthly electricity bills, it is best to review, compare and check how much energy the unit requires. This is easily done by checking the EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) of the unit.

Noise level:

Prolonged use of loud and noisy units can be disturbing and negatively affect our sleep and health. Choose units that are not noisy, meaning it should have a sound level which is around or less than 50 decibels.

Check reviews:

Always remember to read the reviews of the particular model of air conditioner before buying them. Reviews give you a brief about the features, functionality and effectiveness of the unit. Some reviews will also provide you with additional information regarding its parts, the probable problems associated with the model and availability of parts. Compare the unit with the latest model to identify the features that are absent in the older unit.

Inspect and test the unit:

Inspect and test the unit thoroughly by yourself and with the help of an expert to ensure that it is working properly. Power on the unit and check its ability to cool the room and whether the unit effectively dissipates the heat outside. Your inspection of the unit must also cover:

  • Inspection of the parts for wear and tear, dust and other particles.
  • Presence of any sounds indicating a problem with the compressor or other parts of the unit.
  • Condition of the unit such as properly working knobs, digital display, electrical cords etc.
  • Warranty period.

Source: AAA Heating and Cooling

Now that you have a general idea of what to look out for in a used air conditioner, let’s take a look at some points specific to window air conditioners and portable air conditioners.

Buying a used window air conditioner

Window Air Conditioner. Source: LG.com

When buying a second hand window air conditioner check its:

  • British Thermal Unit (BTU) and Energy Efficiency Ratio( EER) to make sure that it is as advertised.Β 
  • Date of manufacturing, to confirm the age of the unit. Also understand that heavier units are older models of the window air conditioners as recent models are comparatively more lighter.
  • Functioning. In this, you need to test the:

– Speed of the fans

– Compressor. You can do this by turning down the thermostat, as lower temperatures activates the compressor to cool the air. Use a thermometer held near the air conditioner to ensure that the cooling function of the unit works. When testing the compressor, always remember to wait a few minutes as the compressor takes a few minutes to get going.

– Listen for any strange noises being emitted by the unit. This can be a hissing sound or rattling noise indicating leakage of refrigerant or blocking of fans respectively.Β 

-Make sure that hot air is being released from the back of the unit. Place you hand on the back of the unit. If you feel a hot breeze then the heat generated within the unit is being released effectively.Β 

-Check for any damage, especially in the back of the unit as that is exposed to outside elements.Β 

Once you have bought and brought the unit home, install and plug in the unit, and wait for half an hour before powering the unit on. During transportation and manoeuvring of the unit there is a high probability that a little oil could have leaked into the compressor. By waiting you are allowing it to flow back, avoiding any damage from occurring by immediately powering the unit on.Β 

Buying a portable air conditioner

When buying a used portable air conditioner check its:

Portable Air Conditioner Source: IndiaMART

  • Vents. If you want to avoid the issue of negative air pressure and if your room is a large one, you might require a dual hose air conditioner as opposed to single hose air conditioner. Also if you are looking for a unit with higher efficiency the dual hose air conditioner is more suitable for you, as with single hose air conditioners, a negative pressure is formed within the room, causing warm air to flow into the room from other areas.Β 
  • The condition of tubes and filters.
  • Technique of draining water, whether it has to be manually drained, or can be automatically drained through more advanced evaporative technology.Β 
  • If the unit comes with a window kit for installation
  • Functioning of the unit.Β 

Where to get used air conditioners?

Second hand appliances must always be bought from credible sources. You can:

  • Check your local newspapers, newsletters, online sites and bulletin boards to see for any advertisements advertising the sale of used air conditioners.
  • Approach pawn shops or appliance shops that specialises in selling used products.
  • Go to garage sales and estate sales.
  • Approach individuals who are relocating homes and ask them if they are interested in selling their air conditioners.

But no matter the source, be it by word-of-mouth or through advertisements, remember to buy the unit only after personally inspecting and testing them. Otherwise you might be left with a unit that is ineffective and consumes more energy.

How much should we pay for used air conditioners?

This is a very crucial question. The unit is only worthwhile if we obtain it for a lower cost. Else it is better to get a brand new unit.

Typically a used air conditioner must only cost us one third of the original price of the unit. But this pricing depends on certain factors such as its- age, condition of the unit, parts (whether original parts or any parts have been replaced) and warranty period. Units that are comparatively newer, retaining its original parts and within warranty periods may be slightly more costlier than older units.

Also when paying for the unit, be clear about the shipping or transportation costs and ask for a return policy if the unit is damaged during delivery.

Can you donate or sell your used air conditioner?

Certainly, you too can donate or sell your used air conditioner.To do so, make sure that your air conditioner is well maintained- check refrigerant levels, clean filters, fix all problems and generally spruce up the unit. The next step is to set a reasonable price, depending on its age, usage, and maintenance; and finally advertise.Β 

If you were undecided and oscillating between a new or used air conditioner, we are sure that this information can help you make a well informed decision. While it cannot be said outright that one unit is better than the other, the decision hinges on various factors the most important of which is your budget. If you wish for a temporary unit within your means, then a used air conditioner is a suitable choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more permanent investment, a new unit may be more suited to your needs.Β 

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FYI: The Air Geeks' top-rated portable AC units tested in 2019:
1. Black+Decker – BPACT14WT: the all-around best option (very large rooms)
2. Whynter - Elite Arc 122DS: the best value (large rooms)
3. Honeywell - MN10CSWW: superior unit, great price (avg. rooms)
4. Honeywell – MO08CESWK: a very good entry-level option (small rooms)