Air conditioning is a wonderful invention! Invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier (the founder of today's Carrier Company), it has been continuously reshaped, remolded and improved upon by numerous people and companies over the years. Technology has aided and simplified air conditioning repairs over the years, but the main reason for the continuous improvements are the inherent problems that come along with an air conditioning system. These problems may be minor and easily fixed by a homeowner or renter. The problems could also be major, costing several thousand dollars to fix by a licensed contractor.
Each A/C system has many electrical parts in it. These parts range from a transformer to convert 240 volt electrcity down to 24 volt electricity for the thermostat controls, to control boards (large computer chips) and capacitors, which boost power to start fans and compressors. As many of us have learned throughout our lives, and I heard directly from my Grandpa, "The more parts a piece of machinery has, the more ways it has to breakdown." It's absolutely true! The electrical system in an air conditioner can be rather simple or extremely complex, depending on how old a unit is and exactly what it's designed to do. Either way, if something breaks down, it will cost money to get it repaired, and you will be uncomfortable while waiting.
Central air systems have ductwork associated with them. In rural areas, there have been many cases of raccoons getting into an attic and tearing ductwork apart to make nests and bedding. Sometimes, a person tries to navigate through an attic, and steps on ducts running to different parts of the home. The duct can be smashed or pulled away from the unit's plenum. These sorts of things inhibit airflow, and are tough to reach. If you don't know what you're doing, you will be paying big money for these repairs too.
Since air conditioning systems pull condensation from the air, much like a glass of iced tea sitting on the table, they need to have drains. These drains are a great invention. They make sure the condensate is directed outside the home or to an internal drain. Depending on weather conditions though, theses drains are subject to clog. Think to yourself, "What grows best in a wet, warm, dark environment?" Mildew is the answer. This mildew can clog the drain, causing it to back up and drip from wherever the unit is. Late model air conditioning system also have auxiliary drains too. These come into use when the original or primary drain is clogged, but if the original problem isn't fixed in a timely manner, this drain will also eventually become clogged. That's when you have problems! This is just one more thing a contractor will charge a couple hundred bucks to fix.
There are other problems you can run into with an air conditioning system too, but most are easily avoidable with regular maintenance. I'm not one to say you're better off without an air conditioner, but I will tell you to weigh out the cost of annual or semiannual maintenance with the cost of the repairs. It's likely you will end up paying much more for your air conditioner if you try to forget about it and take it for granted. The highest priced repairs are the ones where people let simple problems continue to escalate. For all the pros an air conditioning system has, it definitely has its cons. So think of regular maintenance of your unit like insurance for your car . . . a necessary expense that can save you bundles over time.