Ahh. The age-old question most homeowners face when looking at a repair issue with their heating or air conditioner system is- should I repair or replace my air conditioner? You may be thinking of moving out if the repair bill ends up being too high… But we all know we want the repair behind us and get on with our lives. So, how do you decide if you should repair or replace your air conditioner?

The last thing you want is a bad decision on your hands with this type of investment. And there are so many variables to consider with varying opinions. Some companies are saying you should replace your air conditioner if your system needs the older R22 refrigerant because it’s too difficult to get a hold of.

Also, you may be confident in your decision to replace your air conditioner but maybe you are wondering when the best time to do the work is. After all, you can get a better deal during the contractor’s slow months, right? They are probably slashing prices to keep their installers busy… We’ll cover that a bit further below in the article.

Each situation stands on its own and many factors need to be taken into account to help with your question- Should I repair or replace my air conditioner?

Use our following guidelines:

Energy Efficiency.

Oftentimes heating and air conditioner systems that are more than 10 years are outdated in terms of efficiency. 10 SEER and 78% AFUE for your furnace mean your system is at the bare minimum operating efficiencies. And only so much work can bring your system back to normal, but it’s still costing more on your utility bills. A helpful tool for determining how much you can save can be found here. You simply plug in your factors such as utility rate costs and size of equipment and location of your home.

Air Conditioner Age.

If your system is older than 10 years old it may be time to fork over your cold cash for some cool savings. However, when was the last time we were replaced simply because we were old and aging? Dear! That would be horrible! There are more factors than just age but this can be a good guide to whether you should start considering something new or not.

In most cases, you find the age of your air conditioner with an inspection sticker located on the front or side of the equipment. If that isn’t the case, you can always call your local building department and find out when a mechanical inspection was last requested for your property. Most of the time our technicians can locate the age simply off of the serial number on your air conditioner. The first 4 digits of the serial number usually represent the year and week or the week and the year, depending on the manufacturer.

Cost of Repairs.

This is generally the main factor when looking for something new. We recommend a new furnace and new air conditioner if the repair is more than $800. But, if the system is only 6 years old, $800 doesn’t seem that bad of an investment to squeeze a few more years of life out of your system.

So, we recommend looking at both the age and the cost of the repair. If your system is more than 10 years old AND will cost more than $800 to repair you should take a serious look at replacing your equipment. Also, if repairs continue to add up over the years of ownership, take this into account. $200 here and $600 next year can add up.

We have also heard of the 50 Percent Rule:

When the cost of repairs approaches 50% of the value of your heating or cooling system, it’s generally time to replace the system. The only disadvantage to this rule is how in the world do you figure out the “value of your heating or cooling system”?? Good luck. And, if someone is trying to put a price tag on your aging system, better tell them to get packing’! While it is a good rule of thumb to help answer whether should I repair or replace my air conditioner, it isn’t taking all of the factors into account.

Another great rule is the $5000 Rule:

Take the needed repairs and multiply by the age of your air conditioning system. If this is more than $5000 then it’s time to look at a new system. Some of the most affordable heating and air conditioning systems start at around $5,000. But don’t keel over dead when you start seeing prices closer to $15,000. The base models often comprise many factors that are important to consider if worth the extra investments or not for your particular needs.

Throwing good many after bad is never a wise decision but sometimes financial situations call for a temporary repair. Don’t be afraid to consider all of your options.

Benefits of Replacing Your HVAC System

Improved Indoor Air Quality.

New equipment provides you the opportunity to look at enhancing the comfort of your home with other products like increased air filtration efficiency or zoning. Less dust can even be noticed when replacing your air conditioner.

New Warranties.

New equipment means 10-year warranties with many manufacturers. This can provide peace of mind for many years to come. Extended warranties that cover labor can also provide additional protection and peace of mind.

Peace of Mind.

That’s right. No more having to worry about your system quitting when you have family expected to come over on July 4th! Even worse- waking up to a cold house on Christmas morning. A new furnace and air conditioner do provide peace of mind with worry-free operation for many years to come.

In many cases, your original air conditioner and gas furnace were installed as a matched set. When one needs to be replaced it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace both, but it’s a good time to start thinking about your options. You might consider upgrading to a heat pump system or a dual fuel system which can reduce energy costs during the spring and fall heating seasons.

If you call a contractor to come out and evaluate your options for repair or replacement, it’s a good time to ask about long-term solutions in addition to the quick fix. A qualified contractor should be able to tell you about the usable life remaining in your system. They can also provide you with several recommendations for short, mid, and long-term solutions based on your needs and preferences. It’s also a good idea to ask about scheduled maintenance solutions. Preventative maintenance can help your air conditioning system to last as long as possible. And fewer breakdowns. Isn’t that cool?

Ok, my air conditioner needs to be replaced. But is there a more ideal time to complete all the work?
As we touched on earlier in the article- may be contractors are discounting their prices during the slower months to keep their installers busy. Some do and some don’t. At Access Heating & Air Conditioning we make sure to offer the best possible solutions and best pricing year-round to ensure everyone wins no matter when the work needs to get done. If you are feeling like shady business is going on, consider getting an additional opinion on the diagnostics and the recommended repairs.

Does this decision fit into your budget currently? If you are utilizing monthly financing, consider this payment in your monthly bills and budget. If your finances won’t take a hit, the next thing to look at is completing the work in a timely and uninterrupted fashion. The last thing you would want is to be down with no air conditioning overnight while waiting for a part to come in or for something to get ordered.

Our install and sales team utilize cutting-edge software to rebuild the entire job while offsite to foresee and plan for any potential problems. This ensures that our work will be completed when we say it will be. Now you can tell your company and boss for sure when you will be back! Talk about service!

The NEWS thought it would be interesting to ask readers about the oldest air conditioning and heat pump systems they’re currently maintaining. The answers were surprising, but not entirely unexpected, given that almost everyone who responded said they were being asked to repair far more often than replace, given the poor economy.

On the commercial side, Will Reyna, owner, of Four Seasons Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration, Killeen, Texas, said he’s currently maintaining a system from 1968 in an apartment complex, while Steve Russell, service manager, of Shoemaker Air Conditioning, Tulsa, Okla., said he is servicing commercial systems that are over 46 years old.

Bill Mihalovich, president, of Air Repair Mechanical Services, Newark, Ohio, said on the residential side, he’s maintaining a 1972 Lennox heat pump with a two-transformer system and 30-kW electric heat. “I am finding a lot of customers, both new and existing, want to fix older systems rather than replace them.” While repairs work most of the time, Mihalovich did have his hands tied with one customer who was already going on the third compressor after the prior one blew out the terminal. The customer was still reluctant to upgrade to a new higher-efficiency unit, due to the economy and job losses in Ohio, he noted.

Many others who responded to the survey added that they are maintaining residential heat pumps and air conditioning systems that are two to three decades old. Bucking this trend is David Hutchins, president/owner, of Bay Area A/C and Appliance, Crystal River, Fla., who said his replacement sales are up, even though he regularly services systems that are over 20 years old. “Usually, it’s because of the wait time for an indoor or outdoor coil to be ordered,” he said. “In many cases, customers won’t wait weeks for a part.”

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Additional Things Worth Consideration

With all this information, where can you go wrong?? Well, there are still many factors to consider. Such as the overall general condition of the system. Some systems we go out on that are 20 years old have been maintained well enough and are still running strong. While other systems we see are less than 10 years yet are trashed and have not been maintained and look more like 30 years old. A trained and competent technician can help out in these instances. Knowing what to look for, in addition to the above tips is critical. Seeing an air conditioner that is less than 10 years old doesn’t mean it isn’t leaking freon for instance.

The quality of the installation can also be observed by one of our highly trained technicians. Undersized ductwork can have a tremendously negative impact on the operation of your air conditioner and furnace. Asking the question- “should I repair or replace my air conditioner?” is better left to a professional when you are in doubt and would like more information.

Every system is different, and it can be hard to provide a black-and-white answer to this tough question. Feel free to call us at 208-231-8456 and we would be more than happy to assist you with your questions! Don’t worry about asking- should I repair or replace my air conditioner again, let our experts take care of the hassle for you and provide you with real information you can do something with!

Next time you find yourself asking yourself – should I repair or replace my air conditioner, turn to our trained technicians to help you navigate this big decision.


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