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Replace vs. Repair: When Is It Time to Replace Your AC?

October 10, 2016

Important Factors To Consider

If your air conditioning system suddenly fails, you have an important decision to make. Do you look for a dependable company to repair your existing unit, or do you invest in a new, upgraded solution?

Many of the small issues that arise with AC units can be quickly, and inexpensively repaired — enabling you to get a longer life out of your current unit. If your system has had a significant breakdown, or simply isn’t performing as well as it used to, you might benefit more from replacing it. Updating to a system that uses new refrigerant substances will lessen your negative footprint on the ozone layer; and innovative units allow you to use half of the energy you might use with an older model.

When you’re debating whether to repair or replace, there are three important factors to consider: life expectancy, energy efficiency, and the unit condition.

Evaluate the Life Expectancy of Your Current Unit

Perhaps the most common reason to choose replacement over AC repair is that the current unit is old, and no longer functioning at its best. While regular maintenance can keep an air conditioner running for 15 to 20 years, you may start finding problems with ongoing maintenance when the unit hits the ten-year mark. As a unit ages, it becomes more complicated — and expensive — to repair, because older parts are more difficult to find, and long-term problems require a great deal of ongoing maintenance.

Making the decision to replace an old, worn air conditioner not only saves you money on repairs; a newer model can also provide increased energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, and improved indoor air quality. Carefully consider how long you can reasonably expect your current AC unit to perform at its best — if your unit is over ten years old, and requiring increasingly more maintenance, it may be time for your system to retire.

Consider Your Energy Efficiency Levels

Upgrading to a new AC unit offers the opportunity to access a more energy-efficient temperature-control solution. After all, even if you pay the price to completely restore an aging unit, at best you can only achieve the same efficiency the machine produced when it was manufactured. Thanks to increasing energy standards imposed by the government, newer air conditioning units are much more efficient — benefitting both your wallet, and the environment.

AC units are rated according to a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER value. The more your AC equipment can do with a single unit of energy, the higher its SEER rating will be. In other words, a high SEER rating suggests that you can consume less energy for the same level of cooling. Energy star recommends upgrading any AC unit that is more than ten years old, as the government imposed a new requirement in 2006, demanding all units to be at least SEER-13.

If you need help assessing the efficiency of your current model, you can take the EPA home assessment test to determine whether your AC unit is using energy efficiently, or hiking up your energy bills.

Recognize When Your Unit is Approaching Failure

Once you’ve assessed the energy-efficiency and life-expectancy of your AC model, your last step is to evaluate the current condition of your unit. Think about the number of breakdowns you’ve experienced in the last year, and how much time you devote to maintenance. There are a number of important warning signs that can indicate your air conditioner is on its last legs:

Inconsistent Temperatures
If the AC unit cannot maintain consistent temperatures, it’s not doing its job. This may just mean you need to inspect the valves, filters, condensation drains, and coils for obstructions — but, it could also be a sign that your unit can no longer perform at optimal level.

Noisy Operation
Most fully-functional AC units can operate almost silently. If your machine is ticking, buzzing, or rattling, this could indicate serious problems with the internal mechanisms.

Excessive Dust
If dust seems to settle across your home, despite your efforts to clean regularly, it may be a sign that your AC has malfunctioning ducts.

If your home is plagued by constant humidity problems, this could indicate that the AC unit is no longer working properly — a good model should control air quality, as well as temperature.

Health Concerns
If people in the property complain of nausea, headaches, or burning sensations in their eyes, this could be a sign that something is wrong with the AC unit.

Know When to Replace your AC

It’s often tempting to call the repairman, rather than spend the time and effort to replace your entire air conditioning system — if the issues are small, and the unit is young, this is usually a good call. When the issues are costly, the model is outdated, or you’re facing constant repairs, it’s ultimately going to be more cost-efficient — and more beneficial in the long run — to replace your AC unit. Pro tip: you may want to consider replacing your heating system at the same time as your AC unit; as connecting an older furnace to a new, efficient AC may prevent it from performing at optimum level.

About The Author

Bob Jenson

For over 45 years, Bob Jenson has been providing quality heating and air services to the San Diego community.

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