To Repair or to Replace Your AC, That Is the Question
Ah, air conditioning… it’s one of the great features of modern life. AC helps you feel comfortable in your home, prevents your belongings from being damaged by excessive heat, and helps your appliances and various home systems function at their best. In a climate like ours here in Austin, AC is not a luxury – it’s a necessity!
When your AC is working properly, it’s easy to take it for granted. But if your AC gives you trouble… if it isn’t cooling your home enough, if it runs inconsistently, or if it breaks down completely… you’ll not only be physically uncomfortable, you may also find yourself dealing with the financial headache of paying a lot in repair bills.
Every AC unit will eventually need repair, and at some point will need to be replaced. So how do you determine whether yours should be repaired or replaced – and when is it the right time?
How Long Does an AC Unit Last?
An air conditioner has a typical lifespan of around 10-15 years. Think about the work it does: cycling on and off around the clock, running for hours (or even days) at a time in the hottest weather. Even with the highest quality AC unit, once it reaches around 15 years of age, it will inevitably start to break down more often.
In addition to mechanical issues, another factor in the age of your AC unit is its efficiency. Continuous advances in AC technology have greatly improved energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR® recommends upgrading to an energy efficient AC unit if your current one is 10 or more years old. You’ll gain better performance as well as lower energy bills.
Repair vs. Replace
Obviously, when your AC stops working on a hot day, it’s the opposite of what should happen, and you probably need it repaired. An occasional need for AC repair is normal, especially in areas like Austin where we deal with long periods of high temperatures – and particularly if you haven’t had regular maintenance on your AC unit.
But eventually you may reach a decision point. Did you just have your AC unit serviced last year, and it’s broken again? Anything can be repaired, but – just like pouring money into an old car – if your AC unit constantly breaks down, and you keep spending money on frequent repairs, it becomes more financially prudent to replace your old unit with a new one, instead of repairing the old one. Yes, this means a larger upfront cost, but remember; it’s an investment in the comfort and value of your home and will save you money in the long run.
There’s a general formula that can help you determine whether to repair or replace. Multiply the age of your current equipment by the repair cost, and if that exceeds the cost of a new AC unit, then replace the unit. If it’s less, go ahead and repair it. The two formulas look like this:
Repair your unit if: (cost of repair) X (age of old AC unit in years) < (cost of your new AC)
Replace your unit if: (cost of repair) X (age of old AC unit in years) > (cost of your new AC)
If you’re not sure what dollar amount to enter for the cost of a new AC unit, use the “5,000 rule.” According to HomeAdvisor, the typical cost to install AC ranges from $3,800 to $7,500, not including ductwork. You can use $5,000 as an average starting point to make a repair vs. replace decision.
One more thing to consider: if you’re retiring soon, you may want to replace your AC unit instead of repairing it. The last thing you want to do after you’re retired and are living on a fixed income is to have to call for repairs on your old AC each year. If you’re having trouble deciding whether to repair or replace, and you’re getting close to retirement, replacing your old AC unit will give you better performance, efficiency and dependability. You don’t want to suddenly find yourself without AC in the middle of a central Texas heat wave, when you’re trying to relax and enjoy your well-earned golden years.
Signs that Your AC Unit Needs Replacement
Still uncertain whether you need air conditioning replacement? There are several signs that replacement is your best option. You may not even realize that you’ve been living with inferior technology and poor performance, and also spending more than needed on frequent repairs and higher energy bills.
- Outdated hardware: AC technology changes at a fast pace, often resulting in improvements that can help you save money on your energy bills. Many new, energy efficient units also incorporate several “smart” features, such as control from an app on your phone, that make it easy and convenient to customize its operation.
- Cost of repair: Replacing your system is often cheaper than repeatedly repairing it. This can be due to the cumulative cost of frequently servicing an older model, or simply because there is too much wear and tear on your old unit and not a sufficient cost benefit. Also, available discounts on new equipment can make a newer model more affordable and appealing.
- Cost of energy: If you’ve noticed that your energy bills keep rising, but your electric utility company hasn’t raised the rates, it might be due to your old, inefficient AC unit. Replacing it with a new, efficient one can save you substantially on your monthly utility bill.
- Age: As AC systems age, they require additional repairs in order to continue working as intended. As we’ve noted, it’s recommended that homeowners replace their AC units every 10-15 years in order to enjoy the better performance and lower maintenance of newer, higher efficiency models.
Benefits of AC Replacement
In addition to the obvious benefit of a more comfortable home, and less worry about breakdowns or maintenance, you’ll also enjoy other benefits from replacing your old AC system – both immediately and for years to come. They include:
- Manufacturer and utility rebates: Manufacturers often provide generous rebates on newer AC models that provide a perfect incentive for those looking to replace an old unit. This makes new systems much more affordable and cheaper than maintaining the old one. Also, many utilities also offer energy efficiency rebates when you upgrade to more efficient equipment.
- Improved home value: Many homeowners make some improvements to their home over 10-15 years, including adding insulation, repairing your roof, or replacing windows. A new AC unit can also be a great home improvement that adds value (and better comfort) to your home.
- Higher energy efficiency: Newer models are more efficient at cooling your home without using too much power. This is a great way to help the environment while also saving money on your monthly energy bill.
The professionals at Stan’s Heating, Air & Plumbing can help you determine whether to repair or replace your AC unit and guide you on choosing a system that best fits your home and your needs. We pinpoint issues with a 30-point system diagnostic that includes checking system static pressure for efficient airflow, testing the refrigerant circuit to ensure correct refrigerant levels, checking electrical circuits for suitable voltage and ampere draw, and examining the overall installation to make sure it was done without errors.