Things to consider: age, energy use, repair costs
- Age of your AC unit
AC units’ lifespans are typically between 10 and 15 years. When considering replacing vs. repairing your AC unit, you can consider this a ballpark number, influenced by the amount of wear and tear on the unit and how you have been taking care of it with routine maintenance. If you use your AC unit less than half the year or three months out of the year, or your energy bills are consistent and relatively inexpensive, these are factors in the longevity of your AC unit.
That being said, the older your AC unit is, the less money you’ll want to spend on costly repairs. Replacing evaporator coils, compressors, or condenser fan motors can all cost over a thousand dollars. There comes a time when your unit is simply too old to be replacing parts or making expensive repairs.
- Energy use
If your bill is consistently high, or you notice your system isn’t efficient in cooling your entire home, you may be facing energy use and efficiency issues. An inefficient AC unit provides inconsistent coverage, so that some rooms are too warm and others are cold. When units get older, they are often less efficient and could be costing you more per month while underperforming.
Another energy use issue you might run into is the use of certain refrigerants which are being phased out by the federal government. R-22, also known as freon, is the refrigerant used in older AC units, which was replaced by R-410A, also known as puron. R-410A is now being phased out as well, to be replaced with R-32. The older refrigerants are not only worse for the environment, but they are more expensive and more costly.
When facing the repair vs. replace AC unit dilemma, energy use both in how your unit performs and the costs involved in running the unit may be helpful to consider.
- Repairs are costly & frequent
In tandem with the age factor, the frequency of the repairs you’re making might suggest it’s time to replace your AC unit. If you’ve experienced electrical problems that haven’t been fully resolved, or you’ve had a professional mention oil lubrication issues, refrigerant charge, or too much refrigerant in your unit… you may have problems with bigger ramifications, like ruining the compressor. When you have consistent issues that also might do damage to the most vital parts to your AC unit, it is time to consider replacing.
Other things to think about include the time of year and the severity of the repairs you have been making. When the weather is temperate and you’re able to be without air conditioning, you aren’t necessarily thinking about repairs or replacement. But this is the time of year (link to article about time of year to replace HVAC) you should be thinking of your HVAC system. HVAC professionals are typically less busy during the Fall and Spring months, and you won’t be in a bind if you find yourself with major emergency repairs or a replacement if you’ve thought ahead about the status of your AC unit.
Alarming signs of a struggling AC unit
As we describe in our article “How to know if you may have an HVAC emergency,” odd noises, smells, and air flow are some of the key indicators that your AC unit is having trouble.
The noises you are hearing might mean a loose part within the unit, motor or compressor issues, or a fan or duct blockage. Smells could mean a melted part or an actual fire, mold growing inside your unit, or a dead animal inside your unit or ducts. A lack of air flow could indicate fan, motor, or air filter issues. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell how serious the problem is until an HVAC professional checks it out. If it turns out to be a vital component to the unit, or the damage is extensive, and your unit is old…replacing the whole AC unit might be the best alternative.
Other issues include:
- Lots of dust piling up faster than usual: A good HVAC system that is working properly should prevent quick pile up of dust and debris.
- Increased humidity in the air: One of an AC unit’s main jobs is to get moisture out of the air. If it is not doing this, you may have a serious problem.
- Your bills are increasing or too high: An inefficient unit will cost more to run. Depending on other factors, it may be time to replace.
Although this should go without saying, safety should be your number one priority. Older units put you more at risk of poor air quality or fire hazards from old or worn-out parts. This TIME magazine article mentions the ways an AC unit could possibly be harming you through poor air quality, by making breathing conditions or allergies worse. This is no reason to freak out necessarily — the doctor quoted does admit that there’s no science to show how many people or how badly they are affected by “contaminated AC units.” However, the article does mention, with proper maintenance and attention, an AC unit improves air quality.
All of this is really to say: if your unit is old, finicky, leaky, costing you too much money to fix it and run it… it’s time for a new AC unit. If your unit is so old that you might worry about bad air quality or even a fire hazard, it’s certainly time to consider a new unit.
But, as always…
Exxel Mechanical serves a wide area of central Maryland from our home base in Mount Airy, including Westminster, Owings Mills, Ellicott City, and Frederick. Our reputation in this area precedes us, as we pride ourselves on placing our customers as our highest priority. This means we not only care about saving you money, but we also care about your safety. If you think you have an HVAC emergency, call us immediately and we will send someone out to check on you.
If you think your AC unit needs help or even an entire replacement, we are more than happy to give you our opinion on whether a repair or replacement is in your best interest. Call us today at (443) 821-1040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org