It’s a hot summer day and out of nowhere, your air conditioner decides to stop working. It doesn’t take long for panic to set it. Your home’s HVAC system is one of its greatest assets. It keeps you comfortable through the scorching summers and frigid winters. When it’s not working properly, it can create a major disruption to your home and family.
The typical HVAC system also accounts for almost half of your utility bills, so making sure it’s running properly is an important aspect of home ownership. Any time your HVAC unit isn’t working, it creates a huge pain, endless worry, and major inconvenience.
If your system is acting up, and you’re wondering whether it’s time for a simple HVAC repair or a complete replacement system, we’re here to help. We have put together what you need to consider when deciding between a simple repair or a major replacement.
Home Air Conditioning System: Is It Time to Repair or Replace?
How do you know if all you need is a simple repair or a completely new central air system?
There are some significant signs to look for:
1. Age of the AC Unit
The average lifespan of an AC unit is about 10-15 years. If you’re close to that mark, it might not be worth the cost to repair it. If you’re dealing with a system that is 8-9 years old, it might be easier to replace it rather than pay for repairs over the next 4-5 years.
2. Use of Freon
If your air conditioner uses R-22 Freon, you will eventually have to replace it. The government is trying to conserve energy so they are phasing out the R-22 Freon for more efficient options. The new “Freon” is R410A refrigerant. If you’re using Freon, a new unit will be more efficient anyway and save you money on your utility bills.
3. Constant Repairs
Do you keep having to call your HVAC technician to fix your unit? If you have a high frequency of repairs, then it’s probably time to upgrade to a new unit. After so many repair costs, you could have just bought a brand-new system.
4. Repair Costs
There is a simple equation, from All Systems Mechanical, you can use to determine if a repair or replacement is the way to go. It combines the cost of repair with the age of the system. Here’s how it works:
Repair = (Cost of Repair) X (Age of Old AC Unit in Years) < (Cost of Your New AC) Replace = (Cost of Repair) X (Age of Old AC Unit in Years) > (Cost of Your New AC)
5. Cost of energy bills
If your energy bill keeps going up, but your rate remains the same, a replacement is on the horizon.
6. Efficiency of your current system.
If you can’t seem to keep your home at a comfortable temperature regardless of the thermostat, it might be time to look at a replacement. If your current system has a SEER rating of below 13, or if it’s the wrong size for your home, it’s probably time to replace.
How Often Should I Replace My AC Unit?
The average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is roughly 10-15 years. Whether you get the most out of your system depends on your level of care and maintenance. When cared for properly, you could get a solid 15 or sometimes even 20 years out of your system. However, once you’ve hit the 12-year mark, you should probably start thinking about a replacement
How Much Does A New AC Unit Cost?
The average cost of a new air conditioner will run you somewhere between $3,000 to $7,500. This will obviously fluctuate depending on the amount of existing ductwork, size of your house, and where you live.
Signs Your AC Unit Needs a Repair
Just because your air conditioner is not running at 100% doesn’t always mean you have to replace it. In fact, in most cases it can be repaired rather than replaced. Especially if your system is still under warranty, repairs are the way to go. Here are a few signs to look for that your AC unit may need a technician repair:
- Blowing hot air– this may be a compressor or refrigerant issue. Both issues are fairly simple and inexpensive to fix.
- Moisture or leakage around your system– This could be a minor drainage issue, or a refrigerant leak, which could be more serious. Either way, it’s worth addressing quickly to avoid further problems.
- Uncommon sounds– If you suddenly hear a grinding, squealing, or loud sounds from your unit, it’s worth giving a technician a call.
- Unusual smells– This is usually a sign that a wire is burned and needs to be replaced. Musty smells may indicate mold, which also needs to be remedied.
- Humidity in your home– If your space is more humid than usual, it’s a good indicator your air conditioner needs to be looked at.
These are all valid concerns, but are typically signs of normal issues that can be easily repaired without replacing the entire unit.
Home Heating System: Is It Time to Repair or Replace?
It’s the dead of winter and all of the sudden, you wake up to a house that feels like an ice box. What happened to your heat?! After you finish putting on everything you own and try to stay warm, here are some things to look for that point to a furnace replacement.
1. Safety is a concern
If you have any safety concerns about your current heating unit, that’s an obvious reason to replace it. Go with your gut on this one. Don’t risk carbon monoxide poisoning or other dangers in order to save money on your furnace.
2. Your furnace is getting old
Typically, a furnace will last 15 to 20 years. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule. You may have a unit that is only eight years old, but needs to be replaced. Other units can head into year 20 running strong. Generally, the difference is the quality of product and maintenance history.
3. You’re cold.
If your furnace is not very efficient, it will work hard to heat your home resulting in high energy bills and still a cold house. If some of the rooms in your house are not being heated to the desired temperature, then it’s probably time to upgrade to a newer furnace that can effectively and efficiently heat your entire house.
4. Higher frequency and cost of repairs
If you are having to call for frequent repairs, then that is a good sign your furnace is nearing the end of its life. A good rule of thumb is, no matter the age of the furnace, if the cost to repair is 50% of the cost of a new furnace, you should replace it.
5. Higher than usual bills
Even if the unit itself is working OK, if your energy bill keeps increasing but your rate stays the same, it is time to investigate and consider a furnace replacement. Newer units are simply more efficient and can save you money in the long run.
How often should I replace my heating unit?
With some love and attention, your furnace can last 20 years or more. However, once it hits that 15-year mark, it is a good idea to give it a good once-over to see if the best option is to replace it. Sometimes a newer model can be more efficient and more cost effective, even if the old one is still in working condition.
How much does a new furnace cost?
A new furnace will run you about $2,000 to $5,000. This cost will differ based on brand, size of your house, and what climate you live in.
Signs that your furnace needs a repair:
- Odd smell -Typically, furnaces smell like the fuel they use. However, if that smell doesn’t dissipate within a few minutes, or if it gets stronger, you may have a furnace problem.
- Trouble starting– Your unit should turn on when it is signaled to do so and stay on until your home reaches the desired temperatures. If you’re having to turn it on or restart it frequently, it’s time to call a technician.
- Discolored pilot light – A healthy pilot light is typically blue. If yours isn’t, you may have a ventilation problem. If your pilot light is yellow, this could be an indication of a carbon monoxide issue and you need to get that addressed immediately.
- Trouble keeping your house warm –The job of the furnace is to keep the house warm. If it’s not doing its job, that’s a problem. You should have a comfortable level of heat throughout your home.
- Unusual noises – Squeaking or whistling from your furnace may be a simple belt or fan issues, but can also be an indicator of something more serious. Best to get any unusual noises checked out as soon as possible.
- CO2 detector goes off- All gas-powered furnaces should have a CO2 monitor to detect the presence of this toxic gas. If it goes off, turn off the unit immediately, open the windows, and consult your HVAC contractor.
Benefits of Replacing My HVAC System
Buying a new HVAC system can be a stressful (and expensive) process. However, by taking care of the biggest energy hog in your home, you are benefiting yourself, your family, and your home.
- Better home comfort: Today’s systems are designed to produce more even results throughout your home to maintain a constant comfortable temperature.
- Better air flow: Increased air flow throughout your home creates a natural air filter which provides healthier and more comfortable air in each room.
- Reduced noise: Enjoy a tranquil and comfortable environment without the whistling and banging of an outdated system.
- Better for the environment: High-efficiency systems use up to one-third less fuel than older models, which means they help conserve more of our natural resources.
- More options: Today’s systems have programmable thermostats, climate control, geothermal technology, and even smart-home panels to give you the most advanced options for your home. This can even increase the resale value of your home.
- Tax credit: Taxpayers who upgrade their homes to make use of renewable energy may be eligible for a tax credit to offset some of the costs. In some states, you can claim a credit that is equal to 30% of the cost, including installation.
Heating and Cooling Repair or Replace Recap
Most repairs to your heating or cooling system can be a few hundred dollars, whereas a replacement is typically in the thousands. When you’re trying to decide between a simple repair or a major replacement, it’s important to take into consideration the age, safety, repair costs and efficiently of your current HVAC system.
It’s not worth spending money into endless repairs if you can save money in the long run with a newer and more efficient system. Use these simple tips and tricks to determine whether or not it’s time for a repair or a replacement of your furnace or air conditioning.