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Residential HVAC

Home AC: When to Replace & How to Choose

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Last Updated on January 15, 2020


home AC

If your home AC has not been working well, it can be tricky to figure out when to bite the bullet and replace it. In this article, we’ll share some tips for making that decision, as well as information that will help make sure you’ll be happy with your new unit.

Should you repair or replace your home AC? How to decide

When your home AC breaks down, how do you decide whether to repair or replace it? There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to take a chance on a repair, or if you are better off replacing your equipment.

Lifespan and condition. One thing to consider is how close your air conditioner is to its projected lifespan. A good home AC unit is expected to last 15 – 20 years, although it won’t last that long with neglected maintenance and harsh weather. If your home AC unit has not been cleaned recently, dirt and grime can build up and make the machine work harder and wear out quicker. The lifespan of a central air conditioner can also be shortened if it is undersized for the space it is cooling. If your AC’s capacity is too small, it will run constantly to try to keep the space cool, leading to parts wearing out faster.

Cost of repair. There’s a rule of thumb professionals recommend to help you decide whether to repair or replace your AC. If your unit has lasted at least 75 percent of its projected lifespan, and you’re facing a repair that would cost more than one-third of the replacement cost, it’s smart to consider replacement. If your unit is newer than that, and the repair is minor or inexpensive, it may make more sense to repair. That’s why it’s handy to know approximate replacement cost when making your decision.

Availability of parts. For some older models, replacement parts may become harder to find, especially parts used in outdated technology. Keep track of the history of repairs and replacement parts used in your AC. A replacement part may make sense once, but if the same part fails again or becomes more difficult to find, you won’t waste time on a fruitless repair.

Major repairs. When the compressor fails, there are many refrigerant leaks, or other major repairs are needed, it may be time to replace. The compressor is the most expensive broken part to replace in any unit. A broken compressor indicates that there are likely more issues with your home AC. Leaks are a sign that the coils are wearing out, and when one leak occurs it is likely to be followed by more.

Refrigerant. If your home AC was installed before 2010, it is likely cooled with R22 refrigerant, also known as Freon. This chemical has been phased out by federal EPA regulations. As a result, R22 prices have risen dramatically and supply is dwindling, so maintaining a R22 air conditioner will only get more difficult and costly over time. This does make the decision easier: if you’re facing a repair on a pre-2010 central air conditioner, replace it instead with a new model that uses a modern refrigerant.

How to choose the right home AC unit for your needs

When choosing an AC unit for your home, it’s smart to choose a highly rated brand. However, brand is not the only criteria to keep in mind when in the market for a home AC system.

Picking the right type of system for your home will depend on several things: whether or not it will tie in with your building’s existing system (if you’re in a high rise apartment), if you have existing ductwork (for a standalone residence), and where you have space to install the unit.

Get our free guide to learn more about the different types of residential air conditioning systems.

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Air conditioner prices can vary based on extra features and energy efficiency. You should take into consideration the size of your home so you get an air conditioner that best meets your needs. The layout of your ductwork and where you place the unit makes a difference too.

Make sure your installer places the unit where it’s easy to access for regular maintenance, which will help your AC run efficiently and last as long as possible.

Comparing costs for home AC replacement

There are so many things that go into air conditioning installation prices, it can be hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison. Ask your AC installer for a breakdown of their estimate. You’ll want to make sure all the details are spelled out on the contract so you can compare estimates and make the best choice.

There are several things to keep an eye out for when shopping around, starting with the cost of the equipment. Keep in mind that some of the pricier equipment may pay off by lasting longer and saving in energy bills.The price can also be affected by add ons, such as humidifiers and air purifiers.

For the cost of the installation itself, the biggest factor is the complexity of the project. Multiple temperature zones, high tech features, and replacing pipes and ductwork in the walls can all drive up the price of a project.

Quality installation is essential for long-term reliability and comfort

If you do get a replacement, make sure you get the most out of it. Here’s what people don’t know about AC installation: the quality of the installation has more impact on long-term reliability and comfort conditions than anything else (including the brand you choose).

Choosing a quality installer, especially for a high-end home AC model, just makes sense. Installation professionals enter your home and are responsible for some of the most critical and complicated equipment. That’s why you want to choose a company you can trust.

A reliable installation company should be easy to communicate with. They should respond quickly and explain what repairs or maintenance is necessary. They should take your specific situation into account, and be tidy and treat your home with respect. Going with a quality installer makes it less likely that you will have repeated issues and need constant service.

If you are in a unique location, such as a historic residence or luxury building, you should make sure your installers have experience with these buildings and can work with you to get the best design for your home. Whether you’re concerned about your home AC taking up space, making noise, or being unsightly, a quality installation service can help you find the solution you need.

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Ultimately, the decision of whether you should repair or replace your air conditioning system is different in every situation. Take into consideration how much a repair would cost, and get information from a trusted source about how much a replacement would cost. The choice can seem daunting, but with the right information, you can get a home AC system that is right for your home.