Here in California, our milder winters make this the season for major HVAC/R projects. Fall maintenances are complete and those “found on PM” repairs have finally been wrapped up. California contractors will be ready to take on more jobs come January. So if you’ve received a replacement recommendation for one of your air conditioners, it’s time to pull out those old quotes again. But how can you really be sure you need a new air conditioner? By evaluating the age, condition, and overall cost of future and past repairs.
A new air conditioner is expensive. You pay for the equipment, the parts, the labor to install it. The crane lift costs need to be covered, and the permits for the city need to be submitted. But a new unit is more than just an expense. It’s an investment. And any investment should be backed up by a solid understanding of why it’s needed. When deciding on unit replacement, you should consider:
- The extent of the current recommended repairs.
- The age of your existing equipment.
- Long term repair costs, past and present.
- The efficiency value of your unit versus a new system.
Deficient or Down?
So just how serious is the condition of your old air conditioner? If your budget is tight, fixing your existing units may seem like the best choice. But high cost repairs lower the value of that option. Any of the following issues can be considered “major” repairs:
- Major components failures, such as compressors or fan motors.
- Multiple refrigerant leaks.
- Cracked heat exchangers.
- Burnt control boards.
- Rusted out compartments.
A single major repair may not be enough to warrant replacement. Aging units, however, can often experience multiple failures at once, or even suffer a cascading set of malfunctions. A failed condenser fan motor, for example, can cause a compressor to overheat and potentially fail due to lack of airflow. Unattended refrigerant leaks can also damage a compressor.
How Old is Too Old?
Age should be a major decision factor in your choice to fix or replace your A/C. A 7 year old air conditioner with a failed compressor and a shorted-out fan motor still retains its value after making repairs. But at around 10 to 15 years, the chances of equipment failure increases. Parts wear down and the cost to source them rises with time.
The value of an older unit should be weighed against past and potential future repairs as well. If your 16 year old system has half the cost of a new unit invested in repairs already, consider a close look at what’s been done to it. A history of refrigerant leak repairs and compressor failures could indicate more upcoming costs if the leaks are in the refrigerant coils. Would the cost of a coil replacement, added to previous work, be worth it over investing in a new system?
Efficiency and Comfort
Not every unit replacement is a response to some catastrophic equipment failure. Here at RESSAC, our technicians will report on any systems that may need replacing, even if they’re functional. But why swap it out if it’s working? Poor condition is usually the culprit. Rusting out case bottoms and coils are frequently noted as cause for replacement recommendations. Deteriorated coils reduce unit efficiency too, lowering your equipment’s capacity to cool or heat in extreme weather. This forces the unit to work harder, stressing the old components even more and using more energy. An old unit uses 30-50% more energy than the best new A/Cs today.
If you still aren’t sure whether it’s time to consider replacement, then it’s time to have a conversation with your HVAC contractor. As always, our Customer Support staff here at RESSAC are happy to answer any questions. Give us a call at 800-273-7710.