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Replace or Repair: Find the Most Cost-Effective AC Solution for You

Jun 21.2017 Brian Arlinghaus

Is it more cost effective to replace or repair an air conditioner?Every decade or so, you might be faced with this conundrum: your AC unit needs repair, and you have to decide if you will pay to have it fixed or replace it with a new unit. Your budget and your home comfort hang in the balance as you consider each option, so make sure that you’re making a well-informed decision.

Reasons to Replace Your AC

You might think that there is a clear separation between when your equipment should be repaired and when it should be replaced, but the truth is a bit murkier. A unit that requires repair after repair, racking up hundreds or thousands of dollars in bills obviously needs to be retired, but there are other, less obvious reasons, that you might decide to get a new unit. If your current air conditioner is 10-15 years old, you have probably lost some efficiency that you might not even realize. Anything newer is bound to be better than what you have.

There’s a certain degree of savvy in replacing a unit before it becomes an absolute necessity. Nobody wants to spend a frantic week checking out new air conditioners and waiting on installation while the inside temperature reaches 90 degrees or higher. Even if your system seems to be in perfect working condition, there could be hidden problems. Older air conditioners use R-22 refrigerant which is in the process of being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It’s already difficult to find resources of the old refrigerant when new models now use R-410A refrigerant instead. Within a year or two, you might not be able to find any HVAC technician who can recharge systems using R-22.

Benefits of Replacement

There are many benefits to increasing your energy efficiency, but the first place you will probably notice a difference with a new AC unit is your wallet. It is true that buying a new air conditioner costs money, but you save money at the same time.

At first, you can be happy that you are no longer throwing good money into a system that only has a year or two left anyway. If your repair bills are exceeding 50 percent the cost of a new unit, or you are fixing one component only to see another breakdown, you’ll actually save money in the long run if you buy a new machine.

Efficiency is a big money-saver as well. If your machine was 10 or 15 years old (or older), the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) might be significantly lower than the average models available on the market today. Upgrading this summer might save you as much as 20-40 percent on your cooling costs, depending on the efficiency of the unit you choose. Looking at your utility bill each month and seeing how much energy you have cut for the same level of comfort is a big bonus for your efforts to go green, too.

Reasons to Repair Your AC

Of course, there are some circumstances in which it is to your benefit to consider repairing. A newer air conditioning unit does not need to be replaced for a system using R-410A refrigerant and might not have a SEER rating much lower than current models. You should also keep the long-term cost savings in mind as you consider replacements. If you are planning to move within the next few years, you might not reap the benefits of buying a new unit, either through lower repair costs or energy consumption. If the repairs are minor and your HVAC technician is confident of the solution, you may safely get your AC unit repaired and save money that way.

Making a Decision

At the end of the day, your goal is to make the best choice for your current and future situation. Investing money into a system that will yield long-term economic and home comfort benefits for your family is perfectly sensible. So is waiting to replace when you have a newer unit with minimal repairs and several good years left in the system. Weighing these two sides along with expert advice will help you come to the conclusion that works best for you.

An air conditioner that is older or in need of repair may force you to think about replacement. With this information, you can determine if it is time to replace or stick with your current unit.

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