Is It Time to Replace or Repair My HVAC?

Should I repair or replace my HVAC? It’s a common question — and you need to weigh several factors to make the decision. One of the most significant factors is the lifespan of your unit. According to EnergyStar — a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program — an A.C. unit lasts about 15 to 20 years. On average, a heat pump perseveres for 16 years and a furnace functions for between 15 to 20 years, reports This Old House.

Ventilation, air conditioning and heating systems require regular maintenance for them to work efficiently. You’ll likely need tune-ups and repairs for them at some point during their lifespan. However, no matter how much preventative maintenance you put into your HVAC system, there comes a time when repairs aren’t enough anymore and it’s time for a replacement.

A full AC or heating system replacement can be costly. Therefore, you’ll want to consider if your old system is on its last breath before having it replaced. In many circumstances, you can have your AC system or furnace repaired to enable it to run effectively.

Now, while you can repair your unit, much like continually spending money to repair an older car, it may be better to get a new one at some point. Here at Ready & Able, Inc., we’ve put together this guide to help you make that decision when the time comes.

Repairing vs. Replacing Your Home Heating System

Eventually, every homeowner experiences a malfunction in their heating unit. It’s a cold morning and you hike the thermostat up like you usually do to take the chill off, but you get no response. You don’t hear the system firing up or feel the radiators or air vents producing any heat. You hope it’s just a quick fix, like a clogged filter or a tripped circuit breaker. On the other hand, you might be wondering if it’s more cost-effective to just have the unit replaced.

Below are some considerations to take in your “replace or repair my HVAC” dilemma:

1. Safety

Your primary consideration most likely revolves around safety. If your heating system is presenting a safety hazard, then it should be common sense to replace it, particularly if the repair is going to be costly and temporary.

If you have a cracked heat exchanger on your furnace, for instance, it could lead to a poisonous carbon monoxide leak that could make its way into the air in your home and be potentially fatal. This is not a risk you want to take.

But things like stuck valves or faulty wiring may just need a simple repair. Still, you’ll want to do a cost-benefit analysis and work with your Harrisburg HVAC company to arrive at the best decision.

2. Lifespan

Next, consider the age of your unit. Remember, as we mentioned earlier, that the average life of a furnace is around 15 to 20 years. In some cases, during the installation process, your licensed and trained technician will write down the installation date right on the unit. If not, you can check inside the chamber door for a metal identification plate containing the serial and model numbers. You can then call the customer service line of the manufacturer and ask for the manufacture date of the unit.

If your unit is more than 20 years old, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to discard it. The published HVAC life expectancy dates are just averages, meaning half of all units burn out by this date while the other half still work efficiently. So, while these numbers are the averages, they’re not set in stone.

Other factors can impact your HVAC system longevity. For instance, if you spent three winter months each year for the last ten years down south and your furnace didn’t get the same workout it would have if you lived in your home throughout the bitter cold winter months, your system will likely last longer than its average expected lifespan.

3. Heating Effectiveness

If your heating system is not running efficiently, it will not heat your home effectively. A good sign you have an inefficient heater is if you notice some rooms in your house aren’t heating to the temperature you set. Older systems could have difficulty heating your entire household, and you’ll know this if you notice some rooms are warmer than others.

Other things to take into consideration are:

  • Compare replacement and repair costs: A new boiler or furnace is a substantial investment, but repair costs can also become costly as well. Not to mention, there’s always the possibility of the same issue occurring again or the need for more work in the future. You may want to replace your heating system if the repairs exceed half of the replacement costs.
  • Consider manufacturer rebates and tax incentives: Current manufacturer rebates and tax incentives for energy-efficient heating units may save enough money on newer equipment.

Repairing vs. Replacing Your Home Cooling System

A lot has changed when it comes to air conditioning systems, including improvements in technology and changes in government environmental regulations. If your unit breaks down entirely or isn’t providing the same amount of cool air as it used to, it could be worth the investment of getting a replacement instead of more repairs.

These are a few of the factors you can consider when deciding to repair or replace your home cooling system:

1. Age of the Unit

Again, like with home heating, consider the age of your air conditioner. When it comes time to make the decision to either repair or replace your AC unit, age is an important factor. EnergyStar recommends replacing your AC unit every 10 to 15 years.

If you have an eight-year-old or older air conditioning system, it may not be worth the cost to repair it unless the repair is an easy fix, like a worn fan belt or a clogged condenser unit. Still, you’ll want to consult with your experienced HVAC technician to take a look at your AC unit and the ducts delivering your cool air.

2. Use of R-22 Freon

The federal government is phasing out Freon to conserve energy across the nation. Because of this, Freon costs are increasing significantly. If your AC unit uses Freon, eventually you’ll need to replace it to make the switch to the new R410A refrigerant. It’s most likely a good time to consider a replacement if your unit is breaking down or has problems associated with needing more Freon.

Also, manufacturers now are required to use a non-ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant. And remember — a new unit could do a way better job of keeping you comfortable and cool using less than half of your older unit’s electricity usage.

3. Breakdown Frequency

Do you feel like your AC system is continually breaking down? Have you found yourself repeatedly calling in HVAC technicians to repair yet another issue with your system? If so, over time, ongoing repairs can add up — and that means continually performing them on an older unit just doesn’t make sense.

Investing in a newer unit can not only save you the headaches of frequent visits from an HVAC technician, but it will save you money in the long run, too.

4. Repair Costs

If you can’t make up your mind about whether you should repair or replace your current unit and it’s over the age of 10, buying a new unit might very well be a better investment. AC units will no doubt need repairs every once in a while. However, if your system continuously requires repairs, these can eventually cost more than installing a new unit, making investing in a new unit the wiser choice.

Five Signs That Indicate It’s Time to Replace Your HVAC System

Besides evaluating and weighing the above factors in deciding whether to repair or replace your HVAC system, take a look at these five signs which could indicate a replacement is in order:

1. You’re Seeing More Dust Accumulating in Your Home

Your HVAC unit not only cools and heats your home, but also provides ventilation. When your system runs efficiently, it improves the air quality in your home by eliminating things like:

  • Dust
  • Debris
  • Dirt
  • Dander

It also keeps the humidity in your home under control. If you begin noticing more dust accumulating in your home and higher humidity levels than you previously experienced, it could indicate your AC unit isn’t efficient enough and may need a replacement.

2. You’re Hearing Strange Noises

A well-maintained AC unit and furnace should run fairly quietly. As your system starts getting older, you may begin hearing strange sounds like squealing or grinding. You’ll want to have your technician come in and inspect your unit if you start hearing unusual sounds.

3. You’re Smelling Unusual Odors

The same goes for unusual smells. While an odd smell coming from your AC unit could just be dust burning off, it could also be things like mold in your ducts or wiring melting. It could also be something even worse. You need a proper inspection to determine if it’s time to replace your system.

4. Your Energy Bills Continue to Increase

Although you’ll experience energy cost changes during different seasons, overall, your bill should be relatively similar each month during off-season times. An energy bill continuing to increase is a common indication your system needs servicing or replacing.

The efficiency of your unit eventually declines with age, which makes it essential to have it serviced regularly — at least once a year. Your AC unit’s lifespan will increase with regular maintenance and continue to run efficiently. However, as it gets older, you might need to replace it.

5. You Feel Uncomfortable in Your Home

If you’re finding it difficult to keep your home cool or warm, it could mean a couple of things:

  1. You have an incorrectly sized unit or an improperly functioning unit.
  2. It may be a sign of aging.

Either way, you want your HVAC unit to do what it’s supposed to. If it’s not going to cool down your home or warm it when you need it to, you may want to consider a replacement. Older HVAC systems, as they age, naturally begin to struggle to maintain a consistent temperature in your home. This could be due to numerous issues like:

  • An inaccurate thermostat
  • A damaged thermostat
  • Clogged filters
  • Motor damage
  • Cracked ducts
  • Low fluid levels

Inconsistencies in temperature usually mean your AC unit isn’t powerful enough anymore to cool your home or you have improperly-installed ductwork. Regardless, if you decide to keep your AC system to save money, you’ll only end up living in an uncomfortable home environment. You’ll also continue to see your energy bill grow.

A Word on Air Leaks

Before investing in a new HVAC unit, you may want to check your home and HVAC unit for expensive air leaks. An air leak could be what’s causing the issue with your HVAC system and will likely be less costly than replacing it.

Also, have an energy-efficiency professional come to your home and perform an energy assessment. This assessment could be either conducting a walk-through of your home with a clipboard or performing a thorough audit, pressurizing your home with a blower-door test to detect energy leaks. You may qualify for state discounts or rebates to have insulation installed in your home. Some utility companies also subsidize the cost of these energy efficiency assessments.

Since sealing leaks and insulating your house properly will help your HVAC system operate more efficiently, you might find you don’t need a replacement yet. However, if you do get a new unit, it can be sized accurately to help it run more efficiently, saving you a lot of money on upfront expenses and future energy bills.

Repair vs. Replace Recap Checklist

Knowing when to simply repair your HVAC unit or get a full replacement can be difficult. To make things a little easier for you, we’ve included this recap checklist to help you determine when it’s absolutely, without a doubt, time to replace your HVAC and not just repair it:

  1. Check the age of your HVAC: If it’s older than 20 years, it’s likely time to replace.
  2. Check the safety of your HVAC: If it’s leaking poisonous carbon monoxide, it’s time to replace.
  3. Consider the repair costs: Are you paying more than 50 percent of the cost of a replacement during a repair? If so, it’s likely time to replace.
  4. Check the efficiency of your HVAC: Is your energy bill getting ridiculous even with regular maintenance? If so, it’s likely time to replace.
  5. Consider the frequency of repairs: Does it seem you are making repairs to your HVAC system every month? If so, it’s likely time to replace.

If you’re wondering if your HVAC system needs replacing, a cost-benefit analysis can help you decide if making repairs to your old unit is as economical as simply having the unit replaced entirely.

Get Advice From an HVAC Expert: Contact Ready & Able, Inc.

It can be hard to make the decision to replace or repair your AC unit. However, in many cases, homeowners call in HVAC professionals to check their units and provide a second opinion. A technician can tell you if there’s plenty of life left in your old air conditioning unit or that it’s time to let it go and get a new one. Your HVAC technician may check out your home’s insulation quality, too. You could increase your system’s effectiveness by improving the insulation.

If you start noticing any of these signs above or other “odd” things going on with your HVAC system, contact Ready & Able to repair or replace your HVAC. We are local experts who provide quality service. We have a team of professional and experienced technicians to help guide you through the decision process and we regularly feature special prices on tune-ups for home heating and cooling equipment.

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