repair v replacing ac unit

The decision to repair or replace your AC unit can be a bit of a stress-inducing conundrum.  As a savvy consumer, you don’t want to throw something away before it is truly time to do so, as this is expensive and wasteful.  The other side of the coin is what mom used to tell us and that is “don’t throw good money after bad.”    Essentially if you sink big money into a repair here and then a repair there, when all indicators the life of the unit is over, you’re better off just to get the new unit in the first place as this will save money.  Making the right decision about the fate of your current air conditioner means taking some of the emotion out of it and approaching the situation as you would to make a sound business decision.

Here are a couple points of reference we’d like to bring to your attention.

First step.  Require a full diagnostic from a trusted, licensed HVAC professional

When making an important business decision, you often consult with a professional to seek opinion and guidance.  Consult with a real HVAC residential professional when the time has come to make a decision about your AC unit.  You know the guy that uncle Harvey told you to use that drives the 1988 beater panel van?  Yeah, don’t use that guy.  Have a fully licensed, reputable HVAC company come to your home and diagnose your system.  After a thorough inspection, the technician should be able to show you manufacturer specifications of the major components of your AC unit against your system’s actual measurements.   Both how many components are out of specification, and how far these components are out of specification will largely inform your decision.  This professional should be more than willing to answer all of your questions and to even show you areas of concern.  Following that, your HVAC professional will be able to tell you what costs you may have on the horizon and how soon those costs may be incurred.   Options for repair versus replace will generally be discussed at that time.   Always remember that your HVAC pro can give you the information, but it is up to you what you ultimately decide to do moving forward.

Is the unit <10 years of age?

Why is 10 years important?  Generally speaking,  many units have a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty on major components.  Determine if there is any warranty on the components on your system.  By the way, some higher-end units have more than 10 years warrantied on major components.   If the component that has failed or is failing is still under warranty, you will want to understand the benefit of that at repair time.   In those cases where warranties exist, it is certainly likely that repairing the system makes sense and is the best decision- especially if the unit is much less than 10 years old.  An important note:  just because the part is under warranty, it does not mean you won’t get a bill for the repair itself as the services to repair or replace the part is most usually not going to be under warranty on these units.  You, the homeowner, are ultimately responsible for understanding your warranty coverage(s) and doing so can save you money and help with your decision at repair or replace decision time.

Is the unit 15 years or older?

As a savvy business-minded person you know all mechanical systems have an economic life.  Airplanes, automobiles, washing machines & ten-key adding machines all have an economic life.  Just like these mechanical systems, your HVAC equipment has a day for when the “bell tolls” (thank you Hemingway!),  if you have received 15 years of service from your AC unit then you should congratulate yourself because you are on the upper end of that appliances economic life.   If costly repairs present themselves at this threshold point, then you should very seriously plan to replace.  To do otherwise is to spend money on a unit that will most certainly need replaced very soon anyway.  This gets back to sending good money after bad.

Does your system run on R-22 refrigerant?

Many older systems utilize a gas called R22 as a refrigerant.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes R22 refrigerant is bad for the environment and so R22 is being phased out altogether. Because of this governmental mandate, R22 is now very, very expensive.  It will only get more expensive in the future as it becomes scarcer.  If your older system has a refrigerant leak, then repressurizing the system with R22 will be expensive now, but impossible later.  If your older system is using R22 refrigerant the Repair v. Replace decision becomes clearer cut because of the EPA phase-out.  While every situation is different, if your R22 system has multiple component failures today, or forecasted for the near future (because components are seriously out of manufacturer’s specification), we recommend replacement.

Replace if you have unacceptable energy costs

A good business person is always looking for ways to cut the expense side of the balance sheet.  It may be that your older unit functions just fine, but your energy bills are “out of control” or even unaffordable.   You should know that replacing that energy hog with a new high-tech, the high-efficiency unit has the very real potential of not only making your home more comfortable in the summer months, but also doing so at a net monthly savings over paying that outrageous power bill.   In other words the money you save in energy costs can make your payment on the new AC unit and, in some instances, even put into your pocket every month!  Again, consult your licensed HVAC professional, but switching out your old system for a new high-efficiency system, even when financing is considered, may actually pay you in return.  This makes great business sense!

 Replace your AC if your home is chronically uncomfortable

An experienced business person knows where to look for waste and needless redundancy.  Does your AC run constantly day and night in the summer?  Are you running a central air conditioner system and adding a window unit(s) just to keep the sweat off?  Don’t put up with it!  Chances are your current AC unit is not up to the job.  Your call, of course, but we believe that in addition to a comforting case, an economic case can be made for upgrading to a new high-efficiency AC unit.  A system that is running full-force around the clock is almost always using excessive amounts of electricity and that cost you a lot of money.  A central air conditioning unit that requires you to add additional window units in the home means you are burning through an awful lot of energy and cash.  Again, have your HVAC professional perform a home energy audit, but plan to be amazed at the additional comfort and cost savings a new, properly functioning, the properly sized unit can add to your home and wallet.

  Netting out the Repair V. Replace equation

If you have been in the situation where you had to decide between repairing or replacing your air conditioning unit (or any big-ticket item for that matter), you already know there is going to be a level of anxiety to making such a decision.  The best thing you can do is to do your homework & research, consult a true HVAC professional and then make your decision knowing you took the time to educate yourself and confer with a pro (or multiple pros!).   In the end, trust your instincts, but also make a sound business-like decision that best suits your needs moving forward.


Right Now Heating & Air Conditioning is a fully licensed heating and air conditioning contractor that specializes in residential HVAC systems and services.  If you are confronted with a repair versus replacement decision, our fully trained Comfort Advisors are here to help.  Call us at 208.585.5868