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Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?

Darren Kincaid - Friday, September 01, 2017

Central Plumbing and Heating in Chesapeake, VACheck these factors before deciding whether your A/C needs to be replaced.

Consider the age of your A/C

Age is one of the most important factors to consider when it's time to repair or replace an air conditioner.

The 5,000 rule

Multiply the age of the equipment by the repair cost, and if that exceeds $5,000, then replace the unit. If less, go ahead and repair it. For example, a 10-year-old unit with a $350 repair equals $3,500. It’s OK to repair.

Energy efficiency matters

Recent advances in A/C technology have greatly improved energy efficiency. Energy Star recommends upgrading to an energy-efficient unit if your current central air conditioner is 10 or more years old. Many HVAC technicians say they typically recommend replacing units if they are 15 years or older. The average lifespan of an A/C unit is about 14 years.

R-22 can influence your options

If an A/C unit requires additional refrigerant it signals there’s a coolant leak.

Topping off a system with R-22 refrigerant, known as Freon, costs as much as $40 to more than $175 per pound — which may also include the cost of the service call. Fixing the leak and putting in several pounds of refrigerant can cost $550 to $1,000.

A unit that takes R-22 that develops a leak should probably be replaced. Once you get a leak, the compressor (which can cost up to $2,000) will usually go out eventually.

Repairing a leak, adding refrigerant and replacing a compressor can cost about the same as buying a new, low-end unit.

R-22 prices, meanwhile, have soared in recent years due to the EPA's eventual phaseout. HVAC manufacturers stopped making units charged with R-22 in 2010. Production of R-22 will end 2020.

Other factors affecting the repair/replace decision

Aside from the unit’s age, a few other signs can signal it’s time to replace your air conditioner, according to Energy Star. Consider how frequently you make repairs, whether your energy bills are rising or if your home is too hot in the summer.

How long are you going to live in the house, and what are your utilities like?. If the unit is older and the repair is a couple hundred dollars, it may not be worth fixing.

If you do buy a new, energy-efficient A/C unit — which costs $3,600 to $7,200 — Energy Star estimates a 20 percent savings on heating and cooling costs.

On the other hand, some HVAC technicians say if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If your system shows no leaks and your energy bills are low, there is no reason to replace it.

To gauge the condition of your existing A/C, schedule an inspection with an HVAC technician.

For more information, contact Central Plumbing and Heating in Chesapeake, VA.

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