Is Air Conditioner Repair Worth It or Should I Replace My Cooling System?

Many Cincinnati area homeowners have trouble when deciding whether to repair or replace air conditioning systems. While repairs may fix the problem now, are they the right choice to create savings on your energy bills, improve your indoor air quality, or deliver the benefits a new air conditioner could offer? To choose between air conditioner repair or replacement, it’s necessary to look at several factors, including the cooling unit’s age, its condition, the costs of repairing or replacing, and the perks you may miss out on based on your decision, such as more efficient SEER ratings for greater system efficiency.

When your air conditioning unit only needs a simple repair, the choice is easy – but in other situations, it makes clear sense to pay the cost to replace your air conditioner and save the money for repairs. Only you can decide the best path for your household and budget, but do you know the signs to watch for and the factors to consider that will help you make an informed judgment? Thomas & Galbraith shares important information that could help you decide between repair or replacement for your air conditioning unit.

Consider Age and Cost

The choice to repair or replace an AC unit could be made based off many different heating and cooling system considerations. If evaluating every little element of your HVAC system before you decide to replace your AC unit or fixing it seems daunting, there are some quick and easy methods for making this determination based simply on one of these important factors: age or cost.

Average Lifespan of Air Conditioners

Mechanical systems like air conditioning units don’t last forever – wear and tear eventually take their toll, causing malfunctions that even the most skilled HVAC technician cannot repair. On average, the life expectancy for air conditioners in Cincinnati homes is somewhere between 10 years to 15 years old.

Knowing what lifespan, you can expect from an air conditioner could be helpful when deciding to repair or replace an older system. If your unit’s age is around ten years old, it’s a safe bet that replacement is on the horizon in the near future. If you’re already anticipating the need to replace your air conditioner soon, you may see the need for current repair services as the perfect time to replace the old system.

Deciding whether to fix or replace your air conditioner based on the unit’s age can be as simple as that, or you can look at things in more detail. Basing your choice on the age of older units can also include looking at age using additional factors that help you make a decision more closely tailored to your situation.

  • The energy efficiency of older units versus a new unit, with a higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), as the SEER rating of a unit affects energy savings and ongoing operating costs.

  • Maintenance considerations and if the unit has been well maintained over its lifespan, as regular maintenance or a lack thereof can add or subtract years from an air conditioning unit’s life expectancy. With good care, your air conditioner could see upwards of 20 years, while a neglected cooling system may fail before it is 10 years old.

  • New unit warranty coverage and the cost protection it provides should equipment defects create the need for repair services. The warranty on a new air conditioner should last half its service life or longer – if your old system no longer has a valid warranty, you can reasonably assume its in the latter half of its useful life.

Comparing the Cost to Repair vs. Cost to Replace

Replacing an AC unit is a costly endeavor, but many times homeowners are shocked to find out that repair costs can be equally surprising. Budget and cost are top factors the majority of customers base purchase decisions on, as everyone welcomes the opportunity to save money. If your air conditioning unit needs just a simple repair that comes at a low cost, the decision to go ahead and fix the system comes pretty easy – when the cost of those necessary fixes come in closer to the price you’d expect to pay for a new unit, it becomes more difficult to select the best path between air conditioning repair and new system replacement.

  • HVAC professionals often refer to the “5,000 rule” when customers ask how to decide if the cost to repair their HVAC system is worth it. Multiply the total cost for the necessary repair services by the age of the air conditioner – if the number totals more than $5,000, it’s time to replace your AC unit; if the total is below $5,000, repairs could be appropriate.

  • Another way you may want to look at cost considerations is by examining the cost of repair service next to the cost of a new air conditioning unit. If repair costs total at least half the total money it would take to buy a new air conditioner, save your cash and skip fixing the system, moving straight to a new unit.

Of course, the cost consideration can be just this simple, or you can examine it from other angles to find a solution that is better fit to your situation. Age certainly comes into play when your system faces costly repairs, though they may be under that $5,000 mark – it’s not really a wise choice to pump $4,500 into repairs for an air conditioner that is ten years old and will need replacement soon anyhow. Also, think about whether the repair solutions your HVAC technician proposes are a solid fix for your existing air conditioner or is the repair only meant to be more of a patch job that could get you a little more life out of the system – the price will certainly tell you if it’s worth it to proceed with air conditioner repair depending on the solution.

More Factors to Consider When Repairing or Replacing Your AC Unit

When air conditioners malfunction, homeowners try to look for signs that say it’s worth it to fix the AC unit or if money should be spent on replacement instead. Age is a very important factor here and many will always base their decision on cost, however, below you’ll find some other signs that give clues to help you make the choice to repair or replace your air conditioning unit.

1. The HVAC System Has Not Been Well Maintained

Regular maintenance is a key service that helps an air conditioner maintain its energy-efficient operation over the years for longer service life. If an AC unit is well maintained and it hits ten years old, it could very well offer many more years of service – even 20 years in some cases! If you’ve skipped professional maintenance service and neglected home HVAC maintenance tasks over the course of the life of your air conditioner, there is a strong possibility that you’ll be replacing the AC unit even before it reaches 10 years old.

2. The System Needs Frequent Repairs over the Last Few Seasons

An AC unit or other HVAC system equipment is shown to experience more breakdowns in the last two years of useful life. As you weigh repairing your AC unit or buying a new system, consider if you’ve needed to call an HVAC technician for repairs only once or several times over the last two summers.

Using repair call frequency to determine the right time for replacing an air conditioner certainly isn’t exact science, but this information can be very helpful. Numerous calls to your HVAC technician mean you’ve already invested a certain amount of money into making repairs to this equipment. When you add these costs to the financial aspects mentioned above, you may see that a new system is a better choice as you’ve already spent your maximum on repairs for this particular unit and you’re ready to create some savings in terms of fewer appointments with your repair technician.

3. The System Uses R-22 Refrigerant

Air conditioner system units built prior to 2010 most likely use R-22, a refrigerant you may know as Freon. Freon is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and a known ozone-depleting substance. When deciding between the repair of old heating and cooling systems that use R-22 and replacing these HVAC units, the benefits of replacement are truly superior.

  • If Freon leaks out of your HVAC cooling unit, it is a great danger to the environment. Ozone-depleting HCFCs have contributed to the hole in Earth’s ozone layer and could do further damage if released into the environment.

  • The cost to recharge a system with Freon refrigerant after fixing a leak is quite expensive and will only cost more as time passes. This is because of the current phase-out to eliminate dangerous HCFCs in favor of environmentally safe refrigerant types. No new Freon can be made or imported to service cooling systems, leaving an ever-dwindling and limited supply.

  • A unit using Freon refrigerant is far less efficient than a new HVAC unit based on age alone. The unit is at least 11 years old at minimum, as no new heating or cooling units could be made using this refrigerant as of 2010. New HVAC systems come with more efficient SEER ratings for higher operating efficiency.

4. The System Has Low SEER Efficiency

Efficiency standards have evolved over the years, and federal mandates require that new heating and AC systems adhere to a certain efficiency rating – for air conditioning units, it’s the SEER rating. From 1992 to 2006, the minimum efficiency for a new AC unit was just 10 SEER. As of 2006, it has increased to 13 SEER for units sold and installed in Ohio. In 2023, the minimum efficiency will increase to 14 SEER.

Initial system SEER efficiency aside, older units decline in efficiency as time passes. Wear and tear hamper operation and neglected maintenance takes a toll. After several years of use under these conditions, the SEER efficiency rating stated on your unit is most certainly not the same efficiency level the unit currently operates at. At this point, no HVAC service will restore the efficient performance of your unit and your energy bills are much higher than they have to be.

Air Conditioning Service in Cincinnati

When your heating or cooling unit experiences trouble, turn to the professionals at Thomas & Galbraith for quality services to fix or replace your system. Our technicians provide honest guidance to help you determine smart financial choices for your household’s comfort when you’re faced with deciding whether to repair or replace the unit. Call us today to schedule service.

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