Repair or replace? It’s a question that all homeowners will most likely have to ask at some point. The fact is, sometimes the answer is obvious, and sometimes it’s less so. While there are many variables in any particular home or building, though, the main decision points regarding repair or replacement of your air conditioning and heating system are not difficult concepts.
One of the most obvious points to consider regarding replacement of your HVAC system is simply its age. Do you have a system that’s more than 10 years old? Even if it still runs dependably, you still might be better off with a new one. The physical life of HVAC equipment, similar to personal computers, can often be longer than its economic life.
If they’ve been well maintained, the air conditioning components can last up to about 15 years and the furnace even up to 20, but issues of economic obsolescence apply. Plus, older heat exchangers are more likely to develop cracks or rust holes that could cause carbon monoxide gas to enter your indoor space. In general, 10 years is the age at which systems become eligible for replacement, whether they run well or not.
When weighing the costs and benefits of repairing or replacing older equipment with more efficient HVAC equipment, keep the following points in mind. (1) Fuel costs tend to go up more than down over the long run, and (2) The monthly savings continue after you reach the break even, or payback, period on the new equipment.
Replacing All Or Part?
Due to the fact that the furnace and heating equipment can last up to 50% longer than the major air conditioning components, the decision comes up pretty frequently for homeowners. Although field matching of new and old heating and cooling equipment can sometimes be done by experienced contractors, the downside in less reliability, comfort and potential rebates makes it not likely worth the modest savings.
And, when you consider that the new equipment would have a higher efficiency rating and a manufacturer’s warranty, the advantages become even clearer.
So, when should you consider repairing your system? Due to rising energy and labor costs plus environment concerns, replacing aging systems often makes sense. However, there are some scenarios where you might choose to repair an aging air conditioning system. Examples of this would be:
- Cash or reasonably affordable financing for new equipment or efficiency improvements to the structure are simply not available.
- You’re planning to move from the home relatively soon, and you believe the next homeowner will make significant structural changes (addition of a second floor, raising the ceilings, etc.). In this case the value of the installation would be discounted by the new owner.
- An upcoming change in available equipment or incentives that are not currently available. Examples would be: a feature soon to be available on new equipment, new city utility rebate program, etc.
In most cases, the help of an experienced HVAC contractor is needed to determine whether you should repair or replace your aging HVAC system. We can evaluate your situation and come up with a plan of action that makes the most sense for you.
T.F. O’Brien services the Long Island, New York area.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about preventive maintenance and other HVAC topics, please download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.