Sometimes it’s an obvious call – your ancient A/C has been on its last legs for years, and you’re tired of the repair bills and have accepted that it’s time for a new air conditioner. Other times your HVAC technician comes to you after an unexpected outage with a question you’re not ready for: repair or replace? What you decide will impact your bank account, your utility bills, and your environmental impact. A few simple questions can help you make an educated decision.

1. How Old is Your Current A/C System?

Most air conditioners are expected to last 10-20 years. Since Pennsylvania isn’t as hot or humid as many other parts of the United States, systems here often make it to the end of that range. But as any machine ages, it’s more likely to break. If your unit is at least ten years old, you should start preparing yourself for the inevitable replacement.

2. Did You Keep Up With Routine HVAC Maintenance?

As we discussed in The Six Benefits of Routine HVAC Maintenance, there are many benefits to annual HVAC maintenance. If your system has been serviced regularly, it is likely in good condition for its age and running efficiently. But if a technician only comes out when there’s a problem, it may be prematurely aging and due for an earlier replacement. If Reliance Heating & Air Conditioning does replace your system, it’s a great idea to sign up for a maintenance plan at time of purchase.

3. How Frequently Does it Need to be Repaired?

Once your system has outlived its warranty, there often comes a point where you are sinking more money into repairs than your A/C system is worth. A good rule of thumb is the “5,000 rule.” Multiply the repair cost by the age of the machine. If the answer’s over 5,000, you’re probably better replacing the system. Repairs aren’t only about money. If you’re having to call your HVAC technician several times a year and the system is letting you down when you need it, a replacement will save you that hassle.

4. Does Your Air Conditioner Use Freon?

Freon (also known as R-22) used to be the most common coolant used in air conditioning systems. However, due to its negative environmental impact, the US has been phasing out its use and transitioning to a new coolant called Puron (R-410A). All A/C units made in the US after January 2010 are required to use Puron, but there are still older systems in operation. As of January 2020, Freon can no longer be manufactured in the United States. If your system is more than 12 years old and needs more coolant, it will either be impossible to get or extraordinarily expensive. In this case you should plan to replace your system so you can make the change on your own time and not when you’re A/C fails on the hottest day of the year!

5. Have Your Energy Bills Been Increasing?

If your energy usage has been steadily increasing during the months you run your A/C, that’s a sign that an aging system is losing efficiency. Some of this may be remedied by replacing your filter and having your system tuned-up, but these actions will only go so far. As the years pass, your system will never be as efficient as it was on the day it was installed.

The good news is that air conditioners have gotten much more efficient in the past twenty years. Every unit is given a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (“SEER”). Higher ratings mean an air conditioner uses less energy than other models. In 2015, US air conditioners were required to have a SEER of at least 14. Current models can have a SEER rating up to 25! While these models may be more expensive to purchase, they will save you money every month for the life of the system. Considering rising energy costs, an energy efficient air conditioner is a good investment, and better for the environment.

6. Is Your Home Less Comfortable?

If you notice that your system struggles to keep your home cool, it may be time for a replacement. You might hear your system kick on more frequently, or the room temperature may never reach the setting on your thermostat. There may be repairs that can improve your system’s performance, but remember the 5,000 rule. With an older system, those repairs may not be worth it.

Replacing an A/C system is a great time to assess whether you’ve made any renovations to your home that might impact the needs of your HVAC system, and invest in some of the latest technology, such as smart thermostats, to make it even easier to control your comfort.

7. Are Your Systems Mismatched?

There’s a chance that you – or the previous owner of your home – replaced either the indoor or outdoor A/C unit (but not both) to save costs. While this can seem like a short term solution if facing an unexpected failure, it can cause problems throughout the life of the system. Air conditioners are not meant to be mismatched. This can greatly decrease efficiency and often voids the warranty. If you are having trouble with a mismatched system, it is best to replace the entire system.

8. Are You Selling Your Home Soon?

If you plan on living in your home for the next twenty years, it probably makes sense to replace an aging air conditioner with a high SEER, energy efficient model with all your favorite bells and whistles. But if you plan to move soon, maybe you want to delay replacement or purchase a less fancy replacement model. On the flip side, investing in a new, state-of-the-art air conditioning system can add value to your home, as many homebuyers see the benefit of a system that will keep them comfortable, save them money, and be better for the environment.

To Sum It Up

As your air conditioner ages, you may see warning signs that it will soon be time to replace your system. It is always better to do this on your own terms, preferably during the off-season, then unexpectedly in the middle of summer. Many innovations in energy-efficiency and smart technology make up for the cost of installing a new system and will lower your utility bills. There may also be incentives or rebates if you purchase an Energy-Star certified product. Whenever you are ready to replace your system, Reliance Heating & Air Conditioning is here to discuss options, install your system, and provide annual maintenance to keep it working for years to come.

Contact Reliance today for all your heating and air conditioning needs!