AC Repair: Can It Be Fixed Or Does It Need Replacing?

Nothing spoils a hot summer day like a busted air conditioner.

Are you having AC issues? You’re not alone.

Three-quarters of all homes in the United States have air conditioners, and these homeowners are eventually faced with an inevitable dilemma: do I repair or replace my AC?

New AC units can cost upwards of thousands of dollars. But it’s a small price to pay for the comfort of an overheated homeowner. On the flip side, AC repair can cost potentially hundreds more without the guarantee of a functioning unit.

It’s never easy to pull the plug on an AC unit. But by following this guide, you should be armed with the knowledge to make the right call.

Your AC has kept you cool for a while, but lately, it’s not been so great. Read on to learn more about whether or not you need a new unit.

How to Keep Your Unit Healthy

We all do regular maintenance to keep our cars healthy. So why don’t we do maintenance on our AC?

Many homeowners go years without conducting even the most basic of maintenance on their AC units. Performing regular maintenance can help extend your AC’s lifespan while also making it more efficient.

Preventative care is one of the best things you can do to save money on your AC. Common practices include replacing your air filter, checking your evaporator coil, removing debris and clearing and leveling the unit.

Ask yourself if you’ve been performing maintenance on your unit before calling a professional. As a rule of thumb, you should also get an annual inspection by an HVAC technician who can check for more serious issues.

Limited airflow and cooling issues are often easy to fix. By doing routine maintenance, you can keep your unit humming along for years to come.

AC Repair 101

Maintenance is great, but it can only take your AC so far.

Every AC unit will eventually break down. But just because a unit isn’t functioning properly doesn’t mean you have to buy a new one.

There are a few common AC problems that you can look for. Being aware of these issues will help you troubleshoot should issues occur.

One of the most common issues is a dirty filter. This can restrict airflow and lower the unit’s ability to cool air. If warm air is leaking into the house, you might have a breach in your window seal.

AC’s also have problems in certain environments. If it’s too sunny in the house, your AC unit will have to work overtime in order to function properly. Similarly, a thermostat in a sunny spot will often read the wrong temperature.

AC repair starts with you. Be on the lookout for common problems before getting out your credit card.

The Golden Rule

Everything has an expiration date. Unfortunately, we don’t receive exact expiration dates when we get our AC unit.

The expiration date on your unit depends heavily on the make, model, and history of the machine.

There’s no exact science that tells you when to get a new unit. However, there is a commonly practiced formula to help you determine your unit’s fate.

The golden rule helps to determine the functionality of the unit based on its age.
You take the age of the unit and multiply it by the AC repair cost. If the number exceeds $5,000 it’s time to start looking for a new unit.

For example, let’s say your unit is eight years old and has an $800 repair cost. Multiply eight by 800 and you get $6,400. That’s well above the $5,000 threshold and is a key indicator that you should buy a new unit.

You can continue to repair a unit well past its intended expiration date. But older units have more frequent problems that will pile up and cost you more in the long run. By sticking to the golden rule, you will save yourself from the money and trouble of frequent repairs.

Energy Efficiency

You might think that AC repair is helping you save money. That might not be the case if your unit is over 10 years old.

Though many technicians say that units can last at least 15 years, many are turning to newer models well before their units become teenagers.

That’s because newer models are more energy-efficient. Thanks to recent advances in AC technology, units are now able to work without expending a ton of energy.

You can reduce AC costs by anywhere from 20-50 percent simply by switching to high-efficiency air conditioners.

It’s easy to get sticker shock when buying a new unit. But consider the monthly savings before calling in another AC repair.

Look for an ENERGY STAR label when buying a new unit. These high-efficiency units will save you money while also being environmentally conscious.

R-22 Refrigerant

Few words spell certain doom for an AC unit like R-22 refrigerant.

R-22 refrigerant (or Freon) is used to fix coolant leaks. It used to be the industry standard for AC repair. However, rising costs and regulations are driving it into extinction.

The prices have soared in recent years due to a phaseout implemented by the EPA. HVAC manufacturers have stopped making units with R-22 altogether which has added a hefty price tag to any units requiring the refrigerant.

Experts suggest getting a new unit should your unit require R-22. AC repair with R-22 can even cost more than buying a new unit. It costs anywhere from $40 to $175 per pound.

Leaks are also a red flag in that they can lead to a failed compressor. Compressors cost thousands of dollars to replace.

R-22 is being phased out of the HVAC industry completely. Look to replace your unit sooner rather than later should you run into R-22.

Other Factors

The question to repair or replace your unit should be judged on a case by case basis.

Weigh all of the information about your current situation before making a decision. Age, maintenance, basic troubleshooting, energy efficiency, and refrigerant all make a difference when considering a new unit.

But there are other factors as well. Consider how long you plan to live in your house, your energy bills, and how often you use your unit before coming to a conclusion.

Only you will know if AC repair or replacement is right for you. By using the preceding tips, however, you’ll be well on your way to making the right decision.

Do you have questions about your AC unit? We can help. Contact us today to speak to an expert.