When to Replace Your Air Conditioner Versus Repairing It

A homeowner will face many difficult decisions throughout their lives in a home. Few of those decisions hold a candle, though, to choosing between springing for an expensive, entirely new AC installation versus pumping more money into AC service for an aging unit. No one wants to incur the significant one-time expense of a new unit, but it’s easy to spend far more on energy costs, repairs, and service in an attempt to avoid that expense.

The United States Department of Energy estimates that the average lifespan of an AC unit is approximately 15 to 20 years, but some units may not last quite that long. Others may live longer, but there’s a strong argument to be made for replacing any unit manufactured before 2010. So, should you replace your unit or just invest in a few key repairs?

Signs You Should Consider a Full Replacement AC Installation

While every situation is unique, there are some reliable indicators it’s time to stop spending money on an ailing ac unit. First is the age of the unit, specifically when it was manufactured. 

Changes in EPA regulations surrounding refrigerant used in air conditioning units mean that most units purchased before 2010 will be reliant on a now-banned coolant called R-22. Also commonly called “freon,” R-22 has proven to damage the ozone layer and has been gradually phased out with production and imports ceasing completely after January 2020. For homeowners still holding on to units that require freon for cooling, it will become more and more difficult to obtain, not to mention more expensive. A unit requiring R-22 and also in need of even relatively inexpensive repairs may not be worth the expense, as it will certainly need replacing regardless of condition when coolant is scarce.

Energy costs are another good example of why you may want to replace an older unit, even when it theoretically can be repaired to gain a few more years of use. Upgrading to a newer, more efficient unit can pay for itself over time in realized energy savings in some cases. 

When AC Service is a Better Investment Than Full Replacement

Older, less efficient units reliant on a phased-out coolant are fairly obvious candidates for replacement. If you’re just looking at a relatively expensive repair for a newer unit, however, there is a formula that AC specialists frequently use to make the best call: the estimated cost of repair multiplied by the number of years you’ve owned the unit. For example, a $500 repair for a unit you’ve owned 8 years: $4000. If the result is lower than the expected cost of a full replacement, it’s usually better to repair the existing unit.

If you’ve been diligent about maintenance and servicing for a unit without coolant scarcity issues, repairs are often the best investment. When you’re not sure about the best course of action, we can help.

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