Should I Repair or Replace My HVAC System?

In the event that your air conditioning system breaks down, would you be more likely to repair it or replace it completely? In the past, repairing your A/C unit was the obvious choice; but things in the air conditioning world have changed in the last few years. Recent innovations in the air conditioning industry have enabled new air conditioning systems to use half the energy of previous systems, while at the same time being far more efficient. If your system has any sort of breakdown, it might be time to think about replacing it instead of continuing to repair your current system.

Before you decide to spend your money on a brand new unit, ask your contractor to come look at the system’s current condition. Make sure he checks not only the unit itself, but the air ducts and insulation. Often times replacing the ducts and/or insulation can greatly improve the system’s efficiency. However, if your system is eight or more years old, it might be a better decision to purchase a new system than to repair your current unit.

If you own an air conditioning system more than eight years old, it could use as much as twice the energy a new system uses. The reason for this is the new standard of Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Before 2006, the standard SEER was 10. Federal law forced companies to make units with a minimum of 13 SEER. By upgrading from a 10 SEER unit to a 13 SEER unit, you could save up to 30% on your electrical consumption for cooling.

Installing a 13 SEER system in a medium sized house of 1,800 square feet would cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Companies are now making extremely efficient 16 SEER units. These systems, priced at around $5,000 and $6,000, can cut expenses by 60% over any 10 SEER system. Because of the scorching Florida summers, these units will save you hundreds compared to the 10 SEER units, and will more than make up for their original cost in the long run.

Sometimes a new A/C unit makes all the difference in the world. Unfortunately, simply replacing the system does not always completely fix the problem. If the duct-work in your home is leaking or your house is poorly insulated, you could be losing money and energy.

Before you make the big decision to buy an entire new air conditioning system, have your technician run a duct leakage test. This involves checking the pressurization at the house to determine the duct leakage. Most houses usually leak between 10% to 30% of the air. Any ducts that are leaking at any amount over 30% should be fixed. Sealing the leaks and gaps typically is not very expensive and can be partially paid for by energy providers like Progress Energy.

If your house is poorly insulated, it is making your A/C unit work much harder and can decrease its life span. There are number of things your technician can do to upgrade the insulation in your house. He could seal any cracks in the outer walls and attic, or blow insulation into the walls. These simple steps can save you as much as 30% in cooling and heating costs. This insulation could make you eligible for a $500 federal tax credit. Additionally, upgrading your insulation could eliminate the need for an entire new air conditioning system, or at least allow you to buy a much smaller system.

If you do decide to replace the old A/C unit, make sure you receive a load calculation. A load calculation is a computer printout that shows the size of the system you need and why. Some installers still estimate for sizing equipment. Estimations can lead to more costly larger systems. Another downside to an oversized system is that it cools to fast. This leads to more on and off cycles, uses more electricity, wears out the unit, does not do a sufficient job of humidity removal and eventually decreases the system’s life span. A good load calculation will take into account the size of the attic, the thickness of the insulation, the number of windows in your home, and even your home’s orientation towards the sun. The results give you the exact size requirement, and they even determine the amount of air each room needs.

Air conditioners have come a long way. There are countless modern technologies designed to make them more efficient, more durable, and less costly. There are many ways to save money on air conditioning and heating, and you should take full advantage of them.

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