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When to Repair and When to Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit?

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When to Repair and When to Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit?
4 min. read

Image: Elnur / Shutterstock.com

To repair or replace, that is the question. When it comes to HVAC systems, the cost of a new model can be enough to put anyone off. However, sometimes it really is the only option. On the other hand, your model might have a lot of life left in it, and just needs a simple repair. Unless you’re a professional HVAC engineer, it’s hard to know. 

Fortunately, there are several clues that can help you make the right decision. Let’s take a look below.

Lifespan

HVAC systems, like the majority of machines, are designed in such a way that all the major components share a similar lifespan. So, if your system is getting on a little, and you’ve just had to replace a major part, you might find that there are a few more problems waiting to make themselves known. In general, HVAC systems have a lifespan from 8 to 20 years. This is dependent on the quality of the system, whether it’s the appropriate size for the space, how well it was fitted, and how well it’s been maintained.

In general, if you’ve had to replace a major part of a system that’s over 10 years old, it’s worth considering a replacement. Before throwing it out completely though, request a service, and ask a professional if they can advise on the condition of other major parts.

Efficiency

Have you found that your energy bills have been steadily creeping up over the last few months? First and foremost, it’s worth checking that energy prices aren’t increasing, but if that’s not the case, there’s a chance that your HVAC system could be to blame. This doesn’t necessarily mean it needs replacing, but it’s certainly worth having someone take a look at it. You might find some small repairs are needed to help it run more smoothly.

If you have a very old, built to last HVAC system, it might very well continue to work well for years to come. However, these older models are generally less efficient than more modern ones, and it can be in your interest to swap the old for a new one and benefit from lower energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint.

Safety

When a machine is in need of repairs or is suffering from years of wear and tear, it can sometimes become dangerous. The risk of leaks can lead to damage to your home, and even your health if damp spots fester in hard to reach places. Things can be even worse if the heat exchange in your furnace is cracked, which can lead to deadly carbon monoxide gases leaking into your home. A dangerous HVAC system nearly always needs replacing, though sometimes fixes are possible.

Cost of repairs

In some cases, the cost of repairs might outweigh the cost of replacing your system. The difference is, the repair fees will be spread over a longer period, while a replacement fee will typically be a one-time payment. Several contractors use a formula to calculate whether the costs of repairs are actually worth it:

If A (cost of repairs) x B (age of HVAC system) is less than the cost of a new system, it’s worth making repairs.

If A (cost of repairs) x B (age of HVAC system) is greater than the cost of a new system, it’s probably better to replace it.

With AC systems, it’s worth mentioning that some older models are cooled using R-22 Freon coolant. The US government has phased this out, and manufacturers no longer use it. As such, the cost of R-22 has soared, and repairs reliant on it can run into the hundreds of dollars. In the future, it might be even harder to find, so if yours is an R-22 cooled system, it’s a good idea to switch to a more modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly unit that uses R410A refrigerant.

Reliability

This point ties in with the previous one, and looks at how reliable your HVAC system is. Are you repairing something on it every other month or does it only need occasional small fixes? If you find that it’s breaking down frequently, it’s a sign that it’s coming to the end of its lifespan, and it really should be replaced. If you’ve only had to repair it once in the last couple of years, it’s probably doing okay, and may only need repairs if a future problem occurs.

Comfort

The whole point of having an HVAC unit is to create a comfortable environment throughout your home all year round. If your unit cannot keep up with temperature changes and often takes too long to adjust, your home might feel uncomfortably hot or cold for periods of time. This is a surefire sign that something is wrong, and there’s a chance major repairs are needed, if not the replacement of the entire system.

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