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The Ultimate HVAC Decision: Repair vs. Replace
June 23, 2016
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It can be hard to figure out the best course of action when your HVAC unit starts acting up because there are so many factors to consider. The size, age, financing options, and repair costs on an HVAC system all contribute to making the “right” decision on whether to repair or replace.

As a general rule, it’s usually a good idea to replace a product when its repairs are climbing over 50% of a new item cost, but a real cost comparison is often more involved. Sure, a repair bill of $300 isn’t nice to look at, but it still looks cheaper than an entire system upgrade. On the other hand, the lower cost isn’t always the smartest move. Say your equipment is 15 years old and you’ve already made a $500 repair earlier in the year…well, then the math may not be so easy. Trying to predict what else might go wrong with your unit in a couple years (or even the next 6 months) is a tricky gamble. That’s why we recommend looking at some concrete facts.

Reasons to Repair

1. Is the broken part under warranty?

When a part is covered under warranty, it’s usually best to get the repair and move on. You might still want to consider the cost of the labor (if there is any), but warranties usually make the repair vs. replace conundrum pretty clear-cut. If nothing else is wrong, why pay for a new air conditioner or furnace?

2. Is your system less than 10 years old?

Your HVAC equipment might have different life expectancies, but heat pumps, air conditioners and furnaces are said to last 12 to 15 years on average. If your unit is 10 years old or less, your chances of having frequent problems are a lot lower, so making the quick repair tends to be more appealing than full replacement.

3. Are you planning to move in the next year or two?

When your odds of moving are high, confirm that your unit isn’t at the end of its projected lifespan before opting for the repair. Replacing or upgrading your HVAC unit could help your house stand out to potential buyers; but if the unit is in relatively good condition or still under warranty, you might be better off sticking with the easy fix.

4. Is the unit right for your home?

This question can be a little trickier to answer on your own, but a good HVAC tech will tell it to you straight. Some furnaces and air conditioners are actually too big for their home they are installed in and end up wasting energy and money. Proper installation goes a long way with your unit’s efficiency too, so if you trust that your unit is in the right location, sized right, and has the right efficiency rating, you’ll likely feel good about getting the repairs.

Reasons to Replace

1. Has your unit needed costly repairs in the last two years?

Older HVAC systems are more likely to have frequent repair issues. When your unit has passed the warranty coverage date and repair costs only seem to escalate, you’re probably toeing the line for replacement.

2. Has the system been under-performing in other ways?

Maybe you’re constantly adjusting the thermostat to get comfortable, or the air indoors feels stuffy, damp, or just “off.” Is your furnace or air conditioner starting to sound louder than ever before? Some of these annoyances could be fixed with quick repairs, but if not—it might be time for new equipment.

3. How much could you save with a more efficient unit?

Check out the energy savings calculator to estimate the money you can pocket each month from a system upgrade. The latest technology can cut energy costs by as much as 40% and still run quieter than models made 10 years ago. If you’ve made other efficiency updates to your home—like new windows or insulation—an HVAC system with a good ENERGY STAR rating might be what you’re missing to really kick those saving into high gear.

4. Are good financing options available?

If your HVAC company can help you identify cost-effective financing strategies, a system replacement might be worth your while. When considering replacement options, knowing about seasonal specials, manufacturer rebates, or 0% financing opportunities with a local bank can make you feel a lot better about going with a new air conditioner or furnace.

 

Now that you’ve weighed the possibilities, tally up your Yes and No answers from each category. Answering “Yes” to 2 or more questions is a good indication that you’ll want to consider that side’s solution. Consult with your local HVAC tech if you’re still on the fence. They can help walk you through the different scenarios for your current system and home setup so that whether you choose to repair or replace, you can feel confident that it’s the right decision for you and your home!