Repair or replace: when is it time for new HVAC?

When your HVAC goes down, you have a choice: repair or replace. Learn how to make a smart choice.

When your HVAC system breaks down, you have a choice: repair or replace. Knowing when to do which is a financial balancing act between pouring money into what you have, or investing in a new, and probably more efficient, system.

While new systems mean higher profits for the installer, our stand at Absolute Comfort is to protect your HVAC investment. Only when repair makes no sense do we recommend replacement.

Here are some tips to consider regardless of who you call to look at your HVAC system:

  • No absolute right or wrong answer exists. Repairs on a unit may be the least expensive immediate option, but may cost the customer more in the long run.
  • Installing a new, energy efficient system can pay for itself over time. However, at times simple repairs can sufficiently prolong the life of an air conditioner so an immediate replacement of the unit is not the most sensible option.
  • Environmental laws can determine the course of action a technician must take when faced with malfunctioning equipment.
  • If the evaporator coil has numerous leaks or is severely corroded, it’s time to replace the unit.

Efficiency Ratings

In general, the more efficient the unit, the larger initial cost. However, the more efficient, more expensive unit will actually save you money over time as it requires less fuel to cool your home.

If you are concerned about efficiency, watch for the Energy Star Label. Cooling efficiency for air conditioners is indicated by a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). The SEER rating tells you how efficiently a unit uses electricity: the higher the number, the greater the efficiency.

The typical SEER rating of units manufactured prior to 1992 is about 6.0. In 1992, the government established a minimum cooling efficiency standard for units installed in new homes at 10.0 SEER. High efficiency units have a rating of at least 12.0 SEER.

Comfort Features

Some HVAC systems come with additional features that provide greater comfort. Two-speed units can run on low-speed (using about 50 percent of the energy) 80 percent of the time. Consequently, they use fewer on/off cycles and produce fewer drafts and small temperature swings.

Correct size

To achieve comfortable cooling and dehumidification, the system must be correctly sized. The size of central air conditioning is measured in tons. (1 ton = 12,000 BTU/hr).

Typically, you need one ton of cooling for each 500 square feet of living space:

  • 800 – 1,000 square feet = 2-ton unit
  • 1,000 – 1,200 square feet = 2 1/2-ton unit
  • 1,200 – 1,500 square feet = 3-ton unit
  • 1,500 – 1,800 square feet = 3 1/2-ton unit
  • 1,800 to 2,000 square feet = 4-ton unit
  • 2,000 – 2,500 square feet = 5-ton unit

Proper installation

Nothing affects your comfort more than how well your HVAC system is engineered and installed. Installation is the single most important factor. Sizing, balance, returns, and a host of other variables are taken into account when a new system is installed. No two houses are the same, nor are their climate control demands. That’s why choosing an experienced installation contractor is critical.

Feel free to ask about our most recent installations. We’re happy to have you ask our customers about the work we’ve done. That way you can be certain that when you choose us, you get absolute comfort.

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