You’re sitting on your porch enjoying a mild spring day when you hear a humming sound coming around the corner of the house.
After a little investigation, you realize it’s coming from your heating and air conditioning system. If your first reaction is “here we go again”, it might be time to step back and assess whether a repair is worth it.
At some point, an HVAC repair starts to be a case of throwing good money after bad. Having your technician fix the humming sound may be a small job, but over time, those small repair bills add up to a big chunk of change.
If you’ve looked at your spending and realize too much of your budget is going to HVAC repair costs, what should be your next step? You can get a good 12-15 years out of a system here in Charleston with proper care and maintenance. But you can only hold off an air conditioning replacement so long with repairs before replacing parts is less efficient than replacing the system.
Here are a few items to consider if your repair bills have grown and you’re wondering about HVAC replacement instead.
Age of Your HVAC
All your calculations start with how old your system is. If it’s less than five years old, not only will a repair be in your best interest, it should be covered by your warranty. Where things start to get murky is when parts of the system fall out of warranty or when it passes age 10. We say murky because some repairs truly are minor and worth doing. These include easy fixes like a worn fan belt or a clog in the condenser.
But once your unit starts needing repeated or frequent repairs, investing in a new one becomes the smart choice. If you’re calling us out every few months, especially for emergency repairs during the hottest and coldest times, those AC bills add up.
One common repair for older units refrigerant refills, especially if the system develops a leak. Unfortunately, an older system is likely to use Freon or R22 refrigerant, which is no longer in production due to environmental concerns. That means the cost to recharge your coolant is on the way up.
Systems installed before 2010 are most likely to still be using it, while new ones have switched to Puron or R410A refrigerant.
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that here in South Carolina, we have one of the highest average electric bills in the country. Even though our price per kWh is lower than the average, we make up for it through consumption. This results from a combination of hot summers and electric heating.
While newer systems are more efficient, that efficiency drops over time. This could be the cause if you’ve started to notice your air conditioning bills going up despite keeping up with proper maintenance. The loss rate goes up the older your equipment.
As a result, you should take into consideration how much you’ll save by investing in a new system beyond reducing your repair bills. Replacing a system that’s at least 10 years old can save you 20-40 percent on AC costs every summer.
Obviously, the cost of a repair has to be weighed against the cost of a new system. But several factors come into play when we talk about the actual repair cost.
How long do you plan to stay in your current house? If you’ll be around to enjoy the benefits of a new system, it makes sense to go that route rather than apply repair band-aids.
Then there is the repair frequency and how much you’re spending in a year. While each repair might only be a couple of hundred dollars, once you’re spending more than $500 annually on repairs, it’s time to do some calculating to see if it’s worth continuing to do those repairs.
A clogged drain line by itself doesn’t justify replacing the system, but it can be a tipping point if you’ve had numerous other repairs.
Doing the Math
Two different calculations give you an objective measure to help you decide whether to make a specific repair or if it’s time to start shopping for a replacement system. These are useful if the single repair is a more expensive one like replacing the condenser coil.
Start with a rule of thumb measure to give you a quick idea. This formula takes the cost of the repair and multiplies it by the age of the system. If you get a number higher than 5,000, the repair is likely not worth doing.
As an example, your air conditioner is 8 years old and needs a $500 repair. That multiplies out to 4,000, so it’s likely worth it. But a 13-year-old system needing the same repair gives you 5,200, so you should be leaning toward replacement.
The second bit of math compares your repair to the cost of replacement. Pick the system you’re most likely to purchase and halve the cost. If the repair comes in at more than that, it’s too expensive.
Is It Worth Doing That HVAC Repair?
When a small part breaks, a repair makes sense when your HVAC system is newer. It’s a no-brainer to shell out $600 for AC repairs rather than $6,000 for AC replacement. But as your system ages, HVAC repair becomes the more expensive option as more and more parts begin to break.
If you think it might be time to consider a heating and air replacement system, contact us to get a free estimate or talk about your HVAC financing options. We install hundreds of units a year around the Lowcountry and can help you make an informed decision.