If you’ve ever been stuck wondering whether to repair or replace something after it breaks, you are in good company. Is it worth the money to get it fixed or should you just buy new? That’s the question many ask themselves when their car breaks down, their computer crashes for the hundredth time, or their air conditioner stops keeping them cool. Well, since we’re your experts at keeping you comfortable in your home we’re here to help you with the latter. Here are our air conditioner tips for homeowners when you’re deciding whether to repair or replace your AC.
Budget/Return On Investment
When deciding to buy new vs. fix what you’ve got, it’s always good to first look at what you can afford. Take a look at your budget and decided how you want to save money – a $200 repair may be the temporary band-aid you can afford right now, but it also may mean you’ll need more repairs on your AC down the line. You’ll need to weigh whether it’s worth the investment now — and based on energy efficiency alone, it may be.
Keith Hill, technical support manager for Minnesota Air, says because the minimum SEER rating – or energy efficiency rating – is now required to be 13 SEER or higher in the United States, even the most inexpensive units now (ACs rated 13 SEER) are 30 percent more efficient than the most inexpensive units just 9 years ago when SEER 10 was the minimum.
“That’s a 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption even for the most basic new unit,” he says. “Or save more and buy a 16 or even 20 SEER unit. Those numbers equate directly to fuel consumption — 16 SEER is 60 percent more efficient than a 10 SEER. It’s that simple.”
Next, you need to look at the age of your current air conditioning unit. If you have an AC unit more than 10 years old, you are relying on older and less efficient technology. As we all know, technology has come a long way in the last 10 years. Can you imagine using the same cell phone that you had 10 years ago? (Maybe you didn’t even have a cell phone 10 years ago.)
Keith says new units have many improvements that make them more reliable and efficient, but that’s not all the age of your AC unit can tell you.
“Age also indicates the amount of wear and tear that’s occurred — and don’t think that a lightly used unit will buy a lot more life,” he says. “Corrosion takes its toll on the outdoor unit, particularly the electrical components. Sitting outside year after year, summer and winter in Minnesota is no picnic for the AC unit.”
Frequency Of Repairs
If you’ve got your HVAC repairman on speed dial, then that’s a sure sign that your air conditioner needs to be replaced. But even if you’ve had only a few service calls in the last year or two, that’s probably a good indication that it’s time to replace it, too. Keith says service calls will become more frequent as the unit ages.
“Why put $500 into an old AC that needs a motor? That could be a nice chunk of change towards a new unit that will use less electricity,” he says.
Out Of Warranty
Finally, take a look at the warranty on your air conditioning unit. If you are under warranty, get it fixed as soon as possible. However, if your warranty is up (and depending on what breaks down), you may want to look at getting a new AC.
Keith says if it’s the compressor that fails on your AC unit (when out of warranty) then you should always buy new.
“The compressor is the most expensive component to replace, requiring not only a very expensive part but opening up the sealed refrigeration system,” he says. “Older units in need of a new compressor should be replaced — it’s just not cost effective to fix them.”