The hot summer months are when you need your AC unit the most. They’re also when your AC unit is working the hardest and is most susceptible to wear and tear, or worse — breaking down. As a homeowner you may be faced with the tough decision to repair your existing system or to replace it entirely. Each situation is unique and therefore you will not find a one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, this post will help you ask the right questions and properly consider the short-term and long-term factors that will help you make the best decision for your situation
Do not ignore it if you hear or notice something with your AC unit that does not seem right. The first thing to do is assess the situation. Take note of the sounds and physical appearance of where the trouble seems to be; most likely the outdoor fan unit. Remove any tree branches or debris that has fallen into the outdoor unit but only if easily accessible. See our previous post for some of the most common AC problems that you may be able to fix yourself. Taking apart the outer casing is dangerous and could result in electric shock or other serious injuries. Do not attempt this on your own. Contact a professional instead. Be ready to share with the technician what you noticed and when it began. It’s best not to wait either, as catching issues early can often save you from more serious and expensive repairs if you try to continue to run a system in need of service.
Naturally, the instinctive reaction when an AC system starts having issues is to try to repair them. After all, a one-time service call is cheaper than a whole new system. There are two general rules of thumb that exist:
The 50% rule applies to systems less than 10 years old. If repairs will cost less than half the amount needed to replace your unit you can strongly consider repair. This is known as the ‘50% rule’ and is often applied to major appliances like air conditioners or furnaces.
The $5,000 rule is another similar and simple calculation. Take the age of your unit and multiply it by the cost of the repair. If the total is less than $5,000 then it’s OK to consider repairing the existing unit. For example, if the repair will cost $400 and your unit is 8 years old… repair might be the best option (8 x 400 = $3,200<$5,000).
Although both of these rules are generally a good litmus test, the truth is any situation that puts you even remotely on the fence deserves a professional’s opinion. A certified technician will take into account factors such as what parts are being replaced, if the issue is likely to surface again, as well as the make and model of your unit and if there is a particular trend with your model. Certified technicians from Owens will give you an honest opinion on your particular situation. Should you decide to repair, techs may also be able to give you tips for ongoing maintenance after servicing the unit. This can help keep your system running smoothly and potentially avoid the need for repair in the near future. If you are still unclear consider some of the unseen or overlooked benefits of replacement.
It’s important to take in all the factors when considering a replacement of your central air system, not just the initial price quote. There are several benefits that can help offset what might have originally felt like more than you hoped to spend. All things considered, you just might come to realize that a new AC unit is exactly the right decision.
Efficiency is hugely important. Air conditioners become more and more inefficient as they age. In a previous post we shared how you can use the SEER rating of your unit to calculate energy savings. Upgrading could save you 20-40% on energy costs during the summer months.
Tax incentives and rebates from your energy company can help offset a substantial portion on a new system. Xcel Energy®, Minnesota’s leading energy provider, is currently offering rebates up to $450! Additionally, check current and local tax laws for any credits or deductions available for installing an energy efficient system. Some cities and municipalities offer 0% financing and even loan forgiveness if you stay in your home for a period of time.
New systems also carry a warranty, insuring protection against future problems. Not to mention, systems of today do a better job controlling temperature and humidity. They improve air quality better than old units and are better for the environment.
Resale value is another important factor. If you are planning to move, talk to a realtor about how replacement over repair will impact your home’s valuation. If you are selling soon, it’s possible a simple repair to have a working unit is better than a replacement. Often times, however, buyers will pay a premium for new furnaces and air conditioners. Therefore, the age of your furnace may also factor into your decision about your air conditioner.
It is never fun to be forced into a tough decision because of a break-down to your current central AC system. Avoid feeling trapped by your short-term situation by considering all the factors. A certified technician from Owens will help you weigh all the costs and the benefits of repair vs. replace. If repair is the best option then you can be sure you’ll receive high quality service and advice going forward. If replacing is indeed your best option, then we’ll help you see all the angles and show you exactly why a new energy efficient system is the smart long-term solution.