Some of us get a thrill from holding on to an old car, an old computer, or an old refrigerator until it’s legitimately an antique. We feel that if we discard the items before the company that manufactured them goes out of business, we haven’t gotten our money’s worth.
Sometimes we want to take the same frugal approach with our air conditioner. But no matter how well-made the air conditioner, it will eventually need to be replaced—just like the car, the computer, and the refrigerator.
How Long Can an Air Conditioner Last?
If your air conditioner has endured more than 10 years of hard use, it could be close to its end. That’s certainly the case after 15 years.
However, if we’re talking about an air conditioner that’s used only sparingly at a vacation home, the situation may be different. The unit may have accumulated age but not as much wear and tear.
But when your air conditioner has seen a considerable number of both years and usage, you want to be prepared to replace it.
When Your AC Unit Doesn’t Perform as Well
As mechanical devices wear down, they become less efficient. In other words, they have to do more work to maintain the same output.
You’ll notice that your unit is taking longer to bring your home’s temperature to the desired level. In fact, it may appear to you that your air conditioner is constantly running. That’s unlikely, but it cycles back on so quickly that it will give you the impression that it’s never off.
Modern HVACs are far more efficient than their predecessors. For most people, it saves money in the long run to replace an aged air conditioner even if it likely has a few good years remaining.
When Parts Begin to Fail
Your unit will generally give you a series of warnings before it completely stops working. For example, you may notice that you have to schedule a repair or two each year. Parts are beginning to wear out. Normally, that by itself isn’t such a serious issue. After all, eventually all mechanical parts of any device will one day wear out. But once inexpensive parts start to break, it’s only a matter of time before the more costly ones begin to break as well.
Once the expensive items begin to fail, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to repair the air conditioner. If replacement parts for your unit have become sparse, the cost of repair may not be worth it.
It may also take a considerable amount of time to locate the parts. Do you have an alternative way to cool your home until then?
What’s the next expensive component that’s going to break? Will a replacement part be available? How much will it cost?
One of the costliest replacements isn’t a mechanical part at all. It’s the chemical refrigerant used by your air conditioner. If your unit is old, it may use the obsolete R-22 Freon. When Freon was the industry standard, it cost relatively little. Now, however, its scarcity renders it expensive. Expect the price to rise even higher once the production of Freon ends in 2020.
If your unit has routinely begun to leak refrigerant, it may not be cost effective to keep your old air conditioner. It can cost up to $1,000 to seal a leak and replace the missing Freon.
You also have to keep in mind that a leak may indicate that the compressor will be the next mechanical unit to fail. Replacing a compressor is much more expensive than replacing Freon. At some point, it begins to make more sense to invest in a new unit.
Is It Worth the Money to Repair?
Some experts tell homeowners to use the $5,000 rule. It’s called that because you use the figure of $5,000 to represent the price of buying and installing a new air conditioner.
It’s simple. All that you have to do is multiply the age of your existing unit by the estimated cost of repairing it. (Example: 12 [years old] x $500 [cost of repair] = $6000)
If the figure is below $5,000, you might lean toward repairing your HVAC. However, if the number is more than $5,000, you should consider purchasing a new unit.
Need additional help to decide whether to keep or discard your present air conditioner? If you would like our trained professional technicians to inspect your unit, and give you an honest appraisal of the state of your air conditioner, contact HVAC Philly.