“Should I repair my furnace, air conditioning system, water heater (insert any major home system or appliance), or does it make more sense to replace it?” It’s a question almost as common as “What’s for dinner?” There’s no right answer that applies to every repair or replace situation. But there are some important things to consider, regardless of the type of equipment that’s causing the dilemma.
Repair or Replace Considerations
Safety – The primary consideration is safety. If your system creates a safety hazard, there’s no question it needs to be replaced. For example, a cracked heat exchanger on your furnace could lead to a poisonous carbon monoxide leak. That could be fatal and not a risk you want to take. If your hot water heater has turned your basement into the family pool and you can’t swim, it’s time to replace it.
Age – Condensers and heat-pumps last an average of 10-12 years. Furnaces have a life span of around 15-20 years. Water heaters usually last about 10 years as well, while tankless water heaters can last about 20 years. Of course, attaining the higher number in these ranges depends on having professionals properly servicing the equipment throughout its lifespan. But, no matter how much preventive maintenance is done, the time will come when replacement makes more sense than repairs.
Technology changes all the time, as do government regulations. This is as true for your HVAC system as it is for your phone. When it comes to air conditioning, the government is phasing out the use of R-22 Freon (See R-22 Refrigerant Update). If your unit uses this type of refrigerant and constantly needs service, consider replacement now. Replacing aging equipment also provides the advantages of new features and increased efficiencies that save money on energy bills.
Frequency of Repairs – Is there an HVAC technician at your home more often than your friends and family? Frequent repairs on an aging system might indicate it’s time to replace the system. This is especially true if the repairs are becoming progressively more expensive. The repairs may be a result of the age of your system or a system that isn’t sized properly. An HVAC technician should be able to tell you whether replacing a part will solve a problem, or if it makes more sense to replace the entire system.
Cost of repairs – A general rule in the industry is to replace a system or unit when repairs exceed 50% of the cost of a new one. If the cost of a repair is lower, consider how long the repair will last or if it’s an indication of future repairs. You should also consider manufacturer rebates and tax incentives that may be available for new equipment. They just might make the cost of replacement even more cost-effective than yet another repair.
Efficiency – Do you feel like you have to constantly adjust your thermostat to stay comfortable? Does your air conditioner or furnace make noises when it starts up? Does your air feel stuffy or damp? Do you notice some rooms in your house aren’t heating to the temperature you set? All of these could also be signs of inefficient equipment. Today’s new air conditioning systems are up to 50 percent more efficient than systems manufactured 10 years ago. Furnaces are also much more efficient than they used to be. If you’re concerned about utility bills and facing expensive repairs, look at potential energy savings a new system offers.
Higher Energy Bills – Did you know that your water heater, for example, makes up 14% of your total energy bill? If It isn’t operating properly, it may be costing you a lot of extra money. Check your monthly energy bills to see how they compare to the same period of time last year. A significant increase may indicate a change in the operating efficiency of one of your systems. Installing a more efficient system often results in savings you can apply toward the cost of a new system.
You’re seeing more dust and dander – HVAC filters trap dust, dander and dirt, improving the air quality in your home. Unless you just got a pet or had extended family move in, your system isn’t operating the way it should. It may be as simple as changing a clogged air filter. Or that the system needs to be replaced because it isn’t the right size for your home and living situation.
You’re hearing loud or strange noises – Excessive noise often suggests your system is working overtime to keep up with demands. If the noise only happens when the system starts up or shuts down, the system compressor may be a problem. Grinding noises are a signal that bearings in a fan motor are bad or need lubrication. Debris caught in the fan blades often produces loud rattling noises. Your technician will locate the source of the noise and assess the severity of the problem.
The equipment starts and stops more than usual – A system that turns on and off frequently, quickly reaching the desired temperature, but not maintaining it, may be too big for your home. Conversely, one that runs constantly may be too small. The results of an improperly sized system include high energy bills and poor humidity control.
You Feel Uncomfortable in Your Home – Older HVAC systems, as they age, naturally begin to struggle to maintain a consistent temperature in your home. This could be due to numerous issues: an inaccurate or damaged thermostat, clogged filters, a damaged motor, cracked ducts, etc…
What to Do?
All of these factors are important to consider when asking yourself the question of whether to repair or replace. But, unless your system has completely stopped working, the decision to replace is still not an easy one. Levco technicians are ready to help. We have the experience and expertise to help you determine if there is still life left in your equipment or if getting a new one is the safer, more energy-efficient, and cost-effective option. Call us today!
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