One of the most common questions we are asked by customers and contractors alike is “when is it best to repair and when should a system be replaced?” Or in other words, when does replacing the entire AC unit make sense?
The scenario usually plays out something like this: the unit has stopped working, so a service call is put in. The contractor recommends compressor replacement, but the cost is in the range of $1500 – $2500, depending on the unit. The newer, upgraded model of a similar system would cost in the range of $4500 – $9K, replacing the entire AC unit for a brand-new one.
Compressor Replacement vs. Replacement of Your Entire AC Unit: Points to Consider
If you’re under a great deal of stress to get the AC running again, such as if it’s a commercial or residential building whose tenants are putting the pressure on, it might be difficult to make this decision on the fly. If you’re like most people, the immediate reaction would be to balk at the sticker shock of a new unit, so you’ll probably be tempted to take the quick-and-dirty solution and simply replace the compressor. However, there are a few points you should consider before pulling the trigger.
Let’s look at the benefits of replacing the entire ac unit over changing that pooched compressor:
- A new air conditioning system will be approximately 33% more efficient than the one you are replacing. The money you save on your energy bills will pay for itself in approximately 15 years.
- The money you have allocated for a new compressor could be applied to the purchase of a new unit. This could cover as much as 1/3 of your down payment on the brand new unit.
- If you do opt for compressor replacement, it will still be housed inside an AC unit that will need ever more costly repairs as time goes by.
- Don’t forget, your old unit will be far less efficient than a new one, even with a new compressor. Current HVAC technology is cleaner, greener, and will save you a lot of money.
- The longer you keep your old system running, the more expensive repairs are going to become. Typically, maintenance, repairs and replacement parts for a commercial unit will require a budget of about $5K over its 15-20 year life cycle, but the longer you hold on to your unit, the higher that number is going to climb.
This information is not meant to push you in one direction or another, but it’s always good to know where you stand in the bigger scheme of things so you can make an informed decision.
Preventive Maintenance = Prevent Replacing Your Entire AC Unit
Preventative maintenance is essential to keep your AC unit running like new
Being proactive when it comes to AC maintenance will extend the life of your investment. You should budget a minimum of $650 every 5 years for part replacements like repair and maintenance contracts as well as replacement of fan motors, capacitors, and other small parts. Keeping your air filters clean and free of dust and debris will also extend the life of your compressor, and regular preventative inspections should be part of your maintenance protocols.
A good rule of thumb is to change air filters every three months. The batteries in your thermostat should be changed every year to prevent breakdowns, and each spring and fall a seasonal maintenance check-up should be performed. By attending to these small but important details you can easily extend the life of your AC system, making that decision to repair or replace a matter for the distant future.