1. Factor In Your Air Conditioner’s Age
Air conditioners are usually under warranty for ten years, and they’re usually good for at least a few years after that, provided they’ve been well maintained. However, even if that is the case, your system’s age should be considered as a deciding factor, because older systems may have more than just reliability issues.
Here’s what we mean:
Air conditioning technology is a constantly evolving field. We aren’t just making more of the same old thing every year. Like the automotive industry, HVAC manufacturers are a competitive and innovative bunch. Each year, new features are added to systems, or techniques for manufacturing are refined. Every few years, some kind of game changer is invented that takes the field to new heights.
Consumers benefit from this race to be the best. When it’s time to consider replacing your current system, we encourage you to consider whether it’s actually an opportunity, a blessing in disguise.
Did you know? An older air conditioner – say ten years old, even – is working at no more than 60% of the efficiency of a new one? Older systems may have a SEER rating of 8 or so, while new systems are being manufactured to meet the new federal minimum of 13. (Don’t worry, we’ll go over SEER ratings a bit further down!). Older air conditioners also shipped with older thermostats, lacking the features that make modern thermostats efficiency-making machines.
Older air conditioners have other problems, too: higher operating costs and more frequent repair bills. Those should be quite familiar to some of our readers, and it’s no secret that once things start to break down due to age, there is a very genuine possibility that they will continue to do so. Greencastle AC repair can help stave off the inevitable, for a while, but eventually, all things fall apart.
Entropy can be a pretty scary thing to deal with when it’s keeping your house cool, however.
And what about NEW heating and cooling systems?
Over the years, we’ve helped plenty of Greencastle and surrounding area customers with brand new systems that keep breaking down. That’s even more disheartening and frustrating than dealing with an old system, because you know it isn’t supposed to happen.
Suddenly, you’re dealing with warranty repairs, and you find yourself wondering what will happen when the warranty expires. How much money is this going to cost you? Did you accidentally buy some kind of air conditioning and heating lemon?
What probably happened is much simpler, but no easier to deal with. In most cases, breakdowns in newer HVAC systems can be traced to errors made during installation. These may include:
- DIY installations, or installations performed by a contractor who is not an HVAC expert, such as a builder.
- Load calculation mistakes leading to an over- or under-sized air conditioning installation.
- Errors in the design and layout of ducts.
- Error in the placement of the thermostat leading to cycling issues due to inaccurate temperature data.
- Failure to install proper drainage.
These – and many other – issues can lead to a system dying well before it’s time. In the case of a new heating and cooling system giving you major issues, call in the AC repair experts to give you a detailed summary of your options.
And speaking of repair …
2. Factor In Repair Costs
Air conditioning repair is always going to be the cheaper option - at least in the short term. However, there are times when those repair estimates will be high enough to make you wonder:
Is it worth it?
Sometimes, the answer is going to be no. However, it’s difficult to judge sometimes, especially without the aid of a trained contractor. Repair bills are a necessary fact of HVAC ownership, but good air conditioners and heat pump systems are designed to work well, and work for a very long time, costing the owner as little as possible. That’s why warranties exist, and why so many HVAC warranties are good for 2/3 or more of the equipment’s lifespan.
So when is a repair bill too high?
That’s a very subjective question, but there is a great rule of thumb that can be applied here: if the AC repair is close to a third the price of a new system, you should opt for the new system. We call it the 30% rule.
Why that number? Because a repair that expensive suggests that something fairly serious has gone wrong with your equipment. Oftentimes, the compressor going bad, or the coils being damaged, or some kind of catastrophic accident involving the outdoor unit would be required to rack up a repair bill high enough to compete with installation costs.
It’d be like putting a new engine into a beat-up old jalopy – there’s really no sense in it. And old air conditioners are incapable of generating the kind of sentimental value that many old cars elicit from their owners.
So if your repair bill is so high that paying it three times could buy you a shiny new central air or heat pump …
3. Factor In Efficiency and Performance
There’s a sort of Venn diagram implicit in this article. Old systems are often prone to high repairs and poor efficiency, which can impact their environmental soundness or performance. It all ties together.
On the topic of efficiency:
Is your air conditioner as efficient as it should be? Is it meeting or exceeding the specifications provided by the manufacturer? Or, as is all too common, is it costing you too much money every month and wasting energy?
Unless your air conditioner is relatively new, AND was installed by an expert who is up to speed with the latest techniques, in a home with a fantastic thermal envelope and Energy Star super-efficient windows, you’re probably falling short of your efficiency potential.
And perhaps that’s okay with you. Most homeowners try to strike a balance between operating costs and installation costs.
However, energy efficiency is more than just a buzzword that heating and cooling system manufacturers overuse. It’s the single greatest contributing factor to your long-term costs, and most homeowners aren’t doing enough about that.
Check the SEER rating on your current system. The mandatory minimum in Indiana at the time this article is being written in 14 SEER. That number represents the absolute MINIMUM energy efficiency rating, while other systems go up as high as 21, and new advances are being made every year.
If your system has a lower SEER rating than that – say the 10 seer common in many entry-level air conditioners made 10 or so years ago – you could save as much as 40-50% on your monthly bills by upgrading to even the minimum efficiency systems. If you opt for the (admittedly pricier) 20 and 21 SEER systems, you could be looking at paying only a fraction of what you pay each month to operate your air conditioner today.
That’s big savings.
If your SEER rating is lower than 10-12 and your system is more than a few years old, we might advise replacing it. That is particularly true if your repair bills are piling up, obviously.
If, on the other hand, you’re at or near the current SEER minimum, or if your monthly energy costs are not out of control, OR if you’re not sure you’ll be living in your current Greencastle home in ten years, we would advise calling for AC repair and making the best of what you currently have.
4. Factor In the Environment
Planet Earth is blue, but the future is green. Modern air conditioning and heating systems are competitively striving to be even more energy-efficient in an attempt to be the greenest of the green, and you are benefitting from that fierce competition.
If you care about the environment – and we certainly hope you do – then you’ve probably given a little though to replacing your current system. When do you know for sure that you should, though?
The magic year is 2004 – any system made that year, or earlier, is already a big problem for you and the environment. Newer systems can still be a concern, of course, but many systems manufactured pre-2004 contain at least one thing found to be hazardous to our planet’s Ozone Layer: the refrigerant known as R22 or Freon.
About R22/Freon and Why It Was Banned
Beginning in the 1970s, research into refrigerants determined that CFCs (chlorofluorocabrons) such as those used to make refrigerant for AC systems was dangerous, and so R22 was developed. R22 is a Hydrochlorofluorocarbon, an HCFC, and is more stable than a CFC, but it is, of course, an Ozone Depletion agent. So in 1987, 190 countries agreed to phase it out, and they’ve been working on it ever since.
Why is 2004 an important year?
Equipment manufactured after 2004 does not use R22 in most cases. Most of them use R410A, a much more eco-friendly alternative. Since then, R22 has been getting more expensive and more scarce. That situation went critical in 2015, when a complete ban on all sales, use and production of new R22 led to a market for “reclaimed” R22.
R22 equipment often requires the use of leak detectors, as well – so not only is it harmful to the environment, but it’s also more expensive for the user to continue operating an air conditioner that uses R22 refrigerant.
On the flip side of the coin: how can you maximize the eco-friendliness of your heating and cooling system today?
If you’re looking at repairs, rather than replacement, you can still take action:
- Install a modern programmable thermostat
- Get your system tuned up regularly
- Perform owner maintenance like air filter changes often
- Install ceiling fans to assist your HVAC equipment
If you’re considering a new AC installation, you should look for high SEER ratings, choose the most eco-friendly air filters, and speak to Royal Comfort or your preferred contractors about all the ways you can go green with your new HVAC system.
As we stated at the start of the article, there are no simple answers. However, there are simple ways to discover answers. You have a lot to consider, between finances, age, energy efficiency, environmental impact, system performance, and the wide array of equipment available here in Greencastle In. to choose between.
But that’s what we’re here for – to make that easier for you.
The most compelling factors tend to be financial. Your bottom line is … well, the bottom line. So:
- Weigh what the cost of a new installation would be.
- Weight what you’d save on your monthly bills if you bought a new system.
- Compare that to the cost of repairs and what those repairs could do for your operating costs.
Numbers never lie, and following those steps, based on the information you’ve learned today in this article, should lead you to the right decision. If you still find yourself struggling, call Royal Comfort Heating & Air today.
We’re always here, and we’re always ready to help. Call us today at 765-653-8802
greencastle - here's 4 smart ways to decide if you should repair or replaCe your heating and cooling system
Repair or replace?
It’s one of the most common dilemmas facing Greencastle and Indiana area homeowners. Is your heating and cooling system malfunctioning or performing poorly? Is it just old? It’s a lot to stress over, because AC repair bills and energy costs can skyrocket when your equipment starts to run into trouble, but a new air conditioning installation isn’t exactly cheap.
What’s a homeowner to do?
Take a deep breath, and read on to find out.
It doesn’t have to be a dilemma. There are half a dozen tried-and-true ways to help make your decision easier. If you like, you can think of it as your guide to making the ultimate Pros and Cons list for your home’s heating and cooling system.
Many times, we tell customers facing this question, “There are no simple answers.” And while that’s true, there are simple ways to help bring you closer to the answer that is right for you.
So we’ll encourage you to take a little time to think. If you’re not facing an air conditioning repair emergency, then you’re able to, step away in your mind and contemplate what we’ll be discussing in this article. That, plus a little dose of good advice, will help you decide whether it’s time to call the air conditioner repair experts, or whether it’s time to scrap your current AC and start over