Spring is in full swing, and warm summer months are right over the horizon. Spending more time at home means you’ll certainly want your HVAC (particularly your Air Conditioner) system running in optimum condition, and if it isn’t, you’re probably thinking about whether it’s better to repair or replace your unit.

The importance of air conditioning repair

Photo courtesy of cureaux_ent via InstagramPhoto courtesy of cureaux_ent via Instagram
Photo courtesy of cureaux_ent via Instagram

Stay at home orders will be mostly lifted in the next couple of months, but this summer, more than any other, people will be spending a majority of their time at home. It’s going to be hot, and keeping ourselves and our loved ones cool and comfortable will be important. But the workload on your HVAC system will be taxing, and you should do whatever you can to make sure it’s up to the task.

If you have an air conditioning unit that isn’t running properly, you’re probably wasting money on inefficient energy usage. You’re probably also contributing to a premature demise of the unit, and paying the costs for preventing this will be a whole lot better than paying for a new one altogether. Some folks might be able to get away with going a summer (and winter) without one, and for others, this just isn’t an option.

Experts in the field have come up with fantastic measures to help you decide what your next move should be. If the costs of repair keep mounting, you’re certainly thinking about whether you’re better off replacing your HVAC system. But at what point does the cost meet that threshold? And how will newer, energy efficient HVACs save me money? We’ve consulted the experts, and this is what they have to say in answer to these questions.

Air conditioning repair, and why age matters

Air conditioning units age more like cars than wine, but just as with cars, the fact that it’s a few years old doesn’t mean you should be looking to replace it. Whether your HVAC system is 6, 8, or even 15-years-old, looking at a $5,000 price tag on a new system might not seem that appetizing. That’s especially true when you’re looking at repair costs that run in the $300-$500 range.

We came across an expert tip given by Brad Wentz, owner of Buckeye Heating & Cooling in Worthington, Ohio. He calls it, “the $5,000 rule.” “You take the age of the equipment,” says Wentz. “And multiply that by the repair cost. If the number is more than $5,000, then you should consider replacement.” So, for example, if you’ve had your HVAC unit for 11-years, and are looking at a $500 repair cost, you should probably consider replacing the unit.

Wentz’s logic will ring especially true for those folks who are running into problems with their unit year-after-year. Rising repair costs seem to run side-by-side with higher energy costs, as units become more outdated and worn. New energy efficient HVACs are out there, but just because you’ll save money on your energy bill, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth the investment.

Choosing the right HVAC repairman near you

Since you’ll be basing your decision to repair or replace on the quote an HVAC technician gives you, it goes without saying that who you choose is important. And just because someone quotes you the lowest price doesn’t mean their work will be quality. So what should you consider? We consulted Angie’s List, and gathered these five things to keep in mind when choosing an HVAC technician.

  • Sufficient experience – HVAC systems come in many shapes and sizes, and the more experience a tech can draw on the better. You can ask them directly, in-person or over the phone, and find out how long their company has been in business.
  • Proper credentials – Every state has different requirements, and a quick search can bring you up to speed on what’s necessary in your state. Again, asking the tech up-front is the best way to go.
  • Versatility – If a tech has performed maintenance on a number of HVAC systems, that should help them diagnose the problem with yours. However, if you have a unique unit, you might try to find someone who has direct experience with your system.
  • Good references – Websites like Yelp and Angie’s List make it easy to find actual customer reviews. But nothing replaces the confidence you get from word of mouth. Talk to your friends and family, and see who they recommend.
  • Quotes a fair price – A low price is certainly attractive, but if the work is shoddy, it could lead to more costs down the road. The longer they’ve been in business the more likely they are to quote you a fair price. We recommend getting your quote, and then shopping it around to other companies.

How much will an energy efficiency unit really save me?

There’s no debating it, you will save money on your power bill if you buy a new energy-efficient HVAC or A/C unit. Therefore, it should be considered if you’re mulling over the cost of repair versus replacement. Energy Star recommends replacing your HVAC unit every 10-years, but we feel that’s more of a guideline than a rule. Let’s dive into what else you should consider.

  • How much does an energy efficient unit cost? – According to Home Guide, an energy efficient HVAC system, with installation, will cost somewhere between $4,820-$9,350. This assumes your ducts are not in need of repair.
  • How much will it save me on my power bill? – According to Energy Star, an energy efficient HVAC unit will save homeowners 20% on heating and cooling costs.
  • What should I consider when shopping for one? – One nice thing about air conditioners and HVAC systems is that they come with rating systems. The only problem is, there are at least four different systems. They are SEER, HSPF, AFUE and EER. Fortunately, they all follow the same rule: The higher the rating the more energy efficient it is.

High ratings on those metrics will come with a higher price tag, as replacing an HVAC system is no small matter. Repairing may make more sense for you this time, but down the road it might not. Either way, keep your unit humming through the warm days and nights ahead.