Air Conditioners: To Repair Or To Replace?

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With Florida’s summer heat, one question weighs on the minds of homeowners: Should you repair or replace your air conditioner? This dilemma does not offer an easy answer. In your quest to decide, you need to consider a variety of factors.

At Del-Air Heating and Air Conditioning, we sympathize with the tough choice you’re facing. To aid your deliberation, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to simplify the main factors. This will help you ask yourself the right questions about your AC unit.

Where should you start in your AC unit judgments? We’ll cover a variety of important topics, including:

  • Main areas to consider
  • Benefits of replacing an air conditioning unit
  • Easy repairs to do yourself
  • When to call a professional

Main Factors

To get you thinking about your AC unit, we’ll cover some questions to ask yourself about your unit in general.

The 10th Birthday Cutoff

AC units don’t last forever. If your system has reached the 10-year mark, it’s time to consider replacing the unit. As your older units begins to break down, you need to know when to call it quits. After a decade, the costs of repairing become impractical. Use this rough guideline when thinking about the air conditioning replacement or repair question.

Maintenance and the 50% Rule

You can use simple math to assess the cost of whether to replace an air conditioner. We will cover additional cost benefits to getting a new unit later, but consider the 50% rule. If the total cost of repairs is under 50% of the price of a replacement unit, then opt for the repairs. When it exceeds 50%, then it makes sense to choose to replace. Even though it may seem more expensive now, you can expect more repairs in the future.

Benefits of Replacing Your AC Unit

In most circumstances, the choice to ditch an AC comes down to three main areas:

  • Cost to replace an air conditioner vs. cost of repairs
  • Your heath and comfort
  • Environmental considerations
  • In this section, we’ll elaborate on these main air conditioning concerns.

Saving Money by Replacing

Feel like your old AC just eats up your finances? You pour endless resources into repairs but nothing seems to work. You fix one problem and two crop up. One small issue doesn’t seem so bad, so you decide to commit some funds to solving the dilemma. Next, more parts malfunction or break. You think, “I’m sure it’s just a coincidence,” but then more goes wrong. Before you know it, you’re sliding down this slippery slope. Soon you’ve spent more money on your old unit than the cost of buying a new one!

Air conditioners follow their own rules. Occasionally, only one part needs replacing. Following the repair, an AC may continue to thrive for several years. However, more commonly, several components will rupture at once. This makes sense considering that all the parts in a unit age at the same rate.

Replacing Saves Money on Electricity

Old units require more energy. This thirst for power will rack up your electrical bill. Even when functioning perfectly, an old machine likely consumes more energy than its newer counterpart. Like with all technology, AC unit research has improved the quality of recent systems. These new units consume less energy than their precursors. Additional strain on old units increases their power inefficiency. An old machine, which breaks down, makes noise and functions poorly, doubtlessly consumes even more electricity.

Tax Benefits

Replacing your AC unit often becomes much easier if there’s a monetary incentive. In certain cases, you might qualify for a tax credit. In this scenario you get a double bonus: a new AC and a possible tax break. In some instances, you might also receive a discount on your new unit. This draws customers towards higher-functioning, more environmentally-friendly systems. The tax incentive pushes people in a greener direction.

Environmental Benefits

Back in the 1990s, everybody talked about the ozone layer. Ozone-harming gases like Freon became taboo and companies began removing them from products. Unfortunately, old AC units often contain these chemicals. The U.S. Government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently state that all R-22 refrigerant chemicals must be under disposal by 2020. As R-22 occasionally pops up in old AC units, you can help the environment by replacing your unit if it contains this chemical. Newer R-410A air conditioners don’t damage the ozone. Consider doing your part in protecting the planet. Moreover, your decision to upgrade might already be sealed. The restrictions on R-22 will prevent you from properly repairing your unit in the future.

Less Noise

Is the loud drone of your dying machine wearing your eardrums down? As they gain in the years, AC units start to make noise. Older AC units tend to develop a trademark rumble. Many AC units plague their owners by filling an otherwise quiet home with their cacophonous whirring.

This type of constant noise usually draws the most attention at night. Just when you’re settling down, the AC kicks on. You writhe in bed, pressing the pillow to your ears in a futile mission to cushion the maddening sound. You consider shutting off the source of your torment but resign yourself to the noise — the heat would be even worse. Loud AC units will ruin your sleep. Consider getting a newer, quieter unit.

No Waiting for the Repairman

Find yourself wondering when the repairman’s coming? Your time doesn’t come free, so don’t waste it by waiting. Don’t take time out of your schedule to sit around in a hot room anticipating the knock of a repairman. Simply buy a new AC unit. This easy solution to the problem of a late repairman rewards your lack of patience. Whoever said “good things come to those who wait” didn’t have to sit in hot room.

Vast Improvements

A new machine blasts out that cold air with youthful vigor. Nothing beats the power and increased functionality of a freshly unpackaged air conditioner. Not only does a new AC run better, but new technological features also permit greater climate control and customization.

The latest AC units increase your ability to manage temperature and humidity. Don’t settle for anything less than absolute power. If you permit an AC unit to run amok, your comfort and health will suffer. If you can’t control the temperature, you’re going to sweat, and if your humidity lets loose, your house will begin to get mildew.

Breathe Healthier

As AC units age, they become possible health risks. Over the course of their lifetime, AC units begin to accumulate unwanted contaminants in the air filters. If not properly cleaned and replaced, these irritants flood into your air. Dust particles and other allergens can pollute your house and lungs. Even putting the time and money into cleaning or buying new filters may not fix the problem. Corrosion and other unavoidable issues lead to situations where replacing the unit seems the best, and healthiest, option.

Letting Go

It’s sad, but over time everything wears out. Your old AC unit just can’t compete with a new champion. We know you’ve come to consider your previous unit as part of the family. It’s helped you through many hot summers. When you needed its cold air on your face, it was there for you. But it’s time to move on.

If you’re not so nostalgic about your AC unit, then you’re in luck. For the rest of us, it’s a somber day setting an old AC out to pasture. With letting go comes the chance for growth. You’ll move on and grow to depend on a new AC unit. Don’t worry, you’ll love it just as much.

Should You Replace?

The decision to replace your unit ultimately depends on you. You need to weigh your priorities and the seriousness of your AC issues. Most minor hiccups don’t need a full replacement, but eventually you’ll need to accept the inevitable.

In the meantime, there are many affordable ways to prolong the life of your AC unit. In this section, we’ll explore some common ways you can fix an AC unit yourself. Most of the following issues relate to central air conditioning units. This type of AC unit contains more complicated elements than simple AC units, also occasionally called split-minis or forced air conditioners.

Easy DIY Repairs

Don’t get apocalyptic if you hear a strange noise one day — it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s always a good idea to investigate the cause of a sudden issue first. You can perform many simple investigations yourself. Once you discover the source of the problem, you might even remedy the problem yourself.

Of course, you should call a professional before attempting any major repair. Experts exist for a reason. If you suspect a larger issue lies at the heart of the trouble, don’t hesitate to call for help. However, many smaller chores don’t require hired pros.

Clean Your AC Unit’s Filters

Don’t let your AC unit’s filters get dirty. The nasty gunk stuck on your filters will pollute your air and damage your health. Thankfully, this essential task doesn’t require much expertise. Simply open up the system and take out the filter. Inspect the filter and determine whether it needs replacing or just cleaning. If there’s a tear in the filter, get a new one. Otherwise, proceed to vacuum out all the debris using the hose attachment. Next, let the filter soak in an equal part water and common vinegar emulsion. This helps to kill any lingering bacteria. Let the filters soak in their bath for several hours. After they’re ready, remove them and lay them to air dry on a towel. Return them to the AC unit, and pat yourself on the back. Job well done.

Avoid Duct Leakage

If you’re noticing a drop-off in your central AC unit’s productivity, you might suffer from leaky ducts. Central air conditioners use a network of ducts to pipe cold air into each room. As time wears on, these ducts begins to leak. The worst part of faulty ducts involves their location. As ducts run through parts of your house like the attic, they leak cold air into unwanted areas.

To check that your ducts aren’t leaking air, just perform an investigation of the exterior of the accessible ducts. Take a trusty roll of duct tape along and patch up any crack you encounter. No one wants an nice cold attic, especially since it costs money to cool any part of your house.

Before You Look: Kill The Power

Diagnosing the root cause of an AC symptom first involves necessitates turning off the power. Any unusual issue, especially a total shut-down, likely concerns a power issue. To test the possibility of power failure, switch off the system’s electricity completely. Of course, tinkering around with fuses constitutes a significant risk of electrocution, so ensure the power is off. Any further investigation, such as removing your outdoor system’s access panel, requires a safe absence of electricity.

Test the Tubes

Time to break out your multimeter and see if there are any blown fuses. Problems often result from simple things like a blown fuse. Rule out the obvious causes before proceeding to speculate on the real culprit. Take your multimeter and set it to the lowest detection on the Ohms scale. Touch the black and red ends to the corresponding ends of each fuse. If you get a minus sign or zero, then congratulations — your fuse is blown. Unfortunately, a blown fuse likely indicates a much larger problem. After all, what blew the fuse? Replace the fuse and try it out. If it blows out again, phone a repairman — there’s something else going on.

Rascally Rodents

Occasionally rats and mice make homes in your outdoor condenser. The outdoor condenser sits next to the exterior of your house and sucks air into a condensing coil which cools the air. This part’s location outdoors attracts small animals hoping to construct a nest. Once infested, the unwanted guests proceed to chew through wires and damage the condenser.

Before you peer into condenser, make sure the power’s shut off. Then remove the access panel. Remove the screws and detach the panel. Look around and assess for chewed wires and other possible damage.

If you discover any evidence of rodent habitation, simply clean up the nest and proceed to assess the problem. If any wires bear evidence of fracture, you might need to replace the capacitor.

Replacing a Capacitor

The capacitor houses the electrical charge before allocating the voltage to both the compressor and condenser fan.

If any wires bear wear or tear, then your capacitor might be incapacitated.

Capacitors act as the heart of the outdoor compressor. If the heart doesn’t kick-start the other parts of the machine, then your AC won’t work. Don’t worry about performing a “heart” transplant though — capacitors don’t cost much and aren’t difficult to reinstall.

To replace a capacitor, simply take a cell phone picture of the wire configuration before detaching anything. If you forget how it looks when you hook up the new capacitor, just peek at the picture. Next, take an insulated screwdriver and use the shaft to complete a circuit on the terminals of the capacitor. This discharges any stored power remaining in the capacitor. Touch the shaft from the H-terminal to the C-terminal, and the F-terminal to the C-terminal. Now you’re ready to unplug the capacitor.

Use the picture you took as a guide and secure the new capacitor. Ensure all the wires fit in their sockets securely and jiggle each to check their firm adhesion. Once you’re satisfied, return the access panel to its place, screwing it back into position. Return power to the outdoor compressor and you’re done!

Expensive Repairs

Unfortunately, many AC unit problems don’t offer an easy fix. There’s a number of issues for which replacement represents the only option. For instance, if your system has irreparable corrosion damage, then you will need to replace the entire system. If such damage is merely cosmetic, then your unit may survive, but if the damage has led to functional impairment — say goodbye.

Damage can affect the coils in your outdoor compressor. You might get air pumped through your house, but it’s just not cold. Problems like this point the blame at faulty compressor coils. The list of irreplaceable parts and impractical repairs includes a huge number of possible causes and combinations of problems. The outcome of most complex issues usually ends with replacement.

If you’re not sure whether your AC unit is doomed, contact a professional to get a proper assessment. Experts also offer the best solution to repairing your unit.

Consult a Repair Professional

Unless you’re handy and brave enough to tackle repairs on your own, call a pro. Get an expert to come and investigate for you. They’ll tell you whether it’s prudent to repair or replace. If your AC unit keeps malfunctioning, you’ll have little option but to enlist help.

Learn all you can about the parts, and decide whether repairing or replacing the air conditioner seems the better option. Weigh the seriousness of the problem and the likelihood of further long-term issues. If a series of band-aid solutions suits your style, then go ahead.

In many cases, you’ll discover that replacement offers the better option. You don’t want to continually prop up a broken unit. If you stay on the repair track, you’ll end up replacing every part. Unless you’re performing all the repairs yourself, then you’ll need to pay the repairman as well. This fee, combined with cost of parts, will pretty soon amass to a higher cost than just buying a new unit.

Ask Del-Air Heating and Air Conditioning

At Del-Air Heating and Air Conditioning, we know the difficulty of deciding to proceed with a new air conditioner. But we offer our customer more than empathy — we provide the best service and knowledge of HVAC (air conditioner) service in Florida.

We take in pride in our reputation as the only Florida HVAC dealer that sells and services every major brand and manufacturer of HVAC systems. We command a fleet of over 400 fully equipped customer service vans to assist your HVAC needs. We will provide a quote in 10 minutes flat and next-day installation.

Visit our website for more information about Del-Air Heating and Air Conditioning, air conditioners and our services. Whether you decide to repair or replace your air conditioner, we’re here to help you make the right choice.