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Should You Pay AC Repair Costs, Or Is It Time for a Replacement?

August 22, 2020

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Residential AC repair costs are often cheaper than a new air conditioner altogether; however, there are times when a new AC unit is the better choice than repairs. If you’re a homeowner facing some steep air conditioning repair costs, how do you know when it’s time to choose a replacement versus repairs, and when you might invest in those repairs no matter the expense?

Consider an air conditioning replacement if your current unit is more than five to seven years old, if the repairs are almost as costly as a new unit, or if the current unit is undersized or overpowered for your home. On the other hand, choose AC repairs if those fixes will keep your unit running optimally for at least another two to three years.

As there is no “one size fits all” answer as to whether you should pay for AC repairs or invest in a new unit altogether, you might consider some added details about repairs versus replacement. You can then better decide which is the right option for your home and budget.

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Note, too, that you can also discuss your concerns with your AC repair contractor, as he or she will offer some valuable advice about your home’s air conditioner and cooling needs in general. This will also help you to decide between AC repair costs and a new air conditioner or HVAC system installation.

Helping You Choose Between AC Repair Costs and Replacement

Before you take out your checkbook for needed AC repair costs, or decide that it’s time for a new HVAC system instead, consider some added information and advice on choosing between the two.

  • First note that all appliances have an expected lifespan; after that time, it’s expected that major components will break down so that repairs are more expensive than a new unit. Many residential AC units last around five to 10 years; if your home’s AC system is that old, you’ll probably need to purchase a new unit sometime soon anyway!
  • Older units might also draw more power as their parts struggle to operate. A newer air conditioner, especially an energy-efficient model, can mean lower utility costs every summer.
  • When deciding between repairs or a new AC installation, consider if this is a chance to replace an undersized or overpowered unit. An undersized unit cannot push air through all the vents and ducts in a home, while an overpowered unit might cycle off too quickly, leaving behind excess humidity.
  • Overpowered units might also be using more power than what’s required by a smaller air conditioner; downsizing to something appropriate for your home can also mean saving on your utility costs throughout summer months.
  • On the other hand, if your home’s AC unit is only a few years old, repairs now can mean a functioning unit for several more years, making those air conditioning repair costs worth the investment.
  • An air conditioning repair contractor can note the overall condition of a home’s HVAC unit and give you an estimated idea of its expected lifespan. If he or she says the unit is in relatively good condition, other than those repairs needed immediately, you might invest in those fixes rather than an entirely new HVAC unit.
  • Your AC repair contractor might also suggest cleaning and other routine maintenance along with air conditioning repairs, to keep your unit functioning optimally and potentially lower your utility costs.

How to Avoid Otherwise Unnecessary AC Repair Costs

All HVAC systems will need repairs eventually, no matter the make and model or installation costs. However, the way a homeowner uses and maintains their air conditioner can affect that unit’s lifespan and overall function. Note a few tips for ensuring your home AC runs as it should and for avoiding otherwise unnecessary AC repair costs.

Many homeowners assume that switching the air conditioner off manually helps reduce wear and tear, but note that the appliance switches on according to the temperature read by the home’s thermostat. Switching the AC off early and letting the interior spaces get overly warm can mean having the unit cycle on more often than it would otherwise, actually creating more wear and tear! Set a reasonable temperature for your home’s interior and let the unit function normally, for maximum efficiency.

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Another way to reduce unnecessary wear and tear that lead to AC repair costs is by keeping the home’s ductwork clean. Built-up dust, dirt, cobwebs, and other residues inside ducts slow down the flow of air, making the AC unit work harder overall. Invest in regular ductwork cleaning by an air conditioning contractor, for improved indoor air quality and less wear and tear on the home’s HVAC system.

Air conditioning maintenance also helps keep the unit functioning as optimally as possible, reducing wear and eventual repairs. Air conditioner maintenance typically includes cleaning, oiling moving parts, replacing some worn parts, and other such general tasks. This keeps the AC unit running as it should and helps reduce wear.

A homeowner might also consider how they can keep the air conditioner from cycling on as often as it does; for example, invest in sheers or blinds that block heat and sunlight without making a room seem dark and dreary. Turn off your electronics when not in use rather than letting computers and other devices sit idle, as these generate tremendous amounts of heat. Fans also help circulate cool air so the air conditioner doesn’t need to work as hard to move it through the home’s ducts.

One last tip for avoiding otherwise unnecessary air conditioner repair costs; invest in a quality unit when you’re in the market for a new AC or HVAC system! Off-brand, low-quality units tend to break down sooner rather than later, and you might also see many of their parts fail over the years. A high-quality unit or brand name, known for durability and dependability, can mean fewer breakdowns and resultant repair costs, saving you money in the long run.

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Hidden Signs of Needed Air Conditioner Repairs

A home’s AC unit doesn’t need to fail altogether to need repairs or replacement. However, homeowners often overlook many signs of needed fixes simply because they don’t associate these with a failing air conditioner! If you note any of these things around your home or with your HVAC system, call an air conditioner repair contractor as soon as possible.

  • An air conditioner removes humidity, not just heat, as said. If your home’s interior feels cool but clammy or otherwise humid, your AC might be cycling off too quickly. In those cases, the thermostat might need replacing or recalibrating, to ensure the AC removes humidity as well as heat.
  • A home’s central air conditioner should be on its own circuit, as it draws so much power. If circuits keep tripping when you turn on the air conditioner, it’s time to call a repair contractor! Brownouts and tripped circuits mean the AC isn’t getting sufficient electricity to operate, which can result in excessive wear and tear. A repair contractor or electrician can check that the home’s wiring is in good condition or if the AC isn’t on its own circuit as needed.
  • A sudden spike in your home’s utility costs can signal that an appliance is drawing more power than usual, often to force damaged parts to operate. If you notice an increase in your power costs during summertime, you might need AC repairs or maintenance!
  • A home’s air conditioner should cool all areas of the house equally. If some rooms in the home aren’t cooled as well as other rooms, the AC might need repairs or you might need a larger, more powerful unit that reaches all areas of the house.
  • Be alert to odd sounds and smells originating from the home’s AC unit! Grinding sounds might indicate a broken part or something stuck in the compressor housing, or a part struggling to work. Squealing often indicates worn bearings. Burning smells also indicate a broken part or something struggling to work. Never assume these are just normal for older units but call for AC repairs if you notice sounds and smells coming from your home’s air conditioner.
  • A homeowner would do well to inspect the AC compressor housing on occasion. Look for a build-up of dirt and debris in the fins or grilles of the housing, leaks under the unit, ice particles, and the like. Call an AC repair technician if you notice any of these, for needed maintenance or repairs.

An air conditioner repair technician can also note needed repairs or worn parts during regular maintenance, as said. He or she might inspect the unit’s bearings, motor, fan blades, compressor, and other such parts, and alert you to signs of excessive wear and tear.

When it’s time for a new air conditioner, your HVAC contractor can also suggest the best model and size for your home. Investing in a high-quality brand with the power needed to keep your home cool is the best way to avoid otherwise unnecessary AC repair costs down the road, and know your home will always be cool and comfortable during summer months!

 

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