To Repair or Replace?

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So your old furnace or air conditioner has decided to:
A. Throw in the towel; B. Kick the bucket; C. Give up the ghost; D. Bite the dust, etc.?

How will you determine whether you should have your old system repaired, or if it’s time to have a new system installed?

Tough decision? You bet! Many homeowners may decide on an expensive repair, only to have their equipment break down again, usually the next season, and the next, and so on.

Here are some thoughts to consider when you’re faced with this problem:

HOW OLD IS YOUR EQUIPMENT? Typical heating and cooling systems normally last about 20 years. If your system is 10 to 15 years old, then replacing it with new high efficiency equipment may be a good choice. New equipment will reduce your energy costs and also minimize the need for repairs for some time. New systems will also have a new warranty from the manufacturer.

WHAT IS THE OVERALL CONDITION OF YOUR SYSTEM? Has it worked well? Is the system in good condition? Did it heat and cool your home adequately? Is the air distribution good? Is it less than 15 years old? If so, then a repair may be a good choice.

ARE THERE PLANS FOR A REMODEL? A major remodel or a pending room addition may require larger equipment. Take this factor into account before making a decision whether to repair or replace your system.

HAS THE COMPRESSOR FAILED? Air conditioning compressors usually last about 20 years. Replacing a compressor in older equipment is not recommended. However, if the compressor failed prematurely (sooner than 15 years) there is usually a reason for the failure, which can be determined with a proper diagnosis. This problem must be corrected, or the new compressor will also fail, and most likely in a shorter period of time.

IS IT THE FURNACE FIREBOX ( HEAT EXCHANGER)? Firebox failures are relatively rare in modern furnaces. A firebox should last about 20 years. If it did not, the reason for the failure must be corrected, or the replacement will also fail. Several conditions could cause this problem, most of them are related to a lack of air flow. This repair is an expensive one and may not be advisable on older equipment, even if the part can be located.

HOW LONG DO YOU PLAN ON LIVING IN YOUR HOME? If your plans are long term, then investing in new equipment will pay dividends in the long run. If you plan on moving soon, then a one-time repair may be a better choice, depending on the cost. Remember that when a prospective buyer looks to purchase your house, new equipment will add ‘saleability’.

HOW MUCH ARE YOUR UTILITY BILLS? Utility bills are always on the rise. New equipment is more efficient than older equipment. New high efficiency equipment will decrease your energy usage, and may provide rebates from the manufacturer or your utility company.

WHAT ABOUT NOISE ISSUES? There are many ways to decrease the amount of noise from heating and air conditioning systems. If noise was an issue before, address the problem now. It won’t go away on its own.

WHAT IS THE CONDITION OF THE DUCTWORK? Are the ducts leaking, crushed, or separated? Has the insulation fallen off? Are the ducts insulated with asbestos? Connecting new equipment to a faulty duct system would be like taking the tires from your old car, and having them installed on the new car that you’ve just purchased. Not a good choice.

Jim Berry was a heating and air conditioning service technician, prior to becoming a Sales Consultant for Kahn Air Conditioning – A Member of the Chambers’ Home Improvement Cluster. Kahn hosts free monthly workshops to help homeowners learn about heating and cooling systems.
For questions regarding heating or air conditioning, send e-mail to jberry@kahnair.com.