As heating and cooling units age, they lose their efficiency. This can lead to frequent breakdowns, costly service visits, or an expensive replacement. We’ve compiled a list of factors to consider when determining if you should repair or replace your HVAC system—and what to consider when purchasing a new unit.
A home warranty from one of the best providers can potentially help save with some of those costs. For HVAC, we recommend reading our First American Home Warranty review, our Choice Home Warranty review, and our American Home Shield review.
Repair or replace HVAC?
Air conditioning systems and heat pumps break down more frequently and lose efficiency after 10 years. If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, it’s time to plan for major HVAC repairs or replacement.
That’s not to say that replacement is imminently necessary—hopefully it’s not. New HVAC systems are expensive, ranging from $6,000–$8,500 for an installation without any extras and without any ductwork. To add ductwork—estimated to be needed in 10%–15% of HVAC system replacements—the cost rises to $9,000-$12,500.
Systems last 10–15 years with proper maintenance and care. By beginning to plan for replacement early, you can often prolong the life of your current system and take steps to begin saving money to invest in a new unit or system when the time arises.
If you notice any of the following, it’s likely time to call in a professional to run a diagnostic test on your system:
- Increasing energy bills—A spike in your energy usage—beyond a typical seasonal adjustment—could indicate an issue with your HVAC system. If you’ve been in your home for more than a year, compare your utility bills to determine whether you are consistently above your prior year’s energy use.
- Humidity problems—Your house is too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer. Humidity issues are an indication that there may be a problem with your ductwork. For some, this is a feasible DIY task—though costly and time intensive. For most, however, installation and replacement of ductwork is best left to professionals.
- Uneven temperatures—Homes with more than one level will experience temperature fluctuations with a one-zone system. A wide variance in temperature between rooms—even on the same level—or between floors might indicate there’s something wrong in your system. Call a service technician to help diagnose whether this is a simple issue with your thermostat needing to be recalibrated or a more concerning issue like leaking ductwork.
- Frequent repairs—Making multiple repairs to your system each year? Sprung a freon leak? It might make more sense to purchase a new system and absorb the short-term cost than to continue to pay out of pocket for frequent, expensive repairs.
Maintenance is recommended biannually—once in the spring before summer and once in the fall before winter. Proper maintenance—even without any known, identified, or suspected issues with your system—is important to ensure proper functionality and prolong the life of your system.