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[HVAC] Should You Replace or Repair?

If you’ve started to notice that your home isn’t quite as cold (or hot) as you want it to be, your HVAC system might be on the fritz. Maybe over the last few years you’ve had it fixed a handful of times and you’re just not sure if you want to shell out any more money to fix it again. Do you pay to have your system repaired, or is it time to buy a new unit?

Well, that depends:

The age of your system should play a big part in your decision to replace or repair. If your current, broken system is more than six years old you will benefit from a technological update. Older systems won’t function the same after years of use, and some homeowners can expect hefty savings after purchasing a new system.

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, air conditioners have a life span of about 15 years, so if your system is older than that, it’s time to replace. Professionals also say to replace a system when the cost of repair multiplied by the age of the unit exceeds the cost of a new system.

So if your 10-year-old system’s repair cost is around $700, it’s time to replace with a new system for up to $7,000

Still, the age of a system before the 10 or 15-year mark is no reason to replace it altogether. Often, old systems may be working just fine but need a minor fix. If this is your air conditioner’s first repair, it probably isn’t time to purchase something new. Replacement, in these cases, would be much costlier than repair.

A special case:

Most old A/C units run on the now-outdated R-22 Refrigerant, Freon. R-22 is slowly being phased out by a newer refrigerant called R-410a which is said to be more environmentally friendly. Because new units run on R-410a, R-22 is harder to come by and much more expensive. If your old air conditioner is leaking R-22, it’s better to replace the system than continue topping it off.

This is where preference comes in:

Though not necessary, many homeowners upgrade old systems to make their homes more energy efficient. If you have an older system that runs well but are planning to stay in your current home for many years, investing in a new air conditioning or Geothermal system could be beneficial.

Upgrading to a new Geothermal system can drive your energy bill down, as it is one of the most efficient systems on the market. Geothermal systems work through underground components that share heat with earth. The system leeches heat from underground in the winter and moves heat away from your home in the summer.

Check Out Our Selection of Geothermal Systems

Your preference may be based almost entirely on your climate and typical energy usage. If your current system only runs a few times a year, an upgrade may not be important or even ideal for your home. Still, if you live in a climate that requires you run your HVAC system for months at a time, an upgrade could be worth it.

Your decision:

When it comes down to it, your HVAC system can continue to be repaired for as long as you’d like. But, when you’re trying to choose between repairing and replacing, you only need to consider a few things.

  • The age of your system & number of repairs
  • The price of the repair
  • The type of refrigerant your unit takes
  • Your climate and energy usage
  • Your preference

After you’ve taken these things into account, you can get a second opinion from a sales representative or your local HVAC professional and move forward with the best course of action for you.

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[Explanation] Is Air Conditioner Maintenance Really Necessary???

Every year for the past seven years, I have received a letter in the mail from my landlord informing me that they have scheduled a local air conditioner company to come to my house and service my AC unit. I have the same reaction every time – I roll my eyes, think to myself, “Is this really necessary?” and then start clearing out my tiny laundry room so that the poor man that has to do the work can actually get to the air conditioner around my pile of junk. Although I question it every time, especially since the air conditioner seems to be the only thing that my landlord ever pays any attention to in my thirty-year old house that is desperately in need of repair, I have never really concerned myself with it. However, after listening to the complaints of several friends whose air conditioning units have recently been out in the midst of a not-so-rare southern winter heat wave, I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t be grumbling every time that they send someone out to service my AC unit.

Since I am by no means an expert on anything to do with air conditioners, I decided to do some of my own research about their maintenance. Turns out, that yearly service call actually serves more of a purpose than just forcing me to throw away some of the junk in my closet. Most experts recommend that homeowners get their AC units serviced once a year, typically in the spring, to catch any problems before it gets heavily used in the summer. While I have always thought that once a year seemed a little excessive, it turns out that there is actually a lot that can happen to your AC in a year’s time (which I should have probably already known since just last year, my AC serviceman found some algae buildup in my unit that had to be cleaned out). Throughout the year, essential AC parts such as coils and filters build up dust and dirt, which, if left unchecked, can lead to the unit being inefficient, struggling to cool, and eventually in need of major repairs. Proper maintenance can help extend the life of a unit and lower the cost of using it. Since I’m always looking for ways to save money, I enjoyed reading this – I need all the help I can get with lowering my electric bill, especially during the summer months!

In addition to keeping costs down, I found that servicing your AC unit every year actually has some health benefits, as well! A poorly maintained air conditioner can lead to buildup of dust, algae, mold, and other contaminants that can be harmful to your health. Even though most of us know that it is important to change our air filters frequently (apparently, once a month is the recommended amount of time for keeping an air filter, as opposed to the once-every-few-months-or-whenever-I-think-about-it timeframe that I am bad about keeping….oops!), the majority of homeowners never think about the consequences of not maintaining the rest of the unit. Some seemingly normal problems like congestion, headaches, skin irritation, drowsiness or fatigue, and difficulty breathing could stem from poor air conditioner maintenance. An AC maintenance person will be able to make sure that the moisture and condensation caused by the unit is being properly routed away so that it does not lead to the buildup of contaminants that can lead to these potentially serious health problems.

After studying the benefits of proper air conditioner maintenance, I can finally answer my own question – yes, it really is necessary! For homeowners looking to extend the life of their AC units, proper maintenance once a year should be as essential as changing the oil in your car. Even tenants such as myself shouldn’t complain about their annoying, paranoid landlords (not that I would ever do such a thing!) when they get letters about maintenance appointments in the mail; if letting someone in my house for about 30 minutes once a year will save me money in electricity and also keep my skin from breaking out into hives, I think it’s well worth the time (also, it really is a good reminder to throw out some of the junk that’s accumulated in my storage room in the past year). So this year, when I get that letter in the mail about my upcoming maintenance appointment, I promise to try to refrain from rolling my eyes and instead, thank my lucky stars that my landlord actually cares enough to ensure that I have a working AC unit, especially in the middle of a hot south Georgia summer!

Have You Changed Your Air Filter Lately? [overview]

When was the last time you replaced your home’s air conditioning filter? Do you remember? If you don’t, your bank account probably does and so do your allergies. If you tend to let the task of switching out your return air filter slip your mind, it’s time to think twice.

The Health of Your HVAC System

Dirty Air Conditioner FilterBy design, filters work to maintain the health of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.  They do this by keeping the air your house “breathes” clear of dust, dander, mold and some bacteria. You can think of your HVAC system as the lungs of your house, with air filters working like respirator masks.

If your air filter becomes clogged from neglect, the air intake of your system will be drastically decreased. The unit must work longer to do its job as less air flows through the system, increasing the system’s overall energy usage. Particles that are not trapped by a full filter can also build up on components inside of your air conditioning unit. Build up on the evaporator coils inside of your air conditioner can cause the unit to freeze over, leaving your house improperly cooled.

Left unaddressed for too long, a system with a clogged filter can sustain irreparable damage that will cost you much more than a filter replacement.

The Health of Your Family

Clean Air Conditioner FilterYour air conditioning filter is your home’s first defense against respiratory agitators. Pollen, bacteria, smoke and even auto-emissions can creep in to your home’s air circulation through a clogged filter. If your family has indoor pets, dander made up of dead skin and fur can also be an issue.

Without a properly functioning filter your HVAC system will be unable to properly dehumidify your home, creating the perfect conditions for mold growth in your home’s air vents. As these small particles of dust and mold permeate the air you breathe, you or the members of your family can have an allergic reaction, or more seriously, develop asthma.

Changing the filters around your home on a regular basis is a quick and easy way to ensure the air in your home is clear of allergens and safe for your family to breathe.

How Often You Should Change Your A/C Filters

The length of time you can go between filter changes depends on multiple factors. The more pets and people who occupy your home, the more often you should change your air filters. If you live in an area with extremely high humidity or large amounts of dust, you will need to change your filters more often. General air pollution levels in your city and the type of filter your HVAC system requires should also be considered.

A typical home may be able to go up to three months before a filter change is needed, while filters in homes containing multiple indoor pets may need to be changed more often. If you or someone in your household suffers from chronic allergy problems, a filter change may even be needed once a month or an upgrade to your A/C’s filter may be in order.

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