Do I really need to replace my entire system or can it be repaired?

Ultimately this question is best answered by a qualified contractor, but there are some general rules that can help guide your conversation.  Depending on the age, how often your system runs and where you live you could be better off replacing rather than repairing it.  If the problem is something simple and inexpensive like a failed part you are much better off repairing it.  However, if a contractor tells you there is a refrigerant leak or the compressor needs to be replaced you should weigh the cost-benefit options of replacing the whole system versus paying for costly repairs.  You will also need to consider what type of refrigerant your old system has (likely R-22) since it is being phased out in favor of a more efficient and environmentally friendly refrigerant, R410A.  It could be more costly in the long term to continue servicing a system with out-of-date refrigerant.

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33 thoughts on “Do I really need to replace my entire system or can it be repaired?

  1. Hi. I am replacing a fairly new heat pump with a 97% efficient gfa furnace. I am doing this because the house I just bought has a ventless fireplace as a suppliment to the heat pump. I don’t trust ventless fireplaces, they scare me. I live in Indiana and it gets cold here. My last electric bill was almost $500.00 because the strips kicked on in the heat pump. Can I keep the heat pump compressors as my ac? Will there be an issue using them as my central air?

    • Hi Eric – You should ask the contractors who are quoting your new furnace to see if you can keep the outdoor AC/HP unit and the indoor “coil” which provides for the cooling (AC) and heating (heat pump). Make sure your AC/HP unit is not too old though as most systems in the US are replaced after about 14 years depending on the overall run time.

      In many cases they can install the new furnace and air handler and retrofit the indoor coil to that unit. That combination is called “dual fuel” and is becoming very popular in places like the upper mid-west because you get the efficient heating from the heat pump in the fall and spring but you can use the gas furnace on the coldest days and nights in the winter. Heat pumps just do not operate very efficiently below when the ambient temp is below about 15F. There is just not enough energy in the outdoor air to pull into your home so you resistance heaters have to come on to help heat the indoor air.

      With dual fuel, you can also manage the “balance point” – the temperature at which you switch from HP heating to furnace heating based on the prevailing utility rates in your area – hence the term “dual fuel” – e.g. you can choose between the electric heat pump or the gas furnace based on prices for electricity versus natural gas at that time in your area.

      Your contractor should show you how to set that up on your thermostat. BTW, you might need a new thermostat to manage your new dual fuel system since you would now have three separate systems to set – gas furnace, heat pump heat and AC. I hope this helps to answer some of your questions.

  2. Hi,
    my ac is 9 yrs old.Its a leak through coil and 3 diff guys telling with different price about 700 to 1200 dollars to have new evaporate coil and so or replace.
    what is your opinion repair or replace?

    • On average, AC systems in the US are about 14 years old when they are replaced depending on the run times. For example, AC systems last longer in the North than in the south and heat pumps tend to have shorter lives since they run year round. So, at 9 years old your system should have a few more years (5?) of useful life left if you repair it. You can get cost estimates for repairs versus total replacement along with an energy cost estimate for upgrading to a higher efficiency system if you decide to replace.

  3. I have a 4″ crack in my furnace and they tell me it must be replaced. I believe them. I also have a very old AC unit (25 years) which uses the old type of freon. I also believe that I will be moving within 2 years.

    So, the question is, should I replace the entire HVAC system (Furnace, Coil, and AC unit)? Or, should I just replace the furnace and replace the coil, but use the old kind of coil that works with my existing AC unit?

    The price difference seems to be around $2,000. Is it worth it to spend that extra $2,000 to get the whole system rehauled? I am just asking for more trouble by leaving the old AC unit there and by not getting the updated coil type? If the AC goes out, then the coil and the AC will have to be replaced, right?

    • On average, AC systems in the US are about 14 years old when they are replaced depending on the run times. For example, AC systems last longer in the North than in the south and heat pumps tend to have shorter lives since they run year round. So, at 25 years old it is probably time to replace your AC as well as your furnace. You will probably realize a benefit from higher efficiency since the government regulated minimum ratings have gone up since your old unit was installed. You might look into some higher efficiency options like 16+SEER which also offer some comfort advantages. There are many articles on this site which discuss these options.

  4. Tks for all the great info u shared. “WILL FIX IT” came over today to see why our RUDD AC outdoor unit died. He replaced a 15×7.5 capacity for $300 ??? plus his Service charge of $119.95 and it still doesn’t work??? HE WROTE DOWN IT Is approximately 12 yrs old. We moved in just 2 yrs ago so probably not enough equity on the house to pay out for both the outdoor and indoor units as u suggested to someone else. He said an Advisor will come tomorrow morning, Aug 29, 2016. HELP!

  5. Hi – I have three outdoor units. I just noticed that one of them (downstairs, main portion of house) stoppedal blowing cool air. I took a look outside and the fan’s not turning. Checked the fuse box and nothing blown. Is there anything I can do before I call my HVAC guy? Thanks.

    • Hi Jim – it is difficult to determine the real problem without being on site but this does not sound like something simple to fix without proper gages and tools, etc. It might be something simple like a motor or some other part but it might be more of a major repair which, depending on the age of the unit you might want to consider replacing instead of just repairing. If you end up deciding to replace it we recommend getting a few different quotes from different contractors to make sure you are on the same page with what needs to be done, the type of equipment, efficiency, etc. I hope this answers some of your questions.

      • Hi 🙂
        I’m having this exact same problem. Even though the fuse isn’t blown, I click off the furnace fuse & the ac fuse for about 20 seconds & then click them back on again & everything works again. I have to do this every single day though 🙁 I finally contacted an HVAC person today & hopefully I’ll find out the true problem & post it on here, maybe that will help with your issue…

  6. my central heat and air are 23 years, almost 24 years old. I just
    don’t trust my furnace to go another winter. Should I just replace
    the whole thing. I really can’t afford it right now.

    • Hi Tom – Most HVAC systems in the US are replaced on average after about 14-16 years – more or less depending on the run time i.e. shorter in the south and for heat pumps that run in both summer and winter. Sometimes furnaces last a little longer than AC. It might be good to have a qualified HVAC contractor out to inspect your system and advise if there are any apparent problems and also give you an idea of how much it would cost to replace your system. Total replacements can be pretty expensive ($8K to $10K is approximate range for an average sized home) but you might only need a partial replacement – i.e. just AC or just the outdoor – which would be less. The other thing to consider is that there have been a lot of improvements in HVAC systems over the past 24 years so your new system will probably be a lot more efficient even if you bought the minimum allowable efficiency model and even more savings would be available if you upgrade the efficiency which might also give you some comfort and air quality benefits.

      Some contractors have arrangements with local lending institutions to arrange for financing and you might also look into arranging a home equity loan for the upgrade. I hope this helps to answer some of your questions. Thanks for visiting our site and good luck with your HVAC project!

  7. We have lived in a 1000 Square Foot condo in Florida for the past 10 years. The indoor temperature is now above 85 degrees, even though the A/C unit is running continuously.
    The unit was originally installed in 1984 when the condo was built. Its compressor was replaced over 12 years ago. When we have had problems previously, American Home Warranty opts to pay for repairs, but refuses to offer a replacement, even though we have been paying their monthly fee for the past ten years.
    We wonder what can be done to get this company to agree that it is time to replace the unit. Please advise.

  8. I live in Chicago suburbs. The drip pan on my evaporator coil is rusted badly and leaking down into the furnace, which is only a few years old (why these are not aluminum escapes me). The evaporator is an old Alpine unit which is no longer being made. The AC unit is the original — 16 years old. From previous threads it sounds like I need to replace the entire AC system (external compressor/internal evaporator)? Or is it feasible to just replace the evaporator pan?
    Thanks for any help/advice –
    regards

  9. I live near Houston and my original air conditioning system went out while I was away for the 4th of July. Came home last night to 90 degrees in the house. Everything running but no cooling. I know the local repair company will recommend replacement. I have to get back to work and don’t have much time to shop around. What price range would you expect for replacement of inside and outside units? What about Sears? They seem to be trying to be competive with their units.

    • Hi Jane – The charter for our site does not allow us to comment on particular brands or service providers or prices. However, we would suggest that you contact a qualified contractor nearest to your area for a quotation and usually, we encourage people to get at least 2-3 quotes from a few different contractors not only to get competitive prices but to also get different opinions on the installation project, equipment sizing, types and efficiency levels. The ACCA – which is a national contractor organization have a contractor locator tool which may also help you find a qualified contractor in your area. Here’s the link: http://www.acca.org/locator#sthash.8lqQQsRu.dpuf
      Thanks

  10. Hi , I live in Az my Ac is more than 10 years and it seems to me that two summers ago my ac is keep running even its already in asset temperature I set the thermostat at 76 or 75 and i called the ac guy and put freon but it seem that it keeps running still idk if I’m getting paranoid or what . And now since yesterday I noticed my ac is doing same thing it’s still running even its 76 so last night I turned it to 77 so it will stop and it did and then I put it back in 76 and it seems like around noon the ac is just keep running never stop . Is that normal? Right now I just checked and it’s almost 12 midnight the thermostat is set on 76 but the house is 81 . What I need to do ? Do I need to replace my ac ?

    • Most contractors determine the size to install based on having it run for long periods on the hottest days. If it is not keeping up (running non-stop) on the hottest days it might just be sized a little bit to low for your particular application or maybe something is wrong with it and needs to be checked out. If it is running but keeping the house relatively cool it might be ok. However, 81 indoor temperature at midnight seems a little high though so might need to have someone check it out. AC systems are typically replaced after about 16 years depending on run time and geography so you might take that into consideration too. I hope this helps answer some of your questions.

  11. Hi Tiffany – I am sorry it took me a while to respond to this but our research shows that on average, HVAC units are about 16 years old when they are replaced. The age can be more or less depending on geography and run time – shorter in the south where the cooling season is longer and also shorter for heat pumps that run all year round. I hope it worked out for you. Thanks for visiting our site.

  12. Hi! I just had a repairman tell me that I will likely need a new ac and furnace. The ac stopped blowing air through the vents and when he checked the ac it was iced over as a solid block. He said he can’t run diagnostics until the ice has defrosted which will take a couple of days. While defrosting the ice is going to run down into the furnace most likely ruining it. The furnace and ac is 17 years old. Should I replace both or have them come run diagnostics in 2 days and see if it is repairable??

  13. hi, my contractor told me that i may need a new system because my Ac is frosting up the copper line at the unit and at the furnace. He said this could leak condensation into my new furnace and cause problems so we should just replace rather than repair. My unit is almost 9 yrs old.

  14. Hi Benjamin – It sounds like you might have a refrigerant leak or some other problem. You should probably call around to get 2-3 estimates from various HVAC contractors about your options. Repairing or replacing the leaking coil might be a good solution but it is difficult to know this without a full, on-site inspection by a qualified HVAC contractor.

  15. Hi! I have been told that my evaporator coil is getting to cold from both air flow and refrigerant flow and needs to be replaced. Because there is a pipe outside that keep getting ice on it and a c stop working. Help please.

  16. Hi, i have been told my pipework has been split on the air con in a different spot this time.

    Roughly how much would a new pipe cost, the unit is approx 10 years old. It was leaking and had to be regassed i have already paid $500.

    It is blowing hot air but not cold air.

    I guess what i am asking is this unit salvagable?

    • My service man has told I have the old R-22 and the pressure coil has a leak and that it would be more cost efficient to replace than to try to repair. The one I have is 10 yrs old it is a TraneTW-407-3906. I would like your opinion as weather to replace or repair. I live in AZ and use the AC all summer.

  17. The home I live in currently has AC problems. The home was built with the basement unfinished, but they put in a blower with the capacity for the whole house. However, they only put in ventilation sufficient for the home while the basement was unfinished. This causes the condenser to freeze over and make the AC stop working. Any suggestions for me?

    • Hi Jonathan – Sometimes improper air flow across the coil could cause it to freeze up but from your comments it sounds like something else might be causing the problem. You should probably have a qualified HVAC technician check your system to make sure you have the proper refrigerant charge and that the indoor coil and metering device are matched properly to your outdoor unit. If it turns out to be an airflow problem, sometimes the blowers can be adjusted by the contractor.

      Hope this helps.

    • Hi Jackie – Sometimes the outdoor units can be repaired or replaced depending on the nature of the problem and the age of the system. We recommend getting 2-3 quotes or estimates from various, qualified contractors before deciding, but here are few things to consider and discuss with them. I repurposed this from another similar question so some of this might not apply to your particular situation.

      The outdoor units need to use the same refrigerant as the indoor unit. If you have an old R22 system and go to R410A on your new outdoor unit you might be able to replace the expansion device on an old R22 indoor unit so you can use the new R410A refrigerant but only if it was designed for this modification as the pressures are different. Your contractor or the OEM who built your system should be able to help with this.

      However, our research shows that, on average, HVAC systems in the US last about 16 years before they are replaced but the replacement age might vary due to geography (e.g. more run time in the south) and whether it is a heat pump (runs both winter and summer). So, if your system is over 16 years old and/or has had a lot of run time you might want to consider replacing both the indoor and the outdoor units to avoid having to spend more money for future repairs on the old indoor unit. Also, a failure of your old indoor unit might actually end up damaging the new outdoor unit you just replaced.

      Another reason for replacing both is to get the full energy savings from the new outdoor unit – which probably has a higher SEER (Seasonal Energy efficiency Ratio) of 13 or 14 SEER. If your indoor unit is/was a lower efficiency you will probably not realize the rated efficiency of the new outdoor. If you match the efficiency and the refrigerant on the indoor and outdoor units you will get a matched set with the right efficiency and you will probably get a full, new warranty on both if something happens in the future.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with your HVAC project!

  18. During the recent cold spell my outside unit had ice all around the louvers. Can this be economically fixed and if so How?

    • Hi Doug,

      Ice being present on the lower outdoor portion of a Heat pump system could be normal.
      Heat pumps have defrost cycles, like a house hold refrigerator. These defrost boards time out a defrost cycle to remove the ice from the outdoor coils. In your case, as long as the unit is proving heat (from the heat pump unit itself (not auxiliary or back-up heat) to your home, it could have been in the process of going into to defrost.

      Hope this helps,
      Scott

  19. what is the cost difference between R-22 and R410A per #, and what is the repair or recharge tipping point of cost vs Replacement.

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