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  It could be more costly in the long term to continue servicing a system with out-of-date refrigerant.

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

  1. Hello, my A/C compressor went out. Does not turn on. I had a pro look at it. He said it was grounded. I need to replace the compressor. He wants to charge me $3,800. Seems to be both heating and air. The heating unit is good. Do I have to replace both? Can I get something cheaper?

  2. Twice in the last 2 weeks when I turned my a/c on it wouldn’t cold air. I suspect the outside fan isn’t turning on, but can’t get out there to verify that due to disability. After shutting it down for 10 or 15 minutes and then turning it back on it worked fine. Do you have any idea what might be going on? Its an International unit which is over 30 years old. Thanks for your time.

  3. I have HVAC Friedrich Greenbrier. It was installed in 1973 and still works fine. Never had any work done except once a gas leak had to be repaired when the law was passed they had to be rpaired and just just toped off and still leak. It gives off Serious HOT heat, not whimpey heat like new heaters. Fan is much quitter than new heaters. Can’t understand why after 44 years it still runs great. The furnace people who clean and service it yearly tested it’s CO and Effiencey last November. CO was 0 and Effiencey was 80.1% Go Figure????

    • It happens. Average ages at replacement in the US are a lot lower – lke 14 years and even lower for a heat pump. Good for you! Thanks for sharing on our site.

  4. 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.

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