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

Find out what you need to know about replacing your air conditioner

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  It could be more costly in the long term to continue servicing a system with out-of-date refrigerant.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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…

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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 –

  8. 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:

  9. 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.

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