Repair or Replace? What Should I Do with My Old Air Conditioner?

It is a myth that age alone can make a system fail, so be wary of anyone that tells you otherwise. If you are considering repairing or replacing your old unit, you need to look at how often you run your system.

Run-time for your system is based on:

  • Where you live
  • What type of system you have
  • How often you choose to run it

Some modern systems have run-time monitors that keep track of this information for you kind of like an odometer on your car. Until those become widely adopted, check out these approximate ranges for what you might expect:

Warm States – If you live in an area of the country that experiences long summer cooling seasons (8-9 months or more) then you likely have logged a lot of hours on your system.  As a general rule, you can expect to have a system that runs effectively for about 10 to 15 years based on normal usage.  If your system is a few years younger than this you should favor repairing it instead of replacing.

Moderate States – If you live in the Midwest or Northeast where the cooling season runs from about May to September, you might be able to get a few more years out of your air conditioning system – approximately 15-18 years based on normal usage.

Cold States – If you live in the North, such as Minnesota, Maine, North Dakota, etc., you could have a central air conditioner that has seen very little run time and could be worth repairing even if it is more than 20 years old.  Run-time is the main factor, not age, and your contractor can help you make this determination.

Heat Pumps – If you have a heat pump that means your system is used for both heating and cooling and has had almost twice the run time of an air conditioning only system.  You can almost divide the above times in half to determine how long an older heat pump system might last under normal usage.

Bottom Line: Air conditioning and heat pump systems do not simply go bad because they are old.

  • These are sealed systems and if you maintain them properly, change the air filters and have periodic maintenance and cleaning done by a contractor, they should easily run well throughout their useful life.
  • If the system is not maintained or has experienced a lot of run hours in extreme conditions it might not last as long as you would expect.
  • You should always check your warranty before you decide whether to repair or replace your system.
  • Over the past few years, OEM system warranties have been extended to cover a lot of repairs – even out to ten years or more.
  • Talk to your contractor about your options and make the best decision for you.

Have you been told your system needed to be replaced simply because it was old?

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3 thoughts on “Repair or Replace? What Should I Do with My Old Air Conditioner?

  1. Ed, often times you can put a new R410A coil (the indoor part of your AC/HP system that typically sits above the furnace) and outdoor condenser with an existing air handler (or furnace). As you mentioned, the key is to get the dimensions right. Best advice there is to lookup your existing coil model number and find a similar size coil online and search for that model number and compare the dimensions. If you find one that fits you should have no problems re-using the copper line sets (just be sure they do a flush).

  2. My Goodman system is R-22 based. My air handler is in my attic. Removal and replacement presents challenges I would like to avoid, if possible.
    How would I obtain drawings with sufficient information to compare the cabinet in my home with the new R-410a cabinets that Goodman offers?
    I am interested in retrofitting new R-410a components into my existing air handler cabinet.
    The things I would avoid by doing this are more than supply, return, electric and refrigerant lines. Shoring of my ceiling, removing portions of roof trusses along with replace and repair finishes in my home are all of concern.

  3. Apparently you haven’t spent too many summers in Central Minnesota wit its long hot summers and heavy humidity. Air conditioners, while maybe not used every day of the summer, are definitely put through their paces.

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