If your HVAC system does break down, you will be faced with the decision of whether to repair or replace it. Repairs are less expensive, but there are a number of reasons to consider replacing the entire unit.
- The system is eight to 15 years old. While a properly maintained system can last longer than 15 years, some older equipment is not as efficient as those available today. And with the average household spending almost half its energy budget on heating and cooling costs, it makes sense to install an energy-efficient system. For example, the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating measures how much fuel a furnace or boiler converts to heat and how much is wasted. It is not unusual to find old furnaces with an AFUE below 70%, which means that over 30% of the fuel is wasted. High-efficiency furnaces available today can achieve AFUE ratings above 98%. That could mean a reduction in heating bills of 20 to 30%. Likewise, the seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) can be as low as 8 to 10 SEER in older units, while newer units often boast up to 25 SEER, translating to a reduction of up to 50% of cooling costs.
- The system needs to be repaired frequently. Even if the repairs are minor, having an HVAC contractor on speed dial does not bode well for the future. If you are faced with a major repair—such as a compressor for an air conditioner, or a blower motor for a furnace—and you have had to pay for a similar repair recently, it is time to replace the unit.
- Energy bills keep going up and the house is too hot or too cold. There could be a number of reasons for this, such as leaky ducts, or a lack of insulation and weather sealing in the walls and ceiling. However, it could also mean that the current system is not the right size for the house. A properly sized system would solve that problem quickly.
When faced with a large repair, discuss your options with a qualified HVAC contractor. If you choose a replacement, make sure you hire a reputable, licensed and insured contractor associated with a company you can trust, and confirm that you have a sufficient warranty to insure you against installation and mechanical errors. And after the repair or replacement, keep it well maintained.