Repair or Replace your AC Units or Parts
Date Posted:Tue, 24th Nov 2020
A Guide to making an informed choice when your HVAC system is down
You may be confronted by the choice that your air conditioner needs an expensive repair, you can either fix it or buy a new one.
It’s an age-old problem: things break down and you’re not always sure how much life is left in them. Are you throwing good money after bad by fixing something that’s likely to break again soon, or are you unnecessarily paying for a new system when the old one could have lasted another couple of years?
To make matters worse, it’s well known that there are disreputable service vendors out there who will try to sway your decision based on their own business goals. If a company stands to make more money by selling you a new system, you may be told that it’s time for a replacement when the unit has a minor issue that’s easily fixable. Or, if a particular vendor’s business is focused on repairs rather than installations, they may convince you to keep throwing money into a unit that’s long past its useful life. If your service provider is trustworthy, you need to get the history of the unit and look to see if the number of breakdowns has been increasing. We tend as a rule of thumb to say if the unit has been repaired three times it is probably best to replace the particular part or whole unit.
Today there is a new factor impacting repair or replace decisions. The refrigerant known as R-22 or Freon (used by most systems installed before 2010) is being phased out as per the EPA. Before you make a decision about an older system, you must know if it uses R-22 and how that might affect your options.
In Europe and the USA R 22 is no longer being manufactured anymore and cannot be legally imported. The stocks that are leftover are getting increasingly expensive. In the UAE, the authorities are following the Montreal Convention and R22 will no longer be imported after 2030. Many here think that is too far away to worry about it as there are still enough small Chinese manufacturers producing R22 , however all they are doing is cashing in on the rapidly rising cost of the gas as it is now in short supply , and soon the cost of buying it will become prohibitive, so in fact owners of the equipment will have no choice but to upgrade their air conditioning systems sooner than they think.
Spare parts for the old-style units will also become difficult to get as manufacturers are switching to the new units using more environmentally friendly gases.
AGE OF EQUIPMENT AND EXPECTED LIFE SPAN If the decision to repair or replace is not sufficiently strong either way to help you decide, there are other factors to look at Commercial air conditioners are typically built to last 15 to 20 years. When they reach about 75% of that life span, they start to become less reliable. Parts are older and more worn, and you are more likely to experience breakdowns. Also, parts for these older systems may be more difficult to obtain and more costly. So if your air conditioner is less than 10 years old, it may make sense to take a chance on fixing it, since it’s more likely to last a few more years. However, if it’s approaching 12 to 15 years or older, sinking a lot of money into repairs may not gain you the time you’re hoping for. Also keep in mind that certain conditions, like exposure to smog, salt air or other corrosives, can decrease the expected life span. A good rule of thumb (also taking into account the other factors listed here) is that if your unit has reached 75% of its expected life span, and the repair cost is more than a third the cost of a replacement, you are better off going with a new system.
Trying to figure out the life-span can be helped by whether the unit has been serviced regularly as that adds more years to it, and if it is a good brand that helps too.
DO YOU NEED TO REPLACE YOUR AC? THE IMPACT OF ENERGY COSTS. It is known fact that newer air conditioners are more energy efficient and can reduce your electric bill, new units are around 30 per even more efficient than units manufactured only 10 years ago. What you may not realize is how much you can save and how quickly that savings can make up for the cost of new equipment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every dollar invested in energy efficiency can produce a double or triple return on investment. If your equipment is over 10 years old, upgrading to high efficiency equipment can pay for itself in a surprisingly short period of time. Check the SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), which measures the efficiency of cooling equipment. Today’s most efficient systems have ratings above 30, country. Your older model may only be rated 5 to 10. A newer cooling system with a SEER rating of 16 costs half as much to operate as a unit with a rating of 8.
WHAT TO FIX? Some problems are relatively minor, and if your system is otherwise in good condition, you can reasonably expect that it will continue to function reliably once the problem is taken care of. However, there are certain issues that often indicate underlying issues that are not always easy to diagnose. If you fix the immediate issue without finding the cause, the problem will recur. Some examples:
THE COMPRESSOR Compressors generally come with a 5-year warranty, but after 5 years say between 5 and 10 years of operation only in certain cases, we would recommend replacing a failed compressor. The compressor’s job is to compress the refrigerant gas (hence the name) so that it can travel through the condenser coil and facilitate the removal of heat from the air. It is the heart of the system and expensive to replace. Not only that, but a failed compressor can be caused by any number of underlying issues, including oil or refrigerant leaks, contaminants in the system, and electrical problems. If you put in a new compressor without fixing the problem that caused it to fail, the new compressor may fail again.
LEAKY COILS. If your unit’s condenser coils have numerous leaks or severe corrosion, it can be an expensive fix. Even if your tech finds and repairs all the leaks, it’s likely new ones will continue to crop up, and each time you not only need to fix the leak but the system will have to be shut down and drained. Best to get a new coil in that case.
REFRIGERANT LEAKS Keeping adding expensive refrigerant to replace what’s been lost. It’s probably more cost effective to replace your unit with a new model. That's especially true if your old unit uses R-22 refrigerant, which is becoming more expensive every day. The fact is that the newer equipment uses less costly and more environmentally-friendly refrigerants.
ELECTRICAL ISSUES In most cases, electrical issues are relatively easy to fix and thus repair is usually preferable.
FAN MOTOR Most of the time this is a relatively simple repair, and in some cases it’s just a matter of a good maintenance.
DO YOU TRUST YOUR SERVICE PROVIDER?
How much do you know about your current service provider’s business model? What do they stand to gain from your decision to repair or replace older equipment? Do they even have the expertise to fix an older model? They could be recommending replacement simply because they don’t know how to fix the one you have. It’s always a good idea to consult with more than one company when faced with a repair or replace decision for a mission-critical system like your air conditioner. Here at Eurotek we’ve been installing air conditioning systems and handling all aspects of commercial and residential equipment service for over 15 years and our engineers for even longer. Our technicians will never pressure you to make a decision based on what’s better for us. When Eurotek sends a technician out to evaluate your unit, he will take a look at all your equipment and your building, and understand its usage and how it affects your business before giving you a recommendation to repair or replace. Be sure to ask questions about the factors in this guide that are important to you. Our technicians are knowledgeable experts who will help you understand your options, consider the impact of each, so you can make an informed decision.