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It can be hard to figure out the best course of action when your HVAC unit starts acting up because there are so many factors to consider. The size, age, financing options, and repair costs on an HVAC system all contribute to making the “right” decision on whether to repair or replace.

As a general rule, it’s usually a good idea to replace a product when its repairs are climbing over 50% of a new item cost, but a real cost comparison is often more involved. Sure, a repair bill of $300 isn’t nice to look at, but it still looks cheaper than an entire system upgrade. On the other hand, the lower cost isn’t always the smartest move. Say your equipment is 15 years old and you’ve already made a $500 repair earlier in the year…well, then the math may not be so easy. Trying to predict what else might go wrong with your unit in a couple years (or even the next 6 months) is a tricky gamble. That’s why we recommend looking at some concrete facts.

Reasons to Repair

1. Is the broken part under warranty?

When a part is covered under warranty, it’s usually best to get the repair and move on. You might still want to consider the cost of the labor (if there is any), but warranties usually make the repair vs. replace conundrum pretty clear-cut. If nothing else is wrong, why pay for a new air conditioner or furnace?

2. Is your system less than 10 years old?

Your HVAC equipment might have different life expectancies, but heat pumps, air conditioners and furnaces are said to last 12 to 15 years on average. If your unit is 10 years old or less, your chances of having frequent problems are a lot lower, so making the quick repair tends to be more appealing than full replacement.

3. Are you planning to move in the next year or two?

When your odds of moving are high, confirm that your unit isn’t at the end of its projected lifespan before opting for the repair. Replacing or upgrading your HVAC unit could help your house stand out to potential buyers; but if the unit is in relatively good condition or still under warranty, you might be better off sticking with the easy fix.

4. Is the unit right for your home?

This question can be a little trickier to answer on your own, but a good HVAC tech will tell it to you straight. Some furnaces and air conditioners are actually too big for their home they are installed in and end up wasting energy and money. Proper installation goes a long way with your unit’s efficiency too, so if you trust that your unit is in the right location, sized right, and has the right efficiency rating, you’ll likely feel good about getting the repairs.

Reasons to Replace

1. Has your unit needed costly repairs in the last two years?

Older HVAC systems are more likely to have frequent repair issues. When your unit has passed the warranty coverage date and repair costs only seem to escalate, you’re probably toeing the line for replacement.

2. Has the system been under-performing in other ways?

Maybe you’re constantly adjusting the thermostat to get comfortable, or the air indoors feels stuffy, damp, or just “off.” Is your furnace or air conditioner starting to sound louder than ever before? Some of these annoyances could be fixed with quick repairs, but if not—it might be time for new equipment.

3. How much could you save with a more efficient unit?

Check out the energy savings calculator to estimate the money you can pocket each month from a system upgrade. The latest technology can cut energy costs by as much as 40% and still run quieter than models made 10 years ago. If you’ve made other efficiency updates to your home—like new windows or insulation—an HVAC system with a good ENERGY STAR rating might be what you’re missing to really kick those saving into high gear.

4. Are good financing options available?

If your HVAC company can help you identify cost-effective financing strategies, a system replacement might be worth your while. When considering replacement options, knowing about seasonal specials, manufacturer rebates, or 0% financing opportunities with a local bank can make you feel a lot better about going with a new air conditioner or furnace.

 

Now that you’ve weighed the possibilities, tally up your Yes and No answers from each category. Answering “Yes” to 2 or more questions is a good indication that you’ll want to consider that side’s solution. Consult with your local HVAC tech if you’re still on the fence. They can help walk you through the different scenarios for your current system and home setup so that whether you choose to repair or replace, you can feel confident that it’s the right decision for you and your home!

notebook and pen

Not sure who to call when the AC breaks down? You’re not alone! Deciding which HVAC company to go with can be a confusing process, but things get a lot simpler when you work in stages. If your AC isn’t working quite right, or you’re thinking about a system upgrade, take a look at these checklist items first. A little research can help you find an HVAC company you can trust.

 

Part I: Examining Your AC Unit

Whenever you can, try to check on a few things with your unit before making a service call. Sometimes a quick fix is all you need to solve the problem.

  • Check the thermostat. This is often the first place we go, but double-check to make sure it’s set correctly. If the thermostat screen is blank, that might mean you need to replace the batteries (if it takes any).
  • Replace your air filter. Hands down, the best way to keep your HVAC unit in good order is to regularly change your filter. Old filters restrict air flow and can even stop your system from working if they’re dirty enough.
  • Clear the area around your AC unit. Landscaping debris might be blocking the air flow around your system. Make sure the unit can run properly and efficiently by cleaning up, and then confirm that the breakers are turned on.

If nothing has changed after taking those steps, it might be time to call in a professional. Try to make a couple notes on your unit’s symptoms so you have all the information you need to schedule the visit. Strange noises with your HVAC unit, odd smells, and any new cold or hot zones in your home are all indicators that your system needs servicing.

 

Part II: Finding a Reputable HVAC Company

So you’re ready to bring in the professionals, but not sure who to call? You’ll be more likely to find a great HVAC company when you stick to a few guidelines.

  • Ask your contacts about recent service. Try posting a status update on social media to say you need service. Your friends and family will be happy to tell you about their last HVAC experience—whether good or bad, you should easily be able to get a few first-hand accounts about local companies.
  • Read online HVAC reviews. More and more people are using Yelp to review HVAC companies. If you have a company you’re thinking of calling, check out a few of their reports first. It’s a good sign if customers are praising their HVAC repairs, not just the system replacements. That usually means the company is honest (because they’re not trying to up-sell) and works with your best interests in mind.
  • Confirm that the company is bonded, insured, and licensed. The City of Indianapolis requires a permit for replacing an air conditioner. Visit your HVAC company’s website to make sure they are licensed in your area. Working with a company that’s bonded and insured will also protect you from any complications that might happen during a service call.

When it comes to HVAC repairs and new installations, a company’s experience matters a lot more than their location. Your best option may not always be the company that’s closest to you, so feel free to check credentials in a wider radius.

 

Part III: Reviewing Your AC Service Call

Once you’ve selected a company to try out, pay close attention to how they handle your service during their visit. Comparing etiquette is often just as important as comparing price!

  • Was the technician professional? Using shoe coverings in your home and cleaning up around the worksite are signs of good employee training.
  • Is the company’s pricing straight-forward? Having a flat-rate fee for service calls is standard practice, but it’s an added bonus if your HVAC company says they’ll waive the service fee if your system needs more expensive repairs.
  • Did your technician explain the next steps? A good tech will tell you exactly what they checked and be able to confidently answer all of your questions. If they said a certain part on your unit needs replacing, they should also tell you whether it’s covered under warranty.

Last but not least, be sure to trust your instincts when hiring a new home services company. Doing your research is definitely a plus, but sometimes you’ll just know a good thing when you see it. If you’ve already vetted your new HVAC company, the only other thing you can do is to go with your gut!