A: We do it often, there are two coils in the system. You have an evaporator coil up in the attic and a condenser coil at the condensing unit that goes around the compressor.
Once an evaporator coil fails or springs a leak—repairing it usually causes too much damage. It compromises the usable area of the coil where heat transfer happens. So, you don’t really want to do that. Once it has a leak, the best solution is to replace the coil.
The system is a sealed system, there should never be refrigerant loss. That’s another misconception—a lot of people think, “my system’s struggling maybe we just need to put a little more refrigerant in it.”
You should never have to add refrigerant to a system because it’s sealed—it doesn’t consume refrigerant.
So yeah, we replace both evaporator coils and condenser coils when needed. Evaporator coils are there the higher pressure is in the system. I would say at least 8 out of 10 times, it’s the evaporator coil that fails first.
But, condenser coils can fail outside too due to many reasons. For example, condensers can be installed in the path of a sprinkler system. That can erode the surface of the coil and cause it to leak.
Sometimes pets can be the culprit. Maybe the pet confuses the condenser coil for a fire hydrant for an extended period of time. Eventually, it erodes the surface of the coil and you get a leak.
It’s just another reason to inspect your system periodically to make sure these things aren’t happening. Maybe you can catch it before it becomes a failure.
Replace An AC Coil Or Replace The Unit?
Now naturally, the next question that always follows this one is “Should I replace my evaporator or condenser coil or my entire unit?”
Well, that answer isn’t a simple yes or no solution. But, let’s walk through it.
Honestly, before you can even begin to make this decision you need to understand a few key facts.
- What happens when you replace an AC coil.
- The pros and cons of replacing an HVAC unit.
- The cost difference between the two options.
Understandably, when you hear the diagnosis of a busted coil, whether it’s the evaporator or the condenser— you fear the repair estimate. After all, it’s not cheap to replace an AC coil. However, you still need to make a smart decision on whether to replace the coil or the whole unit. You could be tossing money into a pit that will come back only to cost you more down the road.
The Quick Answer
If you’re reading this because you need to make a quick decision on whether to replace an AC coil or replacing an AC unit, focus on these three considerations:
System Age— If your unit is over 10 years old, the smart choice is to replace the unit. Why? While it may not seem like it upfront due to the cost, it pays off in the long run.
With a 10-year old system, it’s lacking in efficiency. You’ll feel that when paying your utility bill. When a new unit you save money on energy costs, a new warranty, and much better performance. Not to mention, you may qualify for a tax rebate as well.
Price vs. Budget— While replacing an AC unit will net you all those benefits we just mentioned, consider the cost vs. your financial situation. A new system will run you several times the cost of replacing the coil. So, if your finances are an obstacle, replacing the coil might work out better.
However, keep in mind, at AIRTEAM, we offer very affordable financing options that allow you to absorb that cost over time. So, if your system is older as previously mentioned but your finances are an issue, financing might be a good compromise.
This would solve two problems, the immediate problem of your broken AC is the first. The second is avoiding wasting money replacing a coil on a system that may also need replacing as soon as 6 months down the road.
Current System Performance— If your unit was the best in class when you bought it, you might get a few more years of service. However, if you bought an economy line model and you’ve had several problems before—it might be time to replace it. You might want to consider moving up to a higher-class model.
Going Deeper Into The Issue
Now, if you have the time, and you want to do a little more research before you replace an AC unit or replace an AC coil, keep reading. We’ll dive a little deeper into the considerations you should weigh out before making a decision.
First, let’s get to know the part in question whether it’s the evaporator coil or the condenser coil. They both cost about the same but the one that usually is the main culprit is the evaporator. It does most of the hard work in the system and wears out quicker. So, that’s what we’ll cover today.
Everything You Need To Know About The Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil is part of the indoor component of your HVAC system. It looks very much like a radiator on a car. It’s comprised of metal tubes and thin metal fins. The evaporator extracts heat from inside your home.
The cold refrigerant liquid flows from the outdoor condenser unit into the evaporator coil. Simultaneously, a fan is sucking up the warm air from all rooms from the air vents. That warm air hits the metal fins and the ice-cold refrigerant in the evaporator coil and rapidly cools.
That air is then recirculated back out into all the rooms in a closed-loop system. This cycle repeats itself until the home has reached the internal temperature the thermostat is set to cool to.
The Cost To Replace An AC Coil
The cost for this repair does vary greatly based on the brand, size, and output of your system. However, the average cost in Houston is about $1,000 – $1,300. That’s not based on any specific AC repair company just an average in general.
On the other hand, replacing an HVAC unit can run anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000 for an average-sized system. Of course, you can spend a lot more with added bells and whistles but we’re just talking about basic to mid-range models.
Should You Replace An AC Coil Or The Unit?
The price difference between the two options should of course factor into your decision but it’s not the sole decider. You need to think about a few other things as well:
Is Your Unit Costing You Money?
If your unit is over 10 years old, you’re dealing with a unit that met much lower efficiency standards back then. Modern AC units have to meet much higher efficiency levels meaning they use less power. Keeping your old unit might be the more expensive decision in the long run. With a modern unit, you could save up to 35% on energy costs vs a 10-year old system.
Is Your Unit Nearing The End Of Its Lifespan?
Most systems last between 10-15 years with some ultra-high-end models lasting up to 20 years. However, the closer it gets to that end of life the chances of a major failure increase dramatically. Also, efficiency takes a steep drop as well. It’s the nature of a machine to wear down over the years and decrease in efficiency. Why spend $1,000 or more on a coil replacement when that can be a down payment on a better system?
Have You Had A Lot Of Problems With The Unit?
Some HVAC companies only make solid and reliable systems. Others only make budget systems with the bare minimum requirements and cheapest parts. You’ll find a lot of those in new home builds unless you pay for an upgraded premium system.
If you’ve had a lot of failures with your current unit, a failed coil should be your sign to get out while you can. Get a reputable system from a solid brand like Lennox and have AIRTEAM install it so the job is done right.
Make The Right Choice With AIRTEAM!
Don’t make the wrong choice for a lack of knowledge. Replacing an HVAC unit or a coil for that matter is not a decision to make uninformed.
Contact us today for a consultation to determine which path you should take that’s best for your circumstances.