A: When should you replace your Houston HVAC system? It’s a bit of a complicated question because a lot of times it’s a personal choice. These days at 10 to 12 years of use; at least in our region, is when you start to see major components breakdown or fail. Repairs become more costly after that time. I would say after you hit the 10-year mark and there’s a major failure—that’s a good time to look for something more efficient. Possibly something with a higher comfort level from a trusted Houston HVAC company.
Is Your Houston HVAC System Nearing Its End Of Life?
This is a question many residents don’t know the answer to or even how to estimate. In fact, most residential customers we service only know the answer when it actually…well, dies. When that happens at the peak of a Texas heat wave in July—it’s going to be torture. The key to not subjecting yourself to this torment is to replace your Houston HVAC system pre-emptively.
Not only does getting ahead of the problem ensure you don’t endure an unexpected large expense—it actually will save money. This is because once a system edges into its final days, it has lost a majority of its efficiency as parts wear. So, what you’re actually doing is running a system that once was quite efficient, but now is wasting energy.
This should come as no surprise though; Houston HVAC systems are mechanical machines and will not last forever. They are comparable to a vehicle and vehicles eventually break beyond repair. Sure, you might have a 15 yr. old Suburban that still runs—but is it very cost-effective? Chances are, it’s not going to get the mileage it once used to and will use more oil than when it was new. That’s just the nature of the wear and tear of mechanical engines.
Of course, just like with a vehicle you have to know when it’s time to replace your HVAC before it gives up the ghost. With a vehicle, you tend to replace it before the cost to keep it running is more than it’s worth. An HVAC system is not very different. You have to consider many factors that will determine whether to repair or replace it. In order to determine if it’s time to replace your system take a look at these three common scenarios that present a big decision.
Your Houston HVAC System Is 10-15 Years Or Older
Air conditioners are not built to last an eternity, we’ve already established that fact. But how long should the average HVAC system last? Typically, most of your consumer-grade systems will last 10-15 years at peak levels. After that however, the performance begins to drop off incrementally and potential for major failures increases significantly. As the problems begin to accrue and become more frequent, it ends up costing more to keep it running. In fact, it ends up making more financial sense to purchase a new one.
But how often is too often when it comes to repairs, and how much of a performance drop is acceptable? One major warning sign that your system is nearing the end is how long between tune-ups that it needs a repair. If you can’t make it but a year between tune-ups and a major failure—that’s a sure sign. Keep in mind that if it fails that often, imagine when it’s getting beatdown on a 104° summer afternoon?
So, then the question is—repair or replace the unit? This decision should be based as follows:
- Repair: If your system is less than 10 years old, it is typically prudent to have it diagnosed immediately. This means the moment you notice inefficiency or strange behavior. This will ensure a small issue doesn’t turn into a big one.
- Replace: If the system is more than 10-15 years old, the clock is ticking on its life—loudly. Even when you fix one problem, at that age, you’re likely to see another shortly after. If you’re racking up three and four hundred dollar repairs a couple of times a year—let it go.
How Much Is Too Much?
Now, when it comes to comparing costs of repairs vs replacement, it might get cumbersome to figure out the best choice. The easy way to do this is to follow what is known as the “5,000 Rule.” This is a simple calculation that will help you make a financially sound choice to repair or replace:
- Take the total cost of repairs needed then multiply that by the age of your current system.
- Does the total exceed the average cost of a new system, which is about $5000? If so, then it would make more sense to replace the system.
- If the total comes in under $5000, then go ahead and have the repairs done. The system may be broken but it still has sufficient life left to justify the repair cost.
Take for example a 10-year-old entry-level Lennox system that needs $350 in repairs. If you implement the $5,000 rule, you should get the repairs done instead of replacing it. The cost of repairs, $350 times the age, 10 — comes to only $3,500 falling under the $5000 threshold.
The System Uses R-22 Coolant
When coolant needs to be replaced it’s usually due to a leak, which is a serious problem for any age system. Older systems use the coolant, R-22 also known by the branded name, Freon. The problem is R-22 is no longer available as it’s illegal to manufacture after January 1, 2020. This translates into much higher materials cost for those with older systems when a leak presents itself. R-22 costs anywhere from $60- $180 per pound and that will continue to rise as sources become depleted. In this situation you can choose accordingly:
- Repair: If the HVAC system was installed between 2000-2010 and uses R-22 you might be able to get by. Adding additional Freon might buy you another 6 years, giving you time to put money away for an inevitable replacement.
- Replace: If the system is already on its last legs, adding R-22 is going to be so costly that you’d be better with a new system. A new system gets you on newer standards, more efficient, and much cheaper repairs. Newer Houston HVAC systems use R-410A — a longer-lasting and less expensive alternative to R-22 that is more environmentally friendly.
Your Houston HVAC Operating Costs Keep Going Up
Heating and cooling costs are always going to be a variable as weather and wholesale electric costs fluctuate. However, if you keep seeing extreme spikes and fluctuations month-to-month, then something is awry. For example, if between May and June you see a $30 increase in your bill, then something is not working properly. Typically, between spring and summer, you should only see a minimal jump between $6-$10 dollars max.
When an HVAC system uses abnormal amounts of energy in excess, it’s usually a mechanical problem. The same basic functions it performed easily, are now hampered by mechanical problems making it strain. So, if your energy bills are spiking because of this you have to choose considering:
- Repair:If the system has not gone past it’s expected lifecycle and the cost falls under the $5,000 rule, have it repaired. You can still get your money’s worth out of that system.
- Replace: If the system, however, is on limited time and the cost approaches or surpasses the threshold, buy a new system. This will eliminate almost guaranteed future problems on a regular basis. Plus, your energy bills will go down even more since you’d have a more efficient system.
Essentially – soaring energy costs will mount up over a short time period. When you combine those costs with frequent repair costs—a new system might be a bargain.
Trust The Pros At Airteam For Your HVAC Needs
Whether you need scheduled maintenance with our MVP service plans, repair, or a new HVAC system—we go to bat for you. Our friendly consultants don’t just try to sell you any system, we advocate for your specific needs and try to work within your budget. Contact us today if your system isn’t running up to expectations. We’ll get you back on track one way or another.