You may have noticed your heating or cooling system is not performing up to par. Or it’s always running. Or perhaps you’ve noticed a steady rise in your energy bills. There may be something wrong with your HVAC equipment, meaning you’ll be faced with a decision: do you repair or replace your home’s heating and cooling system?
One thing you don’t want to do is wait until there’s an emergency breakdown. If you see signs of trouble, it’s a good idea to analyze your options. Since heating and cooling systems are a major investment, it might be helpful to start with this list of considerations:
How old is your system?
The average lifespan of a furnace is 15 to 20 years. So, if your furnace is 15 years or older, it might be best to replace, based on the expense of repairs. If you need to fix a complicated, labor-intensive part of your furnace, it might be worthwhile to get a new system.
The average lifespan of an air conditioner is about 10 years. So if you have an older unit that has a compressor go out, you might as well replace it, as a repair wouldn’t be much less than a new one – and a new one would come with a warranty.
Is it under warranty?
If your equipment isn’t particularly old, and is still under warranty, it’s usually best to repair it. If it’s not under warranty, you should think twice about making a major repair. As a general guide, Consumer Reports recommends replacement whenever repairs total more than 50% of what it would cost to buy something new.
Is the technology outdated?
Technology is continually changing. Today’s heating and cooling equipment is far more efficient and environmentally-friendly than counterparts from even 10 years ago. An older furnace, for example, may only get 64% efficiency. That means 36% of every dollar you spend on heating energy goes right out your flue pipe. New equipment can get as high as 98% efficiency. The investment is significant, but so are the savings in the long run.
What about tax and utility credits?
New equipment with high efficiency ratings can make you eligible for tax credits. There may also be local incentives from utility companies when you upgrade to a high-efficiency system.
What is the environmental impact?
Your heating and cooling system produces about half of your home’s energy use – that’s a big chunk of your energy footprint. By upgrading to a new system that meets or exceeds ENERGY STAR® standards, you can positively affect both your budget and the environment.
When you’re trying to decide whether to repair or replace, it’s a good idea to compare current costs with projected savings. Manufacturers can help with operating cost estimates based on unit efficiency and local utility costs, and a firm quote from a trusted HVAC contractor can help you estimate future costs associated with keeping your system operating at peak performance.