The HVAC system is one of the most important and expensive parts of any home. As a result, homeowners face a difficult decision when the system starts flashing some warning signs. Yes, homeowners must determine between that repair vs replace HVAC decision.
In particular, as winter weather rapidly nears, homeowners want their HVAC system ready for colder temperatures. During the fall, homeowners typically schedule their furnace and heating system for an annual inspection. However, if your trusted HVAC technician identifies any substantial issues with your heating system, you must decide between repairing or replacing it.
For example, delaying furnace replacement provides a few advantages. First and foremost, repairing an HVAC system costs less than replacing it.
“When your furnace goes out, having it immediately replaced may seem like a foregone conclusion, but some homeowners would do well to consider the current condition of their home and the long-term possibilities—not to mention a weather forecast—before plopping down $10,000 or more on a new furnace. It may sound crazy, and you certainly don’t want to make your home improvement decisions based on the groundhog’s shadow, but taking unusual steps to get through the last blast of winter may pay off in the end.”
Ultimately, any homeowner facing the repair vs replace HVAC system decision needs a plan.
- How much will the repair cost?
- Is it the right time for a replacement?
- What is the best long term option for my home?
- Will a new system pay for itself in function and dependability?
To help, please find some background information enabling homeowners to make the best decision for their home and family.
HVAC Warning Signs
Does your heating (and cooling) system seem sluggish or inefficient? Is your HVAC system simply broken?
Prior to making the repair vs replace HVAC decision, there are certain telltale signs that indicate whether the better option is repairing or replacing your HVAC system.
Replace Clogged Filters
If you turn on the heat, but your house does not become warmer, then check your filters. Clogged filters hinder proper air flow. As a result, lack of proper air flow is a primary cause of inefficient HVAC systems. Check your filters monthly and plan on routine replacement.
Check for Leaks
Although leaks in any HVAC system may be fairly straightforward to diagnose, they can be more difficult to fix. In order to check for leaks, then start with the obvious and look for liquid coming from anywhere other than the condenser pipe (that’s the part where the water normally leaks from). Let your HVAC technician know if any pipes leak.
Discover any Electrical Issues
All HVAC systems contain electrical components (including gas or oil powered units). Typically, any electrical issues relate to the ignition system. If your unit clicks a lot before it ignites or continues to click without igniting, this is a problem with the electrical igniter. If any electrical issues arise, then the system tends to waste fuel and not work correctly.
Inspect for Worn Parts
As HVAC units age, then part become worn. For example, belts and motors wear down, which reduces the efficiency of your HVAC system. If your HVAC system does not operate like normal, then call a professional technician for an annual inspection. Although the upfront cost might seem high, an efficiently running HVAC system saves money in the long term.
HVAC Unit Age
According to Energy Star, replacing a 10-15 year old HVAC system generally saves up to 20% on your annual heating and cooling costs. Not sure about the age of your HVAC unit, check the serial number and determine the age of your HVAC unit.
Ultimately, leaks, clogs or an aging system reduces the efficiency of your HVAC system. Fortunately, your HVAC system flashes warning signs or questions.
- Do you constantly adjust your thermostat to stay comfortable?
- Does your air conditioner or furnace make noises when it starts up?
- Is your home air stuffy or damp?
If you experience any of these issues, then contact a qualified HVAC technician for an inspection. Experienced technicians identify issues and provide useful information about the remaining longevity of your HVAC system.
HVAC Repair vs. Replacement
Homeowners face a difficult decision when heating and cooling issues arise. In addition to cost, homeowners must factor home comfort, health and safety concerns, along with environmental impact on making the repair vs replace HVAC decision.
HVAC Cost Concerns
Costs remain a primary concern during the repair vs replace HVAC evaluation. Many homeowners rely on monthly energy bills while assessing the cost-effectiveness of their HVAC system. However, homeowners should also note repair and maintenance costs as well. For example, repair costs add up over time and ultimately will not be worth making in an older unit.
Unfortunately, homeowners face multiple factors during the repair vs replace HVAC decision. However, there are a few highlights that aid in the decision making process.
Reasons for HVAC Repair
First, what is the general condition of your HVAC system. If the system performs well and repair calls remain rare, then repair likely works. As noted, HVAC systems generally last around 10-15 years (with differences between A/C units and furnaces), so the age of the unit matters.
Additionally, repair typically makes the most financial sense for a newer system. In the industry, new generally means less than 5 years old.
For example, is the repair simple? Does the potential repair increase home efficiency and reduce the existing energy load? If so, then repair is likely the best option.
Reasons for HVAC Replacement
The age of your HVAC unit remains a primary factor in the repair vs replace decision. For example, new HVAC systems offer substantial energy savings due to higher SEER and AFUE requirements. Also, during your annual winter tune-up, ensure the HVAC technician inspects the your home ductwork. If you have any duct problems, then you may have more issues at the root of the possible HVAC concerns.
Additionally, ask the HVAC technician for a return on investment (ROI) and lifetime cost analysis that a replacement offers. For instance, the amount of time you plan to remain in your house makes a difference on the potential ROI you may receive.
Finally, the industry and Consumer Reports promote the 50% rule. The 50% rule provides a process that yields repairing the HVAC unit.
- Is the repair cost less than 50% of the HVAC system value? If yes, then repair may be the better option.
- Have you had significant repair or maintenance costs since installing your HVAC system? If no, then repair may be the better option.
Health and Safety Concerns
In addition to cost concerns, a home HVAC system also impacts health and safety around the house. For example, an efficient HVAC unit controls temperature and humidity. Plus, a properly performing systems helps reduce mold or mildew growth, while improving indoor air quality.
HVAC Systems Improve Indoor Air Quality
During the repair vs replace HVAC system evaluation consider your home air quality. Depending on the heating or cooling system issue, how does a repair help your indoor air quality? For example, as your system ages, leaks may emerge in your existing ductwork or attic air may filter into your home.
HVAC Systems Control Home Humidity
Additionally, inefficient HVAC systems impact the humidity in your home. For example, is your home overly humid during summer? If so, then a new A/C reduces indoor moisture. If your skin feels clammy or home seems damp during the summer, your home humidity is too high. Conversely, if you notice dry skin or static electricity during the winter, then your home humidity is too low.
Finally, newer heating systems include features, such as sealed combustion and sidewall venting, which provide improved safety.
According to the EPA and DOE, roughly 50% of a home’s energy use originates from heating and cooling systems. As a result, an efficient heating and cooling system reduces your environmental impact. Plus, the EPA mandated the phase-out of R-22 refrigerant by 2020 aimed at protecting the ozone. Therefore, upgrading your system not only helps the environment, it helps you avoid the high costs of repairing an older system as supplies of R-22 are cut down year by year due to the phase-out.
Additionally, during the repair vs replace HVAC evaluation, consider the size and capacity of your current system. For example, many homes rely on the wrong size system. As a result, a new, more efficient and properly sized system helps reduce your costs and environmental impact.
If the furnace or boiler is too large, you will not only pay more for installation or repair, but will not enjoy the home comfort or efficiency you expect. Additionally, there are home improvements, such as installing the proper insulation and air sealing in your home to reduce the need for a larger heating system. An experienced HVAC professional understands how homes operate and provides recommendations that may significantly downsize your furnace. As a result, you’ll experience lower upfront costs and the home comfort and efficiency you expect.
Other Repair vs Replace HVAC Unit Factors
Homeowners must factor multiple decisions into any HVAC system expenses. For many homeowners, cost remains the primary factor behind a repair or replace decision. Therefore, there are a few additional items to consider while evaluating the cost of a replacement.
Expected Time in Your Home
Homeowners that opt for a replacement should consider the expected time in their home. For example, review the ROI provided by your HVAC technician. Do you plan to live in your home within the payback period? If not, then repair might make more financial sense.
Additionally, speak with a local real estate professional. If your home fails the 50% rule, but you plan to move prior to reaping the benefits within the payback period, then determine how a new system impacts the overall value of your home. If new HVAC systems add value, then you may decide that replacement is worth the cost.
Homeowners should also note the multiple state and local tax credits available for improving heating and cooling efficiency. For example, browse through SolvIt’s tax incentives, on both the local and national level, which can save you as much as 30 percent on the cost of a newer, high efficiency system. This is in addition to the energy savings you will enjoy.
As part of the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund Inc. customers of Connecticut Light and Power Company (CL&P) and United Illuminating Company (UI) may apply for financing for eligible energy efficiency upgrades through the Home Energy Solutions Program.
Eligible homes include single- and two-family homes and condos as well as vacation (second) homes. The program offers loan amounts up to $25,000 for energy efficient upgrades. Eligible upgrades include items, such as:
- water heaters.
- heat pumps.
- air conditioners.
- caulking or weather-stripping.
- air and duct sealing.
For more information refer to the program’s website.
Additionally, look for the ENERGY STAR label for your best options when considering an HVAC repair vs. replacement. New units typically include a warranty, which helps with repair costs should an issue arise.
Local Utility Rebates
In addition, many local utility companies offer incentives for upgrading to high-efficiency systems. Typically, these rebates derive from an approved home energy audit. Why a home energy audit?
During the visit, the average household receives about $1,100 in products and services:
- Long-lasting, energy-saving LED light bulbs.
- Water-saving devices that reduce water usage up to 1,000 gallons per year.
- Air sealing to get rid of drafts and cold spots.
- Safety tests on your heating equipment.
- A report on your energy usage, showing additional opportunities to save energy.
- Rebates, incentives, and financing for additional energy improvements.
For example in Plainville, CT, SolvIt works with Eversource to bring you Home Energy Solutions, an Energize Connecticut program. Since 2010, over 1,100 Plainville households have taken advantage of the energy-saving service. Sign up today to have a certified and insured contractor visit your home. They will evaluate your energy use and make on-the-spot improvements that lower your energy bills and make your home more comfortable all year round.
To learn about rebates and credits available in your area, check with your local utility company or visit dsireusa.org. Replacing your older system with a high-efficiency one provides short-term and long-term financial benefits.
For instance, after the visit, most customers save about $200 every year on their energy bills.
Give one of Connecticut’s most reliable heating and air contractors a call today to schedule a tune-up and protect your home this winter.