Thinking About Replacing an Air Conditioner? Read This First
Date: April 27, 2022
If you’ve been wondering whether to replace your air conditioner, we’re happy to provide information that can help you decide. Donley has been helping Arizona homeowners “keep their cool” for nearly 50 years. In that time, we’ve heard just about every question you can think of. Here are seven of the most common.
Q: When should I replace my air conditioner?
A: You definitely want to replace it before it quits for good, but how can you know when that might happen? Fortunately, there are a number of indications that it could soon be time to replace your air conditioner. These are the top three:
- Your A/C system is more than 10 years old. The age of your system is one of the best ways to estimate when you might need to replace it. Older units have an expected life of 10 to 12 years. New air conditioners can last 15 to 20 years or longer — especially if they’re well-maintained.
- You make frequent service calls for repairs. A properly maintained A/C system should not need frequent repairs, even during our Arizona summers — unless it’s reaching the end of its life or is too small to handle the demands placed upon it. If you’re having to pay for a lot of expensive repairs, at some point you need to consider whether it would be less expensive (and more efficient) to replace your air conditioner with a new one.
- Your energy bill has increased significantly. Here in the Phoenix area, our power bills fluctuate based on the season. But if your summer energy bills have become a lot higher even though your usage has remained relatively constant compared with previous summers, then your tired old A/C unit may be working extra hard to keep your home cool. It could be time for a new air conditioner. Here’s the good news: The money you save on your energy bill will help offset the cost of replacing your old system.
Q: How much will a new air conditioner cost?
A: It depends on the type, size, make and SEER rating of the A/C system. Bear in mind that there are other costs in addition to the system itself, such as installation fees. When getting a quote, be sure to ask for the total air conditioner replacement cost. Be sure to verify that estimates provided include any duct work or vents that need to be replaced or modifications that may be necessary if you plan to replace your air conditioner with a different type of system.
- A/C type. Your cost will differ depending on whether you’re replacing a rooftop package unit (that’s A/C and heat combined in a single unit), a heat pump, a split system or some other type of system. A qualified technician or HVAC sales counselor can advise you regarding which type will provide the best results for your home.
- A/C size. The size of your new air conditioner also factors into the cost — and it’s an important factor. If the system is too small, it will have to work overtime and still may not be able to adequately cool your home. That extra work can lead to numerous repairs, shorten the life of the system and drive up your energy bill. On the other hand, you don’t want to pay for a larger A/C unit than your home needs.
- A/C make. There are a handful of widely known brand names in the HVAC business, and some homeowners prefer to go with a manufacturer they know and trust. There are other brands that don’t have the same kind of name recognition but are just as dependable — and may cost less.
- A/C SEER rating. Ratings range from 14 to 26. The number simply indicates how energy efficient your new air condition is. A higher SEER rating indicates greater efficiency and, generally, a more expensive unit. Before you automatically opt for the least expensive A/C unit, consider this: The money you save on your energy bill with a more efficient system could soon pay for the difference in upfront costs. An air conditioning expert can help you decide which SEER rating will best suit your home and budget.
Q: How long will it take to replace my air conditioner?
A: It depends on several factors, such as how big your house is, what type of A/C unit you’re having installed, whether the duct work and vents need to be cleaned or replaced, and if a crane will be needed to lift the unit up onto the roof.
Under normal circumstances, a seasoned crew can replace an air conditioning system in a 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot home in a day, if they’re replacing the old unit with one that’s the same type.
Know that it may take some extra time for your new air conditioner to arrive from the manufacturer if there are supply chain issues. If a home warranty company is covering the cost to replace your air conditioner, that could also delay the installation. And if your A/C system dies during the busy summer season, it could be a while before a crew is available to install your new air conditioner.
These are all good reasons to plan ahead and have your A/C system replaced before it becomes an emergency.
Q: How can I get the best price on a new air conditioner?
A: When comparing estimates, make sure they all include the total air conditioner replacement cost, including installation, duct and vent cleaning or replacement (if necessary), the crane fee (if applicable), any modifications that might be required and so on.
As we noted above, it’s always a good idea to replace your air conditioner before it dies. This will give you the opportunity to consider your options, rather than having to buy the first A/C system that’s available.
Also, be wary if a salesperson seems intent on talking you into a larger or more expensive system than you think you need. Unfortunately, some businesses aren’t shy when it comes to “upselling.” This is where having multiple estimates can be especially helpful.
At Donley, we won’t try to sell you something you don’t need. What we will do is make sure that you know all of your options.
Q: How do I know what size and SEER rating I need when looking for a new air conditioner?
A: If you know the size of your existing A/C unit, you could use that as a starting point. However, there’s no guarantee that your current unit was properly sized when it was installed. The best way to determine the right size and SEER rating for your home is to consult an HVAC expert. (See the answer to Q2 above for more information on sizing and SEER ratings.)
Q: Which new air conditioner is the best make?
A: The correct answer to this question is: The one that will do the best job of keeping your home comfortably cool that suits your budget. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we recommend that you talk to a qualified air conditioning technician or salesperson before making any decisions.
As we noted in our answer to Q2 above, several brand names dominate the HVAC market, but there are other manufacturers that offer equally reliable A/C units — often at a lower price.
Q: Do any of the new air conditioners use freon?
A: No. As of January 1, 2020, freon (also called R-22) is no longer being made in or imported into the U.S. It has been banned because it depletes the ozone layer.
If you have an older system that uses freon (typically those made before 2010), you can still have the freon replenished as long as there is an existing supply. Like anything with a limited supply, though, freon is expensive — and the price will continue to go up until the supply has been exhausted.
If your unit was manufactured in 2010 or later, then it most likely uses a newer type of refrigerant.
Still have questions? Call us!
It’s a major investment to replace an air conditioner. Before you spend your hard-earned dollars on a new A/C system, give Donley a call.
We can answer your questions and help you choose the best system for your home. If you hire us to do the installation, we’ll get the job done quickly and with care. Afterward, your home will be a haven from the heat — and you can start enjoying those summer savings on your energy bill!