Factors to Consider for Saving Money on AC This Summer

Man repairing an AC unit blowerTo replace or not to replace, it’s a question many face in Austin, Texas everyday. Air Conditioning is something that ideally we’d never have to put much thought into. When it works, it brings us comfort with little effort on our part. But occasionally, things go wrong, and a choice must be made. AC repair in Austin can be expensive, but so can replacement, which means making the decision between the two isn’t always easy.

Luckily, there are a number of factors which have been shown to be reliable means of determining the solution to your potential future air conditioning woes. So, the next time your air conditioning is performing less than ideally, make sure you consider all your options, and the following factors, before deciding on whether your air conditioner needs a tune-up, or you’d be better off with a new one altogether. These factors, as outlined below, include the age of your air conditioner, its energy efficiency, how often it needs repair, and a number of other factors.

Factor #1: The Age of Your Unit

How old your air conditioning unit is will probably be the biggest factor in whether or not it’s time for a replacement. Air conditioning is like any other machine, with age, it will lose efficiency, break down more often and also simply become outdated. As advancements in technology gradually march on, air conditioning units become more sophisticated and reliable, and it makes less sense to hold on to older machines.

But how old is too old? There are a number of guidelines and rules of thumb you can use to determine whether your air conditioner is too outdated to make it worth the maintenance it will take to keep it running. The first guideline is called the 5000 rule. It states that if you multiply the cost of repairing your current unit by its age in years, and that number is greater than 5000, it’s not worth spending any more money on keeping this unit alive and well, and you’d be better off with a new machine. So, if you’re having trouble with your unit, and it’s getting up there in age, call a trusted professional and get a quote on repair. Then with the 5000 rule, making the decision between repair and replacement is a cinch.

• For example, if you get a quote on the repair of your unit and it will cost you $400 and your unit is 7 years old, multiplying the two numbers gets you 2300, less than 5000. A repair makes more sense in this case. However if a unit of the same age would cost $715 or more to repair, replacement is ultimately the better decision.

Another helpful guideline comes straight from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy’s joint Energy Star program. They recommended replacing any air conditioning unit older than 10 years. Systems 10 years old or older will almost certainly be significantly less energy efficient than an Energy Star-rated new air conditioning unit. So even if the cost of repairing an older unit might not be too high, they simply won’t last long enough or give you enough energy efficiency to make it worth spending money on. A significantly older machine could suck up to twice as much electricity as a newer one.

Factor #2: The Energy Efficiency of Your Unit

The decision on whether to replace or repair your air conditioning unit will rely heavily on what sort of energy efficiency you’re getting out of your current unit. The SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, comes into play here. Before 2006, the minimum SEER was 10 but has since been raised to 13. A machine 10 years or older might operate with a SEER of 10 or below, while a newer one is guaranteed to have a SEER of 13 or above, which can translate into at least 30% lower energy bills.

It’s a matter of how much bang for your buck you’re getting. Let’s say you’ve got an air conditioner that works just fine most of the time. It does its job and keeps your house cool and comfortable. But suddenly something is on the fritz. So you don’t hesitate, you call up a quality Austin air conditioning service company and get a quote on the cost of repairs. It turns out maybe it’ll be only a couple hundred bucks to replace, so your first instinct tells you to get the repair done. But consider this, the factor of what kind of energy efficiency you’re getting out of your current unit might make the repair the less financially sensible option, not in the short term, but over time. If you could get a machine that would give you 30% greater energy-efficiency that means you’ll reduce your energy bills by almost one third. A couple of years with bills cut by a third could easily pay off the cost of a newer machine. In that case, a replacement would be the right choice in the end.

Energy efficiency isn’t always the easiest thing to determine and consider when making a decision as big as this one. But a good air condition repair company will be more than willing and capable of helping you assess the quality of your current unit, and what you could end of up saving in energy bills with a newer and better machine.

Factor #3: Frequency of Breakdowns or Needed Maintenance

One more complication in the debate between repair and replacement is the fact that any air conditioner, no matter the quality, will eventually need maintenance and repairs of some kind. So if you’ve got an air conditioner that needs some work right now to get back into working order, you have to consider not just the cost of the current repair versus the energy efficiency you’d get with a new machine, but also how much your current machine will cost you in future repairs.

It doesn’t make sense to keep pouring money into keeping an old system up and running if you could potentially replace it with a system that will not only save you money in energy bills but also break down less often and need less maintenance. Like all machines, air conditioners have lifespans. As your unit gets older, it may still work, but it won’t work as well, and will need repairs more and more frequently. An HVAC contractor can help you determine not only the cost of repair at the moment, but also the potential for future work needed, and whether doing away with the current system might be better in the long run. If you’re current AC will cost $500 to repair now, but might need thousands in repair and maintenance over the next few years, then shelling out for a $3000 new machine now would be worth it if that new machine will stay in tip top shape much longer, and will save you money in electricity bills.

In other words, one repair might not seem like a big deal. But think about the history and future of your current system. If you’re dealing with an air conditioner that has caused you stress and repair costs in the past and those breakdowns seem to be more and more frequent, it might be time for a replacement. It doesn’t make sense to pour money into a system that isn’t pulling its weight when a new machine could save you money and headaches for years to come.

Other Factors to Consider

In the grand scheme, energy efficiency, age, and frequency of repair are the three biggest factors you should consider when deciding on repair versus replacement. But there are other factors worth looking into to make sure you’re making the right decision. A few of them are outlined below:

  • R-22: Older AC units generally are powered by R-22 refrigerant, also known as Freon. If there’s a leak in your air conditioner's coolant. That R-22 will have to be replenished. That repair will have to also include fixing the leak, and potentially replacing the compressor in your unit. All of this together can cost you anywhere from $550 to $3000, depending on the extent of the damage due to the leak. And replacement R-22 is getting more and more expensive, due to a new standard that has phased out the production of air conditioners that run on R-22 since 2010. In fact, by 2020, it will be impossible to get a replacement R-22. If you have a machine that’s powered by R-22 refrigerant and it needs to be replenished, the cost of the new R-22, fixing the leak in the coolant, and replacing the compressor might not be worth it.
  • How long you’ll be at your current residence: For some, this factor might actually be the biggest factor of all. If you’re living in a house that you plan to move out of in a few years or less, there would be no point in shelling out thousands for a new machine. The savings in energy bill costs will only become significant, compared to the cost of a new machine, over a significant period of time. If a simple repair will cost you many times less than a new machine and you’ll be moving elsewhere in the near future, repair is going to be much more cost-effective than replacement.,
  • Quality and the environment: There are more potential benefits to getting a new air conditioner than what it can save you in future repair and energy bills. Newer machines have better technology and could increase the quality of the air conditioning you get. With a better air conditioning unit, you could experience greater air quality, better temperature control, and humidity control, meaning fewer pollutants in the air and more comfort. In addition, newer systems are greener. The reason for the phase-out of R-22 based systems is to protect the ozone. Switching to a system that runs on R-410A means contributing to a cleaner world.

Air Conditioning Repair in Austin Vs. Replacement

Ultimately, when you find yourself with an old air conditioner that’s breaking down and needs repair, you’ve got to choose. Do you repair or do you replace? New machines can hit your wallet hard, as an energy-efficient AC unit can cost anywhere from $3600 to $7200. But on the other side, with your current unit, you have to consider not just the cost of this one repair, but how much you’ll spend due to future breakdowns of an aging unit, and the amount of money you’re losing monthly due to a less energy-efficient system. It’s a matter of balancing the large one-time cost of a new machine versus the added up costs of repairs and energy bills of an old machine.

If you’ve got an old system that might not last more than a few years (it’s estimated that most air conditioners won’t make it past about 14 years), and you could get a new air conditioner that will contribute less to the destruction of the ozone, be more stable and consistent, and more efficient, in many cases it’s probably worth getting the newer machine. But if your current unit hasn’t caused you too many problems in the past, the current repair won’t cost you too much, and you don’t plan on being at your current residence for many years to come, repair is the way to go.

But every case is unique and the best resource you have for determining the right course of action to take is a trusted, local, Austin AC repair company. AC Express has earned a reputation for quality air conditioning service and repair all around the Austin area. Residents of Pflugerville, Cedar Park, Kyle, Manor, and more have experienced expert AC care from the qualified technicians at AC Express. When you do business with AC Express, you can rest worry free that you’re getting the best end result for your money, regardless of whether your air conditioner needs replacement or repair. So call us today! (512) 866-5520