When is it time to repair or replace my air conditioner?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The impending heat wave is reminding us that air conditioning at times in Southern California becomes a necessity. What do you do if your AC unit isn’t working? Or, what if the air isn’t cool enough, or isn’t flowing adequately, or it smells? What do you do? Is it time to fix your HVAC unit, or do you need to replace it – with a more energy efficient system? That will depend on a few things. Including how much the repairs cost compared to how much a new unit will cost.

Some questions to ask yourself when considering repair:

  • What does your existing AC unit look like?
  • Does it look rusted and worn out?
  • The age of your unit is also a factor. For example, if your AC Unit is 10 years old, and a repair is going to be $600 or more, is it worth looking into a replacement?
  • Will a band-aid repair make it last just one more year? Is fixing it throwing good money after bad?

What if you are considering replacing your AC unit?

  • Can you afford a new unit?
  • Is your current ducting adequate or does it need to be replaced?
  • How large does the system need to be – or how many “tons” does it need to be?

What does tons mean?

It has nothing to do with the weight of an HVAC unit. A ton refers to how much heat an HVAC unit can remove from your home in one hour. It is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). According to ASHRAE, one ton of refrigeration can remove 12,000BTUs per hour. In fact they specify it as a “quantity approximately equal to the latent heat of fusion or melting of 1 ton (2000 lb) of ice, from and at 32°F (0°C).” This means the amount of heat required to melt one ton of ice in a day. Another way of putting it is that a BTU is the amount of energy needed to heat or cool one pound of water by 1°F. So a 1 ton AC unit can cool 1 ton of water 1° an hour

What does that mean to me?

It means then that you need to find out how much heat needs to be removed from your house in an hour to be cool. Don’t be overwhelmed, here’s a simple rule of thumb. For Southern California, think of needing 1 ton of cooling capacity per 600 square feet of space. That means if your house is 2,400 square feet, you would need a 4 ton AC Unit. But know that every house is different. Things to consider include ceiling height, number of windows, insulation and where your house is in the region. So the tonnage of a new AC Unit may need to be adjusted.

You now have an idea of what you may need, and if you go online, you will discover “tons of choices”.

Are there any tax advantages?

There may be for energy efficient models. Find out if your local municipality, or electricity provider offers rebates. There may also be state and federal incentives to replacing your older unit with a newer system with a higher SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio rating. SEER measures the amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output.

Who should you call?

It is wise to select a professional who is licensed and bonded, and who has the expertise to determine if it is better to repair or replace. And it is great to consider someone you would enjoy having a long term relationship with – someone who offers ongoing maintenance to keep your system running at its optimum level.

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