Air Conditioning Repair vs Air Conditioning Replacement

Whether your energy bills climb higher each month, your indoor air quality declines or your HVAC technician says your heating and cooling system just isn’t as efficient as it used to be, making the call between air conditioner repair or replacement is often a tough choice for Indianapolis area homeowners. There are costs and benefits associated with both repairing or replacing an AC unit, and it’s up to you to decide between paying the cost to repair your air conditioner’s current issues or investing that money into a new air conditioner system replacement.

Often, there isn’t a clear “right answer” when you’re faced with deciding whether to repair your air conditioning unit or replace your air conditioner with a new system. There are several factors to consider that will help you decide between repair or replacement, such as the age of your old system, its life expectancy, whether or not the HVAC system has been well maintained over the years, refrigerant type, warranty coverage, the cost and complexity of repairs, the cost of a new unitcooling equipment SEER ratings, and the potential for improved efficiency and future energy savings.

If your air conditioning system is in need of repair yet you wonder if it’s time to replace your AC unit instead, Williams Comfort Air explains the factors that could help you make a clearer decision. While the choice between repairing or replacing air conditioners is unique to each situation, use these considerations to determine the best approach for dealing with older units.

Quick Considerations – Age and Cost

There are numerous factors to evaluate when deciding whether to repair or replace your air conditioner but if you’re looking for a quick solution, the top elements to look at are cost and age. Looking at the unit’s age versus the expected lifespan of an air conditioning unit is helpful when preparedness and planning ahead is your goal. Comparing the cost to repair your older system to the costs associated with installing a new air conditioner can help guide decisions where money and making a wise financial investment is most important.

Average Age of Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are mechanical systems that eventually wear out with use, no matter how well cared for they are. The average life expectancy for an AC unit in the Central Indiana area is between 10 years to 15 years. Older units that are ten years old or more are likely to need replacement in the near future – if the system is currently in need of repair, you may decide that money could be better spent toward a brand-new unit versus paying repair costs on an air conditioner that is due for replacement soon anyway. 

If using the unit’s age to base your repair or replacement decision, units near, at, or beyond 10 years old are usually slated for replacement. Of course, there are other criteria concerning the air conditioner system’s age that can be helpful for making a more personalized decision for your situation. 

  • The SEER rating (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of older units versus new air conditioners and their potential to help you save on energy bills.

  • The impact of regular maintenance on a unit’s age and whether a lack of maintenance could take the system out of service before it reaches ten years old or if a well-maintained unit could last upwards of 20 years.

  • The benefits of warranty coverage on cooling systems come into play. Warranties typically cover units for half their expected lifespan or more, depending on the warrantied part and manufacturer. If an air conditioning unit is out of warranty, you may prefer to replace your AC, so the new unit is protected for several more years.

Repair and Replacement Cost Comparisons

Cost is often the top consideration for homeowners when deciding whether to repair an AC unit or install a new system, as a significant amount of money can be involved either way. When your air conditioner faces the need for a simple repair that is relatively affordable, moving forward with repair service is an easy choice – however, when the needed repairs come at a cost that is comparable to a substantial portion of the money needed to buy a new HVAC system, homeowners give more thought to the decision between repairing or replacing the air conditioning system.

  • As you weigh the option to repair or replace your air conditioner, consider the “5,000 rule” of the HVAC industry. Take the cost of repairs and multiply this number by the age of your cooling unit. If the total comes out to more than $5,000, skip the repairs and consider it time to replace the AC unit – if the total is less than $5,000, choose repair service.

  • Another method to evaluate the choice to repair or replace an older system is to look at the cost of repairs versus the cost of a new system. If the needed repair costs half or more of the price to replace your air conditioning, save your money and skip repairs as it’s time to replace your air conditioning equipment.

As with age considerations, there are other factors that you could include as you evaluate information based on the price you’ll pay to repair or replace your AC unit. When a cooling unit is near, at, or beyond the average life expectancy of 10 years old to 15 years old, some decide repairs just aren’t worth it at this stage and go with replacing the air conditioner. You may want to also consider whether or not your HVAC technician advises that the proposed repairs are a solution to end current problems or more of a band-aid that could patch up the system for a little while longer.

Repair or Replace AC Units – Additional Factors to Consider

As you look for signs and examine the factors that will help you make your choice to repair or replace your home’s AC unit, don’t stop at cost of repairs, the price of a new air conditioner, and how many years you’ve had your existing AC unit. Below are a few more elements you should take into consideration as you determine the best route for dealing with the cooling equipment that serves your household.


Regular maintenance is critical to the long-term performance and efficiency of an AC unit, as well as its lifespan. A well-maintained air conditioner receives regular maintenance tune-ups performed by a licensed HVAC technician on an annual basis, undergoes air filter changes as needed, and routinely experiences system inspections to identify and correct airflow obstructions and other issues that could hamper the efficiency and function of the system.

A well-maintained air conditioner could experience a lifespan that greatly exceeds the typical ten years old to 15 years old, lasting closer to 20 years old. Alternatively, a system that lacks in this care over the years could fail well before the system becomes ten years old. If you have kept up with maintenance service over the years you’ve owned your air conditioner, you may feel more comfortable with repair even as the system advances in age closer or beyond its expected lifespan. If you have skipped several years of tune-ups from your HVAC technician, you should anticipate that your AC unit won’t last quite as long as you expect before deciding to repair or replace an air conditioner or HVAC system.

Frequency of Repairs

An air conditioner unit or other type of HVAC system typically suffers more malfunctions and breakdowns in its final two years of service life. As you decide between having your system repaired or installing a new air conditioning system at home, think about how many times you’ve had to call your HVAC technician for repair service in the last few years.

It’s not an exact science, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to pay attention to the signs regarding the number of technicians visits you’ve had over the past few heating and cooling seasons. If you’ve seen a lot of your technicians lately, replacing your air conditioning system now could generate substantial savings by avoiding those repeated service call costs.

Refrigerant Type

If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it likely contains R-22 refrigerant. Commonly known as Freon, it is an ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that was used as the primary refrigerant in air conditioning systems since the 1950s. Replacing older systems containing this coolant or another HCFC is really the best choice for several reasons.

  • A leak in your unit that causes R-22 refrigerant to escape is an environmental hazard. HCFCs are known ozone-depleting substances and if they are released into the atmosphere, they will cause continued ozone damage as well as impact climate change.

  • Recharging your system with this refrigerant is expensive and the cost will only increase as the supply continues to grow more limited. Because of its negative effects on the environment, this refrigerant is being phased out in favor of different refrigerant solutions that do not pose a danger to our planet. As of 2020, the production of new Freon is banned and the only refrigerant available for recharging these systems is recycled coolant and stock already in existence.

  • An HVAC system using Freon shows its years, as no air conditioning units were made using this coolant from 2010 on. Replacing the old unit with a new efficient model with a higher starting SEER rating offers better efficiency and energy savings.


The older your air conditioning unit, the less efficient it probably is. Wear and tear impacts system efficiency over the years, causing efficiency to decline below the stated SEER rating in many cases, especially when the heating or cooling unit isn’t properly maintained. Even if your older air conditioning unit states a rating of 10 SEER, it’s likely nowhere near that today – not to mention the fact that 10 SEER is well below today’s minimum SEER ratings for standard efficiency.

Older heating and cooling units were not subject to today’s manufacturing requirements for standard SEER ratings. Starting in 1992, the minimum efficiency for a new air conditioner was 10 SEER – for new air conditioning systems sold in Indiana today, minimum efficiency is 13 SEER, and will increase to 14 SEER in 2023. Standards for efficient operation were put in place to help homeowners save on energy costs and conserve energy for the benefit of the environment.

As efficiency of a heating or cooling unit has a direct connection to energy consumption and the costs paid for energy bills, replacing your air conditioner with a unit that has a higher SEER rating and more efficient performance will offer immediate cost savings. Replacing your existing air conditioner with a minimum SEER unit by today’s standards offers you better efficiency than a minimum SEER unit held to past regulations, not even considering the reduction in efficient performance over time. Before moving forward with repair service, consider that your older HVAC unit isn’t offering the level of operation you expect based on its label, and weigh the savings possible when you upgrade to a higher efficiency SEER unit.

Call Williams Comfort Air for HVAC Unit Service in Central Indiana

Deciding between fixing system problems and replacement for an AC unit, heating unit, or HVAC system can be difficult. When you know the signs to watch for and points to weigh, you are able to make a more informed choice that best fits your situation. Whether you need service to fix your air conditioner or you want to install a new AC unit at home, call Williams Comfort Air for quality service all around.

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