“When Replacing The Outdoor Unit Of An AC System, Does The Indoor Unit Have To Be Replaced?”

A: When you’re looking at replacing the condensing unit outside—it depends on the age of the AC system. Let’s say you have a system that’s only 4 or 5 years old and the outdoor unit gets damaged—you can replace it with the same type of unit. That’s the more sensible ac service option to choose.

However, if you have an older system that, for example, uses R-22 freon vs. R410a Puron—the new refrigerant, it’s a different situation. Then, you’re pretty much forced to replace at least the condensing unit and evaporator coil in the attic to convert to the new refrigerant. This way, you don’t run the risk of the new refrigerant being contaminated by the old.

If you have a system that’s 10 years plus and your condenser or compressor fails outside—you’re facing a costly replacement. It may be a good opportunity to consider replacing the entire system and move up to something with a higher comfort level and higher efficiency as well.

Replacing a compressor on an AC system can be quite expensive— it’s one of the most costly repairs in the industry. That is precisely why we get this question asked so often—it’s a sensible question to ask. Often, it is better to ditch the old unit and replace the whole AC system altogether.

Give it some thought.

Repairing Your AC System Just To Prolong The Inevitable?

Whenever we talk about ac service in Houston, we always compare HVAC systems with cars, so why stop that trend now? So, let’s say your car needs a huge repair for it to drive properly─ let’s go with a transmission. That is easily a $2,000 – $3000 repair assuming there’s no compounding issues. However, let’s assume your car is old, over 100k miles, and has a market value of only $4,000 at best. Would it make sense to dump money into a car that inevitably will break down again due to life expectancy? Probably not.

In fact, it would serve you better to part that car out or sell it to someone who can work on it and cut your losses. Take whatever you gain from it and put it towards a down payment on another car. That’s the likely choice most people would make—and it would be the right one.

Now, on the flip side of that, what if the situation is the same but the car is only a couple of years old and still under warranty? That would be a no brainer—get the car fixed under the warranty, even if there’s a small deductible.

The situation is very much like that when considering AC service on your system’s outdoor unit. If the system runs fine otherwise, is not very old (less than 8 years) and everything else is in good order—repair it.

Choosing between AC service to replace the outdoor unit or replacing the system altogether comes down to some key factors.

Cost of Replacing Components

Not exactly rocket science on this one is it? Compressors can run up to a little over $1500.00 to replace on some units. It mainly depends on the size of the air conditioner and the compressor speed. Either way, it’s a significant expense to consider. The new compressor does come with a warranty in most cases and it’s usually a one-year guarantee.

Now, let’s take a look at the condenser unit (the outside part of the unit). Those start at around $1750 and it contains the condensing coil, fan, and the compressor. Those usually come with a 10-year warranty.

However, if you want to replace the entire unit— condenser and evaporator (indoor), it starts somewhere around 2,800. That also comes with a 10-year warranty as well. Honestly, the cooling side of things will run more efficiently if you’re replacing a unit that’s 10 yrs old or more.

Still, there is something to be said when replacing a very old unit, for choosing to replace the entire system. Replacing your entire system can run anywhere from $5,000 and up with a 10-year guarantee included. Granted, if your system isn’t very old, this is likely not the option for you. It is, however, if your system is over 10 years or has been ruined beyond reasonable AC service. In most cases, it’s going to come down to system age—which brings us to our next factor.

How Old Is The Unit?

Most air conditioners worth their asking price have a lifespan that averages between 10-15 years with regular & proper maintenance. If you have a unit that is nearing that end-of-life stage and the compressor goes out, it’s best to replace the whole unit. Why do we recommend this? Because when a unit reaches that age, your odds of mechanical breakdown skyrocket. Sure you could save some money in the present by just replacing the failed component. However, what if a few months later another part breaks down. The pattern continues until eventually, you end up needing a new unit anyway. All the money you spent keeping the old one on life support was in vain. However, there is an exception to this rule and that involves the next factor.

Is the AC Compressor Under Warranty?

So your system is nearing that 10 yr mark and the compressor has gone out. Does that mean you automatically just go buy a new unit? Let’s pump the brakes for a moment. Even though your unit is almost 10 years old, it may still be under warranty. If the warranty is still active, even if only for a few days—that compressor part is covered. Now, the labor usually isn’t covered with a unit that old, so you’d be responsible for that. However, the cost of labor pales in comparison to the cost of the compressor itself. So, if this is your situation—congratulations, your compressor failed just in time to save you some money for now. You never want to be in that situation where it dies the day after your warranty expires.

 Are You Happy With The Way Your Current Unit Is Performing?

This one is often not even thought about by most of our clients—they’re focused on the problem at hand. However, in some cases, they may want to look at whether their current unit is working out for them. When the compressor or condenser fails and you call for AC service, consider your comfort level. Are you even happy with the AC system you originally purchased?

Often, homeowners will buy a budget system that is the bare minimum to heat and cool their house. Usually, those systems are very inefficient, especially 2 or 3 generations down the line. Systems improve, they get more efficient and innovative.

When you’re facing a failed major component on let’s say, a bottom of the line system—consider its performance. Is it worth it to invest $1,500 or more to get mediocre performance for a few more years? You’d be surprised how much the efficiency or inefficiency of an air conditioner can impact your energy bill. Run your numbers, and consider how comfortable your home is with the existing unit. Consider its age and its performance. You might find that an upgraded unit could serve you better and save on energy bills. Speaking with a reputable Houston HVAC company can help you check out some better options.

HVAC Shopping Doesn’t Have To Be Confusing

We’ve covered a lot of information here and we know it can be confusing sometimes. That is why we go out of our way at Airteam to inform our clients. We want you to have the knowledge needed in order to make an educated decision—not just take our word for it. After all, if you decide based on the information you have on your own—you’re going to be happier.

That is what we want—happy, informed, and empowered clients with who we can share our knowledge. If you’re not happy with your old AC unit, don’t hesitate to contact us and get an estimate on how we can make it better.


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