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Should you repair or replace your air conditioner?

What to Consider - If your air conditioning or heating system fails occasionally you are faced with a choice, to repair the existing unit by replacing parts or by buying a new air conditioner or heater. Some air conditioning and heating companies push a certain solution based on what is convenient or what method earns them the most money. You should decide whether to repair or replace a unit based on what is in your best interest. To help with this important decision we have gathered this important information for you to consider.

The Three Main Factors - When considering whether to replace your existing unit the three main factors to consider are the life expectancy, efficiency, and current condition of the unit. Each must be considered carefully before you decide whether to repair or replace your air conditioning or heating unit. If any of these factors is a problem area then you should consider replacement and if two or three are problems then replacement is almost always your best bet.
Life Expectancy - Most units last only eight to twelve years, after that point they become expensive to repair and break down often. After this time the parts are sometimes discontinued which causes them to be more expensive if not completely unavailable. If you live in an area near the ocean or with a high salt content the life span of your unit may be even shorter due to corrosion. Consider the age of your equipment when you decide whether to replace or repair your unit. If a unit is eight years old or older it is nearing its life expectancy. You can add at least four years to this number if you have consistently had it professionally maintained during this time.

Efficiency - If you completely restore an aging unit, which is expensive to do, you will still only have the efficiency that it was rated for when it was manufactured at best. Even if your central air conditioner is just eight to 10 years old, it could suck up to twice the electricity that even a low-end new one would use. That’s because it operates at or below 10 SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is the amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Until 2006, 10 SEER was standard, but these days, the minimum allowed by federal law is 13 SEER. That translates to 30% less electrical consumption and 30% lower cooling bills than equipment installed just a few years ago. Savings of up to up to 60 percent or more on your electric or gas bill is possible when you replace it with high efficient equipment. In a lot of cases installing a new furnace and or air conditioning system can pay for itself in energy savings within a relatively short time.

Current Condition - Consider the current condition of your unit when you decide whether to repair or replace your air conditioning and heating unit. Factors to consider are the quality of the equipment (reputable brand, builders model, etc.) number of breakdowns and how often the unit has been maintained. If your unit hasn't been maintained or is an inferior quality or has frequent breakdowns consider replacement as a serious option. No matter the skill of the installer or service professional there is little that can be done with a unit that is in very poor condition besides restoring the unit which is almost always prohibitively expensive.

What is an average installation cost of an air conditioner?
Expect to pay in the high end of the $2,460.20 - $3,244.74 per unit range for a licensed, bonded and insured contractor and for complex or rush projects. Hire carefully, only after verifying prior work quality.
For the best value on Air Conditioning Installation: combine related projects; get bids from several pros; and be flexible about project scheduling.

To really get an idea of what the project would cost, you should reach out to a reputable HVAC installer. They will assist you in deciding what central air system is appropriate for your needs and home. They will help you:

Determine the size of the equipment. Generally speaking, the bigger the house, the costlier the system will be to accommodate it. However, you don’t necessarily want to buy the “biggest and best” unit out there, because appropriately cooling a house is a bit of an art-form. You want a system that is properly sized for your home. If you get something too big, it will cycle on and off too often, which will waste energy and fail to remove humidity. If it’s too small, it will run constantly without effectively cooling your home.
Decide if you want to install a heater at the same time. Most times (in South Florida) the central air and heat systems are tied together to be more efficient and to offset the cost of installation.

What are the different maintenance tips for air conditioners?
The best time to service an air conditioner is before it's actually needed. Regular maintenance and cleaning are extremely important. Change the filter monthly. Other than the regular filter, there are additional ones that can be used, but check with an air-conditioning maintenance person first. You can get a cap from a hardware store to put on the end of your air-conditioning drain. After capping it, find the end of the drain outside and use a dry vacuum to suck out the dirt. Be sure to remove the cap once it has been vacuumed. An air-conditioning technician needs to use a high pressure vacuum to clear the drain. It should be done yearly to avoid any backup that could cause mold growth in your air conditioner and water damage to ceilings and walls.To clean the air-conditioner coils, make sure the power from the unit is disconnected first. Wet the area you are cleaning with a garden hose. Using gloves and safety glasses, spray the commercial air-conditioner cleaner (available at an HVAC supplier) onto the coils. Let it set for a short while and then rinse it down thoroughly with the garden hose.

What is the difference between central ac system or an ductless ac system?
Differences between Ductless and Central Air Conditioner Systems:
Flexibility – As the name suggest, ductless air conditioners do not use ducts for cooling and heating. Hence with ductless, indoor air handlers can be installed in a variety of places. You can also have them installed so that heated and cooled air is limited to specific parts of the home, which creates superior comfort and results in lower energy bills.

Heating and Cooling – Central air conditioners can only be used to cool a home. They must be paired with furnaces or heat pumps for year-round indoor comfort. In areas where temperatures rarely or never dip below about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, ductless systems can heat homes as well as cool them. They have reversible heat pumps that move warm air in either direction.

Zoned Comfort – With central air conditioning, setting the temperature on the thermostat adjusts the temperature for the entire home. By opting for a multi-split ductless system, you can set different temperatures in different rooms. If you don’t plan to use a room on a given day, you can stop having heated or cooled air directed there. This results in significant energy savings.

Less Energy Loss – One of the biggest drawbacks of a standard central air conditioning system is the fact that cooled air has to travel through ducts to get where it needs to go. Along the way, a lot of it seeps out and is lost in unconditioned parts of the home. This can result in energy losses of up to 30 percent. Your ductwork is left out of the equation with a ductless system, so the issue of leaks is eliminated entirely.

Simple Installation – As long as it’s performed by an authorized and experienced contractor, ductless air conditioning installation is a snap. Most of the legwork has to be done prior to installation. For example, technicians must determine the appropriate places to mount indoor air handlers and perform load calculations to ensure that the equipment that’s used has the right capacity.

Design – One thing about ductless systems that sometimes gives people pause is the fact that it’s necessary to have indoor units installed to deliver cooled and heated air to specific rooms. In other words, equipment isn’t just tucked away down in the basement. However, high-quality ductless systems have compact, low-profile indoor units that do little to detract from interior decor.

Cost - The initial cost of having a ductless system installed tends to be higher than the cost of having central air conditioning installed. Focusing solely on upfront costs is misleading, though. After all, ductless systems are much more efficient than central air conditioners, so you will spend a lot less to keep your home comfortable over time and should recoup your investment with ease.

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