Repair Or Replace With Higher Efficiency - That Is the Question

December 15, 2005
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In the pre-13-SEER-minimum days, a conversation between a contractor and a customer whose system needed a major repair might have gone like this.

Customer: "How much will it cost to repair the unit?"

Contractor: "Well, it's a major component that's failed. Replacing it is one option, and it is probably one of the more expensive components to replace. We could almost as easily install a new air conditioner and you would save a lot of money, be more comfortable, and the entire system would be under warranty."

Next cooling season that dialogue will probably change.

Customer: "How much will it cost to repair the unit?"

Contractor: "Well, it's a major component that failed. We could also replace the entire system, but it might make more sense to just replace the component. Let's see which option makes sense."

Deciding whether to repair or replace an ailing comfort cooling system will become a bit more complicated next year. On the one hand, you could repair one part in the old system for a relatively lower cost, only to have another part fail soon after. On the other hand, a new system's parts will be under warranty. But how much work needs to be done to accommodate this new system?

Over the coming months, Tech Tips will discuss repair vs. replacement options in the 13 SEER world from several angles, financial as well as technical.

The Financial Decision

The age of the existing unit will affect the payback on the new one. In general, relatively younger units might be worth repairing, while older, less-efficient models are more likely to need continuous repairs. They also are more likely to be even less efficient than their rated value.

As you bring the customer into the equation, remember that the customer may be more ready to accept the replacement solution than you think. Give them all the options and let them decide.

Here are other considerations:

  • How old is the unit?

  • How well has it been maintained?

  • How complicated would the repair be?

  • What it the likelihood of another repair in the near future?

  • How many changes would need to be made to accommodate the new unit?

  • Would there be enough space and airflow for the indoor coil?

  • Would you need to contact any other professionals (i.e., carpenter) to install the new unit?

  • How long will they be in the home?

  • If they are planning on selling, will they get the cost of a new system out of sale?

    Best Practices

    Tech Tips also will explore the ramifications of coil matching, airflow, refrigerant charge, and the importance of keeping the open system clean.

    For instance, does the precharge match the installed line set? Are you double-checking your numbers? Why airflow-duct sizing are more prominent issues for higher-SEER equipment, and how to make sure you have the correct amount.

    When it comes to working in other components, Tech Tips will examine system diagnostics, variable-speed motors, comfort enhancements, energy savings, indoor air quality (UV lights, air cleaners, humidifiers, space considerations), temperature control, and how temperature, humidity, sizing, and coils all work together.

    Eventually we will make our way to specifics for R-410A systems. These will include the importance of filter-driers, whether or not you have a moisture indicator, and what to do if you need to open the system.

    We look forward to continuing our 13 SEER discussion over the coming months!

    For more information, click on the Emerson Climate Technologies logo above.

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