As hot weather blankets California., many homeowners are turning on their air conditioners for the first time only to find they do not work.
Faced with potentially lofty repair bills, homeowners must decide whether to repair or replace their condensing units, which is not an easy decision.
HVAC contractors like Valley are the go-to experts on the subject and there a number of factors they must consider before making recommendations to homeowners. The type of repair is a factor - there’s a big difference between replacing a contactor or capacitor versus a reversing valve or compressor. We also look at whether the unit utilizes R-22 or R-410A, the time of year, how long a repair would help the customer this year and the age and condition of the system. If the system is very old and not in good shape, we may recommend replacing it. If it’s newer and just needs a part, then repairing is the answer. Lastly, we consider the homeowner’s financial options and whether you are looking for the best solution or a quick fix. Age, repair history and the cost of the repair usually determine whether we recommend replacement over repair.
A good barometer used is multiplying the age of the unit by the cost of the repair. If that sum is equal to or greater than $5,000, it’s normally appropriate to consider a replacement. For example, if an 11-year-old condensing unit needs a $600 repair, we would suggest our customer consider a replacement. When you do the math, eleven times $600 equals $6,600, which is greater than $5,000.”
REPLACING THE SYSTEM
While replacement of just the condensing unit is possible, we may recommend replacing the entire system rather than one component.
We generally don’t suggest replacing just the outdoor unit. We typically sell the outdoor unit and the coil together, so the indoor coil is replaced at the same time as that outdoor unit and we suggest that customers purchase this option over replacing just the condensing unit or coil by themselves because we put a warranty on these systems. The outdoor unit and the coil work together to provide comfort, efficiency and reliability so we recommend replacing both at the same time. Sometimes a customer will prefer to replace only the coil to save money. And then, a few months later, the compressor goes and then they have another problem. We talk to customers about these conditions and what could happen if we just piecemeal the system together. The band-aid option is generally not the best solution in the long run.
Homeowners are generally getting more estimates from different companies than they did during the Great Recession.
Back in 2004-2005, when people felt really good about the economy, they were getting two, maybe three estimates. Once the recession hit around 2009, customers were requesting more estimates. When the economy is bad, people tend to be less proactive when it comes to replacements and they tend to act with an as-needed replacement mind-set.
Consumers today are more aware and interested in the benefits of higher efficiency furnaces and air conditioners, app-driven systems and those that complement today’s connected homes. These are factors that encourage our customers to choose replacement over costly repairs more frequently.