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How to Know When your Central Air Conditioner is Broken for Good and Should Be Replaced

The repair vs. replace dilemma is one all homeowners face with their air conditioner. There are several key factors that will help you know whether you should fix the old AC or spend more and get a new one. Here are a few tips for making the decision.

Consider the Age of the Air Conditioner

If it’s over 15 years old, it might not be worth spending a dime on. If it’s a quality model from Carrier, Trane, Lennox or other top brand, and the repair is fairly minor, then fixing it might be okay. If the repair is major, you should probably replace it regardless of the brand. One repair often signals that more are on the way.

Here’s a handy rule of thumb – the Rule of 20. Consider the age of the air conditioner and the amount of the repairs in hundreds of dollars. If they add up to 20 or more, replace the unit. For example, if your 15 year old air conditioner needs $500 in repairs, that’s 15+5=20. A $200 repair might be worth doing when other factors are considered.

The Rule of 20 is a baseline. If replacing the air conditioner is not in the budget, you might need to spend the $500 now and hope that the unit lasts until you can afford to replace it. On the other hand, if the unit has already had a few repairs in the last few years, and you’ve got the money, your repair vs. replace number might be 17, for example. Perhaps you’d rather just replace it now since it has shown you it is on its last legs.

Consider How Long you Plan to Live There

If you plan to move in the next few years, then repairing the AC is more attractive. You won’t get your money’s worth out of a new unit. If you plan to live in the home longer, then replacing the air conditioner with one that has the efficiency level and features you want is a much more appealing option.

Replacing your Air Conditioner Proactively

Air conditioners usually fail during periods of heaviest use, like in the middle of a heat wave. Your home will heat up quickly and the repair people will be extra busy, possibly delaying your repair. If your air conditioner is older (15+) and if it’s already required a few repairs, then you might want to replace it before the cooling season begins. If it’s already summer, keep this in mind for next year and have it replaced this fall when you might get the best prices or at least by next spring.

The Right Time to Replace your Air Conditioner

As you can see, the right time to replace your AC depends on specific factors such as the age of the unit, its repair history, your budget and your living plans for the next few years. Take all these into consideration and it should become clear whether you should repair or replace your central air conditioner.

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