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HVAC: Replace or Repair? -- Questions to Ask


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HVAC Unit Acting Up?

So, your central heating/air-conditioning system is not functioning properly, and you are wondering what to do -- either pay for repairs, or get the system replaced.  It can be a daunting decision for sure, but there are a number of questions you can ask yourself to help cut down the uncertainty.


1. Is the problem with the Furnace or with the Air Conditioner?
Just because these two major components of your system work together, doesn’t mean there is a similar approach to deciding whether they get repaired or replaced. 

Furnace: According to MFS’s HVAC representative Danny Lynch, furnaces generally have a longer life expectancy than AC units when they are maintained well.  A report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) states furnaces can run an average of between 15-20 years, and Lynch said he has seen some last up to 35 years. Since furnace systems are generally simple in nature, (blower, igniter, exchanger), furnaces can be tuned up regularly and fixed pretty easily in many circumstances.

Air Conditioner: Fixing an Air Conditioning unit once it begins to fail, on the other hand, can be a bigger challenge. The NAHB report puts the life-expectancy of a AC unit at between 10-15 years. The system is generally more complicated than a furnace, with a condensing coil outside the house, and an evaporator coil usually located within the furnace. While ACs can be inspected, and the coils can be cleaned, there is really no way they can get a “tune-up,” said Lynch. Air Conditioners use refrigerant that runs through an array of tubes to remove warm air from the home. If this system has a leak, it can be difficult to find.

2. Know the basic specs to your Furnace or AC unit.
To the best of your ability, it is important to know the HVAC unit’s name, manufacturer and the model number.  This will give you the age of the unit as well as its efficiency rating.  These are both significant factors on whether you want to spend money on a fix, or upgrade your older model.  Websites such as Building Intelligence Center -- http://www.buildingcenter.org/ can show you how to read a serial number for the date of manufacturing. For example, a Goodman serial number like 9704011000, would indicate the furnace was built in 1997, in the fourth month.


3. What exactly is the issue with your HVAC unit?
An HVAC specialist can figure out what the issue is with your heating/cooling system and offer suggestions for a fix.  Many repair professionals charge a fee for a visit to diagnose a problem, usually around $65 depending on where you live.  That fee will often be applied to any repair work that needs to be done. Once you have a better idea what needs to be fixed, websites such as HomeAdvisor can provide a good estimate of how much repairs cost for each component of your furnace or air conditioner:



Make sure you get an estimate from your repair company so you know exactly the amount of money you would be expected to pay for a repair.

4. How do you calculate the cost of repairing vs. replacing the unit? According to HomeAdvisor, replacing a furnace will cost between $2,500 to $5,900 on average, while most repairs average between $133 and $456. Replacing an air conditioning unit can range between $3,712 to $7,157 on average, with most repairs averaging between $164 and $513. Due to a furnace’s potential long life-span, Lynch says that repairing a furnace, if affordable, is usually the best bet.  However, replacing the heat exchanger can cost as much as $1,200, so it might be more cost-effective to buy a new unit if that part needs changed out.  The two more expensive items to replace in an air-conditioning system are the air compressor and the evaporator coil, both of which can be more than $1000.

5. Does the $5,000 rule apply?
ServiceMark Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing recommends that its customers use the $5,000 rule to decide whether to repair or replace an HVAC system. This is how it works -- you multiply the age of your system by the repair cost. For example, a system that is 10 years old that has a repair cost of $350 would equal a total of $3500.  That is below the $5000 level so that repair would be recommended. If the unit is 15 years old and has a repair of $350, the total would be $5,250, and it would not be worth it to repair it, according to the rule.

If you decide you would like to replace your HVAC system, MFS Supply has many options from which to choose, including:

Air Condition Systems
Gas Furnaces
Air Handlers
Packaged Units
Heat Kits
Heat Pump Systems


Call MFS Supply to have a licensed technician in your area install or repair your HVAC unit. MFS Supply has partnered with the national home warranty company, Home Service Club, to provide customers with convenient access to quality HVAC specialists. You can relax knowing that a professional is making sure the job is done right and to code.


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