Next to perhaps running water, your HVAC system is the most important asset to your home. Americans spend over $11 billion per year on the monthly costs to heat and cool their homes. That represents a significant investment in keeping your home and family comfortable throughout the year.
Your HVAC system protects your home and everything inside from moisture, heat exposure, and frigid temperatures. Understanding your HVAC system and how to care for it can extend the life of your unit and save you on monthly costs.
How Long Do HVAC Units Last?
Take a look at your shoes. For some people, shoes are easily replaced, lost, or broken at least once a year. Others are wearing the same carefully cared for Vans from high school. The same can be said for your HVAC system.
Most systems come fresh from the manufacturer made to last 10-20 years. The rest is up to you. One of the most common myths of HVAC is that a system can last at least 10 years longer than manufacturers indicate. Pushing your system too far can cause bigger problems in your home.
There are several different factors that go into projecting how long a system should last. Nick Rohan, CEO of RESSAC Climate Control Technologies in California said, “It varies based on run-time hours per day, proximity to corrosive contaminants, how well the equipment has been maintained, whether any major repairs or retrofits have been made, and whether the equipment services mission-critical spaces and can’t afford to break,” he said. “Based on these variables, we see a lifetime range of 10-30 years with 20 years being the average.”
Air conditioners are typically the first to go out because they are outside and exposed to the elements. Furnaces last longer, but whether you’ll need to replace it at 8 years or still be running strong at year 23 depends on the climate it’s used in, your living habits, and your HVAC maintenance routine.
Tom Beaulieu, president of Bay Area Services Inc. said, “As a consumer and professional, I expect furnaces to last 20 years…My definition of ‘end of life’ for any appliance is when the unit has been in operation for more than two-thirds of its expected life and needs repairs that exceed 25 percent of the full replacement cost.”
Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Heating and Cooling System
If you’re wondering whether or not it’s time to replace your HVAC system, chances are the answer is yes. In some cases, a good maintenance checkup or a small repair may be sufficient, but there are some clear signs that will help determine if your system needs a complete replacement.
- It is near the end of its average life expectancy. The Department of Energy recommends homeowners replace their HVAC system every 10 to 15 years. While today’s AC units are durable, the major components will begin to deteriorate over time and with heavy use.
- A repair cost is more than half the price of a new system. If your AC is out and you’re wondering whether to repair or replace, it mostly comes down to numbers. If your repair will cost 50% or more of the new system cost, AND its upward 10 years old, it’s time to replace.
- Your energy bill keeps increasing, but your rate remains the same. Your utility bills will fluctuate during the year, but if you notice your bills are increasing consistently, it could be a problem. This is usually because your system is starting to deteriorate and is working harder to maintain the same temperature, causing an increase in utility bills.
- You have trouble keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. Even if you keep your thermostat the same, you may start to notice your air conditioning is having a harder time keeping up. This is a sign that it is no longer powerful enough to get the job done and it may be time to replace.
- Reduce Air Quality. Part of the responsibility of an AC system is to provide proper ventilation throughout the home. If you notice more dust, dander, dirt, mold, mildew or humidity, your AC isn’t doing its job.
- Weird smells. Any time you notice an odor from your ventilation system, you want to have it checked by an HVAC contractor as soon as possible. This can be a serious situation, or it could be nothing more than built-up dust burning off. Either way, weird smells are a sure indicator that something isn’t right.
- Odd sounds like grinding or squealing. Most HVAC systems are pretty quiet. You may hear a fan turn on, but nothing more than that and certainly not any grinding, screeching or banging. Any unusual sounds are a sure sign that your system needs attention ASAP.
Just because your HVAC system is not working at 100% capacity, doesn’t mean it’s automatically time for a replacement. It could be a simple HVAC repair.
It is always a good idea to investigate your heating and cooling problems with a professional. This can help you avoid any problems that might cause your air conditioner to malfunction and save some money. Many of the common problems are not DIY HVAC repairs, but should be handled by a professional HVAC technician. Here are a few of the most common problems areas to check:
- Malfunctioning Thermostat: This is one of the easiest and simple fixes. If your thermostat isn’t showing anything you need to invest in a few AAA’s and you’ll be good to go. Dead batteries are more common than you think and should be the first line of defense with any AC issue.
- Tripped circuit breaker: Check your breaker box next. Chances are, one of them connects to your HVAC system. Reset that and then try the system again. Make sure the breaker isn’t being overloaded with other things. If it trips frequently, you might want to call an HVAC professional.
- Blown fuse or transformer: This is similar to a dead battery in your car. You’ll need to have it replaced before the machine is going to work, but it’s much cheaper than a whole new HVAC (or a new car). Unless you’ve got special training, it’s best to call an HVAC professional at this point.
- Dirty coils: If the air coming out of your vents isn’t as “cool” as you’d like, it could be due to dirty coils. This is generally due to a lack of maintenance. If they get really dirty, they can’t remove heat properly and circulate hot air.
- Clogged air filter: Chances are you’ve heard this one before. Too many people aren’t changing their air filters, and it causes big problems for the system. When the filter is clogged the system can just freeze up and stop working entirely.
6. Damaged Components: Check the actual unit itself to make sure it hasn’t been damaged. Landscapers, children, a falling limb, several things can damage an outdoor system. No HVAC system is impenetrable.
If you’re unsure what’s causing your HVAC problems, hire a licensed HVAC contractor to evaluate the problem and provide an honest solution.
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Benefits of Replacing Dated Units
Although replacing your entire system with a new HVAC installation may seem like an overwhelming and stressful endeavor, it can actually be one of the greatest changes for your home. Replacing old units is safer, easier, and often cheaper than running them into the ground.
- Saves you money on your energy bill – You want to make sure your system is performing at its most efficient level, you also want to save money. This is the two-fer of a new HVAC system. It saves you money in utility costs, while keeping you comfortable.
- More comfort – Today’s HVAC systems can provide more even temperatures throughout your home than older systems. You can precisely adjust temperatures for rooms throughout your home, times of day, days of the week, etc.
- Reduced noise – Newer HVAC systems are almost silent. They have high-tech sound absorbing materials to keep their motor and running noises to a minimum. No more turning up the TV every time the AC fan kicks on.
- More “green” options; More energy efficient – New high-efficiency HVAC systems use about a third less fuel as compared to older models. So, not only are you saving money in the long run, but you are also reducing your carbon footprint and producing less waste.
- Wider variety of add-ons; programmable thermostats, humidifiers, etc. – Thermostats have come a long way in recent years. Today, you can program the thermostat to remain at a temperature that limits energy consumption while you’re at work. Then turn it on while you’re sitting in traffic. You can shut it off while on vacation, and have the house comfortable by the time you land. All you have to do is pull out your smartphone to adjust anytime, anywhere.
- Higher resale value – If you are planning to sell your home anytime soon, it’s worth replacing your system. You’ll be able to recoup part of the costs in resale, and chances are your buyers will ask you to replace it anyway.
- Tax credit – In some areas, you can get a serious tax credit for disposing of old, inefficient systems and replacing them with high-efficiency options. This is definitely worth looking into to see if you can actually get paid to install a new HVAC.
- More extended warranties – With today’s units, you don’t have to worry about it going out next year and replacing it again. Most manufacturers will offer extended warranties that give you peace of mind moving forward.
Different Types of HVAC Systems
Long gone are the days of using fire or an open window to heat and cool your home. Today, there are several different options when it comes to keeping your home comfortable. Each system has a specific purpose so you can find the one that suits your home or business.
This is the most common system. It is made up of an outdoor unit containing the condenser and compressor, and an indoor unit containing the evaporator coil and blower connected to a furnace. If you need a furnace, but not AC this is the most efficient and cheapest system.
Hybrid Heat Pump System
In this system, there is a heat pump powered by electricity and used in conjunction with a furnace. The heat pump is the primary source of heating and cooling, but when the temperature drops below a certain temperature, the furnace kicks in to produce heat. This is great when you need an AC, but it doesn’t dip below 40 degrees very often.
This does not use ductwork to heat or cool a home. Instead, individual units are placed in specific rooms that are connected to an outdoor unit with small tubes that carry the refrigerant. This can be a great option if you only need to cool one or two rooms.
A packaged HVAC system contains the compressor, condenser, and evaporator all in one unit, often located on a roof or near the foundation of the building or home. This is a great option for homes that do not have the required space for separate components like in a split system.
Each of these systems is great for their intended purposes but are not all intended for every situation. For expert advice on which type of system is best for your Indiana or Kentucky home, use our selector to find local, licensed HVAC contractors in your area.
How much does a new heating and air conditioning system cost?
Any homeowner knows that a new HVAC system will hurt their wallet, but it is a necessary expense to keep your home comfortable throughout the year. For an entirely new system, which includes air conditioner, furnace, and ductwork the average price ranges from $6,000 to $8,000. This can increase based on where you live, the size of your house, brand, contractor installation fees, and level of efficiency of the system.
While the price is high, it’s important to understand the factors that make up that cost. It could help lessen the blow a bit.
- Size: Bigger is more expensive, but doesn’t always mean it’s better. If you purchase a unit that is too big for your space, you’ll overpay on your utility costs each month. You want to choose the correct size based on your square footage and climate.
- Quality: There are luxury brands and budget brands, each brand offers something slightly different. The best HVAC brands will last 18-25 years and come with a more comprehensive warranty. Budget brands may only last 10 years or so, but the overall cost is lower.
- Performance: HVAC units are measured with a “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating” or a SEER rating. This score determines whether they outperform other models by the same manufacturer. A SEER score of 13-15 is the lowest performing whereas scores of 20-24 are the top performers.
- Efficiency: This is a combination of choosing the right size and the right unit for your climate. Efficiency is measured in BTUs and is usually determined by the climate you live in. If you live in a hotter climate, you need a system with a higher BTU (22-30).
Your Comfort is our Priority
Don’t let your HVAC system stress you out. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether it’s time to replace your system, or simply make a fix to keep running it. You can easily make this determination by diagnosing the problem and running the numbers. Sometimes replacing your system will bring hidden benefits you had not even considered. If it is time to replace, determine the best type, size, and features of your new system and don’t forget to check for tax incentives as well.
If an HVAC repair or HVAC system replacement is in your future, find a professional, local, licensed HVAC contractor to keep your home comfortable all year round.