When Is the Best Time to Replace HVAC? A Closer Look
Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. In every season, you have opportunities to get up close and personal with your HVAC system.
When it’s humming along, keeping your home comfortable, it feels like a best friend. But when your heating and cooling system isn’t giving its best performance, you may feel like it’s time to replace the entire system.
We’ve put together a guide designed to help you determine if now is the best time to replace HVAC equipment. Please take a minute and use our expertise to help you make the right decision.
It Could Be the Winter of Your New HVAC System
Most people hope to get through the cold months of the year without installing any new home system. Weather, holidays, and a higher incidence of HVAC breakdowns can all work against your HVAC contractor being able to schedule you in at the last minute.
In any case, winter is a busy time for everyone.
It’s also when you need to be sure your system is running at its best.
If you are experiencing a few of these problems, winter may be time to replace your system:
- Your system is not maintaining the optimal temperature.
- The furnace makes a lot of unusual noise.
- Higher than average heating bills with no explanation.
Even though winter is typically one of the busiest seasons for HVAC contractors, you can’t sit around in the cold. Call your contractor for an estimate on cost and timeframe for service.
How Old Is Your Furnace?
Most furnace manufacturers talk about the 15-year milestone. While furnaces can last 15-20 years, you should start thinking about and budgeting for a new HVAC system at year 15.
If your system will hit the 15-year mark this winter, several factors, in addition to age, there’s another milestone that can determine whether it’s time for a replacement soon.
Maintenance. Have you performed yearly furnace maintenance?
Routine care for an HVAC system includes at least one tune-up each year. If you’ve neglected furnace maintenance for several years, you may be looking at replacing the unit soon.
Reasons to Replace an Old HVAC Now
Regardless of how well you plan for major home improvement projects, sometimes one of your systems breaks down at the worst possible time—even well-maintained units.
Age is often the first factor homeowners look at when deciding the best time to replace their HVAC system. However, old doesn’t mean ready for the junk pile.
Other factors help determine when to replace the system, such as:
- Spending more and more money on repairs.
- Your system uses Freon refrigerant.
We’ll break each of these factors down in the following few sections.
How Much Do You Spend on HVAC Repairs?
Older HVAC systems often cost more to operate and maintain. Many homeowners also find it challenging to find parts for their aging system.
For example, it’s not uncommon to run into a situation where you can’t quickly source one of your system’s major components, such as the air handler or compressor. Why does this happen?
If you’re looking for a replacement part specific to your system, and the part is discontinued, it may be hard to locate. If your system is well over its useful service life, you may not even buy direct replacements.
At that point, you end up forced to buy aftermarket parts, which, in some cases, are less than ideal.
Here’s a helpful way to figure out whether you should continue sinking money into repairs or start researching an HVAC replacement:
If the cost to repair your older system will run you over $1000, you should at least consider putting the money towards a new system.
That $1000 repair may get your system up and running today. You have no way of knowing what your next repair will cost or when the system will break down again.
Savvy homeowners who replace their aging HVAC systems avoid the need for expensive repairs soon.
Freon Refrigerant and HVAC Replacement
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency began the phaseout of R-22 and R-142b refrigerant, also known as Freon. Freon is toxic to the environment, which prompted the EPA’s actions.
As of January 1, 2020, if you have a system that uses Freon, your HVAC contractor will need to either use recycled Freon or source it elsewhere.
The Freon supply in this country has dwindled, which means you will pay more for a recharge. Current prices for Freon run between $50-$150 installed. To charge an HVAC system installed before 2010 could cost up to $600.
At current prices, even routine maintenance can significantly impact your budget. If you have a system that runs on Freon, it’s a good idea to go ahead and replace it now.
It’s all About the Bill
Have your energy bills increased without any reason? That’s a sign that you need to consider replacing your HVAC system.
When you can’t explain away a significant increase in heating and cooling costs, worn-out components are often the culprit
Unlike fine wine, HVAC systems don’t get better with age. And the cost to operate them doesn’t decrease.
If your energy bills continue to rise, it’s time to look at your budget for a new system.
Is Spring the Best Time to Install New HVAC Equipment?
If you’re in the market for an HVAC system, you’re probably already aware of the fact that shopping in the off-season could mean some enticing deals. But money isn’t the only factor, as you’ll see below.
Air Conditioner Replacement
For an air conditioner, spring is the perfect time to upgrade. It’s the season right before the heat hits, and replacing your AC unit in spring means you’re ready for whatever temperatures summer brings.
In addition, you can save money and hassle by:
- Finding better prices on both AC units and whole HVAC systems
- More contractors should be available for installation.
New Furnace Installation
There’s a season for everything, including new furnaces. For the other half of your HVAC system, spring is also a fantastic time to make a replacement.
Some of the same reasons you should replace the air conditioner in spring apply to furnace replacements.
More homeowners are thinking about warm, not cold, temperatures during the spring. They’re most concerned about the cooling components of their HVAC systems.
That could translate to better pricing for you and more contractor availability.
Finally, spring is almost perfect for replacing an HVAC system because it’s neither too hot nor too cold. Contractors likely feel the same way.
Why Can’t I Do an HVAC Replacement in the Summer?
The summer season is busy for those looking to install a new HVAC unit. It’s also high season for HVAC contractors.
You should also note seasonal temperature factors.
If the area you live in is experiencing an unseasonably warm spring, the rush to replace air conditioners will start much earlier than you may anticipate.
In this case, an early spring installation is ideal.
Now, we’re not saying that you absolutely cannot replace your system during the summer. But it may not be the best time to replace HVAC equipment.
Next, we’ll share a tip that could save you money.
Buy In the Off-Season, Install In the Spring
While many homeowners will opt to buy and install their HVAC system simultaneously, you’re not breaking any laws if you don’t follow the crowd.
Why not buy your new system in the off-season, and have it installed later?
You can take advantage of off-season deals. Then, have the system installed in the spring before your HVAC contractor gets backlogged with hot or cold weather service calls.
Do I Have to Replace the Whole System?
This may be the question you’ve been waiting for us to answer. Up to now, we’ve primarily discussed replacing individual HVAC components — either the furnace or the air conditioner.
Yet, the main focus of this article is HVAC systems, so why go into details about replacing one but not the other?
Have you ever replaced one part on your vehicle, only to have a different part break almost immediately? Of course, you tried to save money, but it backfired.
Replacing one part of an HVAC system without replacing the other(s) can result in a similar situation.
Let’s say you’re the second owner of your home. The previous owner replaced the furnace but kept the original air conditioning unit. Last summer, your AC unit barely got you through the heat.
If the furnace still works (even though it’s getting older), you’re probably hoping only to replace the air conditioner.
If the furnace is over ten years old, it’s best to go ahead and replace the HVAC system. That way, your new AC unit, and furnace will be about the same age when it’s time to replace the system again.
Now May Be the Best Time to Replace HVAC Equipment
As you can see, there’s not a straightforward answer when talking about the best time to replace HVAC equipment. It really depends on your unique circumstances.
The bottom line is if you’re dealing with an HVAC system that isn’t performing well and continues to cost money in repairs, any time is the best time to replace it.
Here at HVAC Service Cost, we’re committed to ensuring you have the best information to make a wise decision. Contact us today for a new HVAC system quote.