Over time, air conditioners grow less efficient and become less capable of cooling your home effectively. By contrast, newer models tend to be more efficient and more powerful simultaneously; with a new unit, you could keep your home cooler, and cool it faster, all while paying less money for your electricity bill.
Air conditioning unit replacement could cost several thousand dollars, depending on the type of unit you choose and what kinds of professional services you’re enlisting to get the new unit installed. Over the course of years, these energy efficient units tend to recoup their own costs with lower electricity bills and higher home value—but at the same time, you could save money by keeping your old unit for a few more years. So when is it the “right” time to upgrade your AC unit? And is it a good long-term decision?
There’s only one scenario in which the case is clear that you should completely replace your AC unit; in this case, the AC unit has totally malfunctioned, and cannot be cheaply repaired. If it would cost $1,000 to get your old unit running again, but a new unit is only $2,500, it’s almost certainly worth investing in the new unit.
Otherwise, you’ll need to consider a range of different factors to determine whether it’s “worth it” to replace your AC unit with a newer model.
Factors to Consider
These are some of the most important factors to consider:
- Current AC unit performance. How efficiently or effectively is your current unit operating? When you fire it up, does it tend to cool your home quickly, efficiently, and at a consistent level? Or does it seem unreliable? An older, less functional AC unit might behave unpredictably or inconsistently, leaving your home warmer than it should be, or causing you to cross your fingers every time you lower the thermostat.
- Current AC unit age. Also think about how old your AC unit is. A functional air conditioner can last 15 or even 20 years if it’s maintained regularly. However, the capabilities of older air conditioning models are easily outstripped by newer models; after just 10 years, your current unit will be less efficient than when it started, and its maximum capacity will be outshined by newer units. In other words, the older your unit is, the more you should consider replacing it.
- Repair calls. How much effort do you have to put into maintaining your current unit? Do you feel like you have to call the repairman every few months? Are you paying hundreds of dollars on repairs and maintenance per year? If you’re struggling to keep your current unit running, it’s probably worth both the money and the peace of mind to replace it with something newer and more reliable.
- Electricity bills. Think about how much you’re paying for your electricity bills to keep your home cool in summer. If you want your home to be a specific temperature, your older, less efficient unit will have to work harder to achieve it, meaning you’re going to use (and pay for) more electricity. At a certain point, it makes fiscal sense to upgrade; if you could save $50 per month on electricity, or a few hundred dollars per year, your new unit could pay for itself in a decade or less.
- Personal comfort. There’s also a subjective question to ask: do you feel comfortable with this current unit? During the summer months, are you comfortable in your own home, or do you feel like it’s too hot? How do your family members feel? Is it hard to get to sleep at night because of the heat? It’s hard to put a price on your comfort, and the comfort of your family.
- Environmental concerns. If you have an old AC unit, you might also have environmental concerns. Old units tend to consume more electricity and generate more harmful byproducts in the atmosphere. Newer units are much more environmentally friendly. If you’re concerned about the environment, upgrading your AC unit may be the best move.
- Moving prospects. Also think about how soon you’re going to be moving. If you’re going to leave this house and move somewhere else in a year, it may not be worth the money or hassle to upgrade your unit.
You’re the only one who can decide whether a new air conditioner is the right move for you and your family. That said, there are several factors that can help you determine the long-term cost efficiency and benefits of an upgrade. If you’re not sure whether it makes sense to upgrade, consider talking to an HVAC specialist in your area to learn more about your options.