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Is Air Conditioner Repair Worth It or Is Replacement a Better Choice? 

Struggling air conditioners cause higher energy bills, contribute to air quality issues, and create an overall atmosphere of discomfort inside the house, leading Louisville homeowners to wonder if air conditioner repair or replacement is the best way to achieve reliable cooling. When your HVAC technician advises that your HVAC system air conditioning unit has a problem, you’ll need to decide if air conditioner repairs are a reasonable solution or if it’s time to replace your air conditioning unit with a new system. HVAC service to repair or replace your old system each come with benefits and may or may not be the right choice depending on factors specific to your situation.

With so many factors to consider, deciding whether to repair or replace your existing AC unit can feel quite difficult. Life expectancy, the age of your air conditioner, maintenance, repair complexity, cost to repair, SEER rating of your current system, replacement costs, the potential for energy savings if you replace your AC with a new unit that offers better efficiency – each of these elements could impact your decision, or you may focus on just a few to help you make the choice. Jarboe’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing details why each detail is relevant and how to weigh them to help you decide between repairing or replacing air conditioning systems.

Age Considerations

An air conditioning unit, just like any other mechanical system, suffers wear and tear through years of use which will eventually take the system out of service. Homeowners across Louisville can expect an average service lifespan of 10 years to 15 years from their air conditioners, though certain factors play a role in shortening or extending this timeframe.

Once the HVAC system nears or reaches this age range, you can expect that you will need to replace your air conditioning system within the next few years in most cases. If your air conditioning unit is 10 years old or older and currently experiences problems that require repair, you may decide that the cost to repair the AC unit could be more wisely invested into a new system and a fresh start where home comfort is concerned.

When deciding whether to repair an air conditioner that’s around 10 years old or replace it for a new unit, you can strictly consider the unit’s age. At ten years old, replacement is typically the path forward. However, other elements can be weighed alongside current age and life expectancy of an air conditioner to determine your repair versus replacement decision.

  • Due to federal energy efficiency standards, an older system may have a lower labeled seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) than a brand-new unit. You may decide to skip repairs to the existing air conditioner in favor of making an upgrade to a new cooling system with a higher SEER rating for benefits such as more efficient operation and lower energy bills.

  • An AC unit, just like other heating and cooling systems, need regular maintenance to counteract the damage caused by wear and tear. The impact of maintenance is directly linked to the life expectancy of an air conditioning system – well-maintained units often have a lifespan that exceeds ten years old to 15 years old, reaching closer to 20 years in some cases. If maintenance is neglected, it’s possible that the air conditioner will fail before its service life hits ten years old – it certainly won’t give you upwards of 20 years of service.

  • Warranty protection can be a lifesaver for owners of newer air conditioning equipment, paying for parts in need of replacement due to defect. Warranties usually cover systems for half or more of their average lifespan, so if your AC unit warranty is expired, repairing it can cost you more money out of pocket than if the system was newer – replacement with a new air conditioner provides a new warranty term to give you some cushion where possible repairs are concerned.

Repair or Replacement Costs

When thinking about the important elements that help you make a call between repairs and system replacement for your current air conditioner, the cost of these two options is a significant consideration for some – sometimes, cost is the main factor homeowners base their decisions on.

In a situation where a simple repair is all that is needed to fix the air conditioner, the unit’s age and expected lifespan aren’t so strongly weighed – cost is king, and most homeowners are comfortable investing a low cost of repair to provide a fix even for older units. When cooling systems of any age cost a significant amount of money to repair, it’s important to look at costs associated with both options, repair or replace your air conditioner.

  • A useful tool in deciding whether to repair a broken AC unit or replace it is the “$5,000 rule”. Where HVAC equipment is concerned, have your HVAC technician determine the cost of the repair work needed to restore function of the system and multiply this total by the unit’s age. If your total is over $5,000, generally you’ll want to replace your air conditioning unit. When the total is under $5,000, it may not be time to replace and repairs are preferable.

  • The second cost tool doesn’t have to involve the age of the system – it’s a direct comparison between the costs of repair service and a new air conditioner installation. Get a quote for your current HVAC system’s repair costs as well as an estimate to replace your AC unit. If repair costs equal half or more of the money needed to buy and install a new air conditioner, it’s time to replace. Repair costs that come in lower than half the price of a new HVAC system may make a strong case for system repair, depending on other factors you may choose to weigh.

Costs to repair or replace AC unit equipment don’t have to stand alone – other factors can be considered in relation to the cost to help you decide the right investment for your air conditioning situation.

  • Age of the AC unit will be important here, as to most, it certainly doesn’t make much sense to invest several thousands of dollars’ worth of significant repair services into an air conditioner that you anticipate replacing in the near future anyway.

  • Also, give some thought to the opinions of your HVAC technician and whether or not the suggested repairs are expected to offer a long-term solution to the existing air conditioner issues you experience, or if these repairs are meant more to prop up the AC unit and maybe provide you with another season or two of life.

More Factors to Consider That Help You Decide to Repair or Replace

Beyond system age and cost of repair services or replacing the AC unit, there are several more signs that can provide guidance as you make a decision to repair your older system or invest in a new unit. Before making the final call on repairing or replacing your air conditioner, you may want to think about the following:

Cooling Unit Maintenance

Regular maintenance is an important element of owning cooling units. Tune-ups are required on an annual basis to help your air conditioning system maintain efficient operation and negate the damaging effects of wear and tear. Well-maintained units are shown to deliver more years of service than those that do not receive this care. Think about how well you’ve maintained the heating and cooling units over the years and consider how this could lengthen or reduce the service life of your system. Factoring in the frequency of tune-up service as well as other upkeep like changing air filters and maintaining good system airflow will give you closer insight as to the true maturity of your air conditioner.

Number of HVAC Repairs Your Unit Has Needed

Heating and cooling units experience a greater need for correction in their last two years or so of life. Think back over the last few seasons you’ve operated your cooling unit – have you been seeing your HVAC technician often? If the answer is yes, consider that frequent breakdowns are one of the signs that tell you HVAC units are nearing their end of days.

You don’t want to ignore these important warnings, as factoring them into your choice between fixing or replacing your AC unit could help you save money. The savings results because you no longer have to pay repeated call fees to have your old air conditioner fixed every time it breaks down. Replacing the air conditioner helps you save time as well, as you will need far fewer service appointments with your HVAC technician. Plus, there’s obvious energy savings to be had with a new, higher SEER efficiency unit.

Refrigerant Type

Heat pump heating and cooling units and air conditioning units use refrigerant to move heat energy between the air in the home and outdoors. An air conditioner made before 2010 likely has R-22 refrigerant, also known as Freon. Freon is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon that has ozone-depleting properties and thus it is dangerous to the environment should it escape an air conditioning unit, which could happen if there is a leak in the old system.

  • When older units have refrigerant leaks that are fixed, these systems must also be recharged with refrigerant to maintain efficient performance. For an air conditioner using R-22, this could be a costly problem. R-22 is actively being phased out in favor of refrigerants that are not an environmental threat. As of 2020, new Freon production and import into the U.S. are banned and the only available refrigerant for recharging these systems is existing stock, reclaimed, or recycled coolant – and it’s in limited supply that continues to dwindle every day. If you have an older AC unit that runs using Freon refrigerant, you really should explore replacement options and upgrade to an air conditioner using an environmentally safe coolant, like Puron.

  • Because air conditioning units have not been manufactured using Freon in over ten years, this coolant’s presence shows that the air conditioner is older. As years pass, units become less efficient and you could stand to save quite a bit by choosing to upgrade to a new system with a higher SEER efficiency rating.


An older air conditioning unit is likely much less efficient than you expect due to its decline over the years. Plus, AC units built long ago were allowed to have lower SEER ratings than what is mandated today. An air conditioning unit made between 1992 and 2006 could have an efficiency as low as 10 SEER. Today, the minimum allowable SEER for a new air conditioning unit in Kentucky is 14 SEER – this will increase to 15 SEER in 2023. Replacing your aged air conditioning unit could deliver instant savings by way of heightened energy efficiency levels.

Air Conditioner Repairs and Replacement in Louisville

When you need help deciding between air conditioner repair and air conditioner replacement, trust the experts at Jarboe’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. Our team will always provide you with an honest assessment of your system and price to complete the work you want, whether it be repairs or replacement with a new air conditioner. Call us today to request service.

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