How to tell when it's time to replace HVAC vs sink more $$$ into it?

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  #1  
Old 07-31-13, 08:22 PM
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How to tell when it's time to replace HVAC vs sink more $$$ into it?

I know this is an extremely loaded question and depends on many factors, but in Googling I don't find any direct discussions on this that I can easily walk away with some idea in my head - and I'm always weary of HVAC repair folks trying to upsell...

Our single-story 1H/1C unit was mfg in 2002 and we live in a part of California that has very warm summers, etc. We only know the history of the last couple years...and right now we don't have to invest THAT much.

Of course this depends mostly on usage but since an HVAC doesn't have an odometer, what does one do if you don't know the history except the last 2 years?

Are there any rules to follow or keep in mind?
 
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Old 07-31-13, 08:48 PM
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age is crucial along with usage.... cost of repairs must also be examined along with efficiency. You also need to look at cost of repair vs. replacement along with the benefits and peace of mind along with warranty.

How old is your current system? What repairs need done and cost?
 
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Old 07-31-13, 10:43 PM
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Hey, not you again!

Thanks for help in the other thread.

As I mentioned below, our single-story 1H/1C unit was mfg in 2002 based on a site I found that explains how to use the TEMPSTAR serial number and determine manufacturer year and week.

Also, a part or two has 2002 on it as well so it seems to all add up - including the visual confirmation as well.

Since we only have been in this residence for the last two years, I can't speak to the usage before that other than the original owners were retired so spent more time in the home...
 
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Old 07-31-13, 10:56 PM
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That unit's a spring pup

Like Kevin said "age is crucial along with usage" but it's also the luck of the draw.

My AC is over 20 years old. Has run absolutely flawless. I clean the condenser coils every year. I cover it in the winter and it just keeps working. Granted..... it probably doesn't have the usage that your does but it's still running strong.
 
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Old 07-31-13, 11:12 PM
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I know where the coils are and have heard of why you should clean them.

Can you recommend a video or guide or book for someone who wants to learn how to clean them, how I get into a typical unit, what to look for, etc?

I'm not sure when he last had them cleaned, what's involved, etc.

Or is it better to bury my head and say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?

Note: I've read on some sites (no idea of credibility) that 10-12 years can be considered a good life span of an HVAC system.
 
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Old 08-01-13, 04:30 AM
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10-12 years is the average life of an a/c. 15-20 years is the average life of a gas furnace. Depending upon usage and maintenance they can last much longer than their expected life. Years ago things were made to last and it is not uncommon to see equipment that is 30 years + and older still in use today. However, newer more efficient units don't last as long because they have more components to them that are going to break down as well as the fact the ALL metal used in the manufacture process of the equipment is much thinner (furnace heat exchangers and a/c coils.
 
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Old 08-01-13, 06:12 AM
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it is not uncommon to see equipment that is 30 years + and older still in use today.
It's all about the quality of the components, how it was installed and the maintenance. My Carrier system is just over 39 years old and blows ice cold air. We like it cool in the house so it runs a lot during hot NJ summers. It also has an appetite for electricity. I'll be very happy if it lives a health life up into its 40's.
 
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Old 08-01-13, 09:54 AM
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So I have no idea when any "maintenance" was ever done and I've not done any in the two years we've been here.

What is the most important thing to do?

I guess I'll research how to get in and clean coils and see if I want to attempt it or just call someone out...

Thanks
 
  #9  
Old 08-01-13, 12:23 PM
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Keep the coils clean, protect the condenser as much as possible in the off season but don't wrap it tight, you need air flow to keep it dry. I usually just cover the top section to keep debris from getting inside. Make sure the filters are changed regularly, you can even take the fan out and clean that up every 5 years or so. Also make sure the drains are all clear. The contactor is another item to keep your eye on. Make sure the contact points are clean. If you notice any loss in performance or the air just doesn't seem to be as cold (temp split 15-20 deg) have the refrigerant level checked by a professional. Another good tip is to keep the condenser out of direct sunlight. Mine is on the N.E. side of the house, during the heat of the day it's in a nice "cool" shady spot. Granted you can't move it, but you can plant something tall around it to provide some shade.

If this is your first service, it might not be a bad idea to call a reputable HVAC company to give the system a once over. Watch the tech closely as he goes over the system and don't be afraid to ask him questions. Remember, your paying him to work for you!
 
  #10  
Old 08-01-13, 02:19 PM
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Thanks Tom,

We only had one tech come out since we've lived here. We were getting almost no cold air.

He showed us outside right at the base of where the copper tubing connects to the compressor...it cracked.

So they had to drain all the refrigerant to check for other leaks before refilling it, refill it (we have an older system, it was like $55 a pound or so), and the guy was nice and explained a lot. But it cost us $700

But he also explained (and I bought a thermal temp gun to check) that usually, there is a 20 degree difference between the supply and return - and ours is usually right at 20 degrees.

Does that mean ours isn't as efficient as it should be or hard to tell as there are many factors?

It really sounds like I should pay one to come out and clean the coils - we might realize it wasn't needed but then I know last time it was done and will watch him do it as you say and learn how my particular system works.
 
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