Do I Need AC Repair or Replacement? How To Tell the Difference

master of repair air conditioners at work

When some things in your house break, it’s an inconvenience. When your AC breaks, it’s a disaster. Many people don’t think of Baltimore, Maryland, being a hot place to live, but living without the temperature being controlled in your home can be absolutely unbearable, especially in the summer.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions about AC repair, but it’s not quite as black and white as you think. Old units can often be kept running for years with repairs, but sometimes it’s a better idea to replace them. If you’re experiencing issues with your AC unit, it’s time to talk to an HVAC contractor in MD about your options.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the common issues with AC units, the reasons behind them, and how to determine if you can get a repair or should go ahead with a replacement.

Common Issues With AC Units

When you’ve been living in your Baltimore home for quite some time, you’ll likely run into a few different issues with your AC unit. This is especially true if the unit has been there longer than you have. It’s easy to panic about these issues, but many are often fixed with a simple 24 hour AC repair.

To determine if you’ll need a repair or replacement, you’ll need to identify what is going wrong with your AC unit.

Increased Humidity

Baltimore climate depends on being on the water, which means your home is likely bombarded by salt air and humidity. Homeowners don’t often think about AC as anything more than temperature control, but it actually does much more.

The reason you get dry skin and eyes in the winter and summer is due to the forced air. Being inside constantly to escape the weather subjects you to a much drier environment, which is an accomplishment by your AC unit.

When your AC unit is cooling the air within the system, it causes the humidity to condense on the coils and drains the liquid outside. When your system isn’t working properly, you might notice increased humidity indoors that you can’t seem to fix by turning up the air.

Excessive Noise

Air conditioning units make a lot of noise, even when they’re working. It should be easy to tell, though, when these noises aren’t good. The noises that AC units make can range from squealing to whirring.

Noises could mean something has become loose, you have a leak, or parts are just getting too old. Thankfully, you won’t have to mimic the noises like you do at the mechanic. Instead, a professional can visit and experience it firsthand.

Too Many Breakdowns

AC units get old just like we do. When they’re young, they can go long periods of time without issues and can bounce back easily from problems. When they’re old, they get tired often, and the parts just start breaking one after the other. If your system is old, it’s normal to have frequent issues.

You’re Noticing Leaks

While other issues can be handled quickly yet calmly, leaks are a bit more urgent. Air conditioning units operate using dangerous chemicals, specifically refrigerants, which should only be handled by trained and certified professionals. The refrigerant is kept under pressure within the unit, and mistakes while handling it can cause serious injuries and death.

If you’re noticing liquid pooling around the system, it could be water or refrigerant. It’s best to get help right away and turn off your unit immediately if you’re also noticing a screaming noise.

It’s Blowing Hot Air

If your AC unit is just blowing hot air, it might be for several reasons. Most likely, you’re running low on refrigerant. You could also have a broken duct that is pulling in unprocessed air.

Home Temperatures Are Uneven

If parts of your house aren’t getting cool, you should first check the vents. Make sure all of your vents are completely open. If they are, the uneven temperatures are due to poor airflow.

Your unit may just not be pushing air with enough force to reach certain parts of the house.

Your House Is Really Dusty

Removing humidity isn’t the only surprise. AC units also help filter your air to improve air quality in your home. Your system, when running properly, will remove dirt, dander, dust, and other debris from your air.

If you notice that you’re cleaning a lot more due to a build-up of dust, it’s likely your AC unit.

Bad Smells Are Coming Out

If your air smells bad, it might just be because it’s the first time you’re turning on your system in a while. It’s common for the first few minutes of your air flowing after winter to have a funky smell. This smell will go away after you run your system for a while.

If the unit itself has a bad smell, though, it could be a sign of an issue. Burning smells could indicate a wiring issue. Moldy smells could indicate an unhealthy moisture buildup.

When Should I Replace My AC Unit

If your AC unit has completely broken down beyond repair, a professional will let you know. It’s never impossible to repair a unit, but it might not be worth the expense or effort. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether you can repair your unit or go ahead with a full replacement.

It’s Not Worth the Cost of Repairs

If your AC unit is fairly new, it rarely makes sense to replace it. Buying a new air conditioning system is expensive, so attempting to make repairs makes more financial sense.

Sometimes, your AC unit isn’t worth the repair. Professionals use a simple trick as a guide for when it’s no longer worth repairing your unit. Multiply the age of your unit by the amount it will cost to fix it.

If the answer is more than five thousand, then it’s time to replace it. Whether a repair is worth it is entirely up to you and your budget, though.

Your AC Unit is Old

When your AC unit is new, it doesn’t make sense to replace it unless something catastrophic has happened. If your AC unit is old, it almost always makes sense to replace it. Even if you think a repair will be more budget-friendly now, AC units are notorious for breaking down frequently. You’ll spend more money and time constantly repairing it.

AC units typically last for 10 to 15 years but could continue working longer if maintained properly. Some other factors come in, however, once your unit passes a decade. For example, you’ll probably no longer have a warranty on it that will help with repair costs.

Utility Bills Have Skyrocketed

Frequent repairs are not the only costs that will make it financially beneficial to replace your AC unit. Older AC units also don’t work as well, draining more energy. Older models aren’t as energy efficient as newer models.

A wearing down of the electrical components of the AC unit and inadequate levels of refrigerant can make your AC unit run poorly. Older models from the 90s also were built to meet much lower standards than newer models. They only had to hit a SEER rating of 10, whereas newer models now exceed 20.

As a result, your utility bills are likely very high. Replacing your AC unit means getting a brand new model. It will run much better than your old system and be more energy-efficient.

You’re Using Ancient Refrigerant

Older models don’t just run with more energy; they use old refrigerants. The United States has banned the production of a specific refrigerant called R-22 Freon in 2020. If your model requires this refrigerant, repairs are much more expensive due to the increased demand and shortened supply.

Soon enough, it will be impossible for you to continue repairs as this refrigerant will no longer be available. You might be upset about it, but this refrigerant was terrible for the environment. Switching to a newer AC unit will not only help your wallet but the planet.

You Don’t Plan On Moving

When people decide to put their house up for sale, they often weigh the benefits of updating certain aspects of the house with the costs. Sometimes, home renovations like an updated kitchen or a fairly new roof are a great addition that can help your house sell faster. On the other hand, you won’t be living there for long to enjoy it.

If you plan on moving very soon, replacing the unit probably isn’t an investment that’s in your favor. If you’ve already sold the house and are waiting to move, repairing is the best option because your buyers have already agreed to buy the house as-is. If your home has been sitting on the market, it’s up to you to decide if replacement is worth the effort.

If you don’t plan on moving anytime soon, you should probably replace your unit. It will save you further repair costs and time spent without air conditioning.

It’s An Eye-Sore

If you’ve been updating the rest of your house, it’s likely that your old, grungey unit will stand out even more than before. It will be obvious that your house is older than it looks just because of your ancient AC unit.

When you’re doing renovations, you might also wish to get your AC unit out of the way. It might have components that stick out into an undesirable area, and you might want to build something there instead. AC replacement is a good opportunity to move your system.

Costs of AC Replacement

If your situation fits any of the above concerns, it’s time to look into AC replacement costs.

In Baltimore, Maryland, replacing your entire AC unit can cost between $4,224 and $8,682, according to HomeAdvisor. This is compared to the national average of about $6,000. Extensive replacements with high-end units, though, can cost up to $11,000.

The cost of a whole new unit and its installation will have a lot to do with the brand, model, size, and ease of access. The unit alone generally costs a couple of thousand dollars. You could pay anywhere between $1,400 to $3,400.

The installation will take several hours and could take longer due to the difficulties of removing the old unit. HVAC contractors in MD typically charge by the hour, so your labor cost will go up with difficult jobs. Labor costs usually fall between $50-150 per hour.

Labor also gets more expensive depending on the time of year. In peak seasons, such as spring and summer, labor will become more costly.

Costs of AC Repair

If the costs of replacement have scared you out of the idea, maybe you’re wondering what home AC repair costs would be instead. AC repair services range widely depending on the type of repair that’s needed. You’ll have to pay for the cost of the parts and refrigerant and the cost of labor.

Some repairs could only cost around $200. A quick fix of a leak could be cheap like that, but replacing bigger components can easily cost $1,000. For example, the compressor and the coils are much more expensive parts to fix because they’re harder to access and cost more to replace.

The typical cost range in Baltimore, Maryland, for AC repair is around $176 to $543. On the higher end, you could pay around $1,200.

These costs are significantly more affordable than replacing an entire unit. If it’s not necessary to replace, you might consider holding off on a replacement and saving up the money for an eventual breakdown in the future.

Home AC Repair Near Me

If you’re experiencing AC issues, it’s time to get the AC repair or replacement help you need. Now that you understand the signs of AC problems and how many factors affect the repair price, you can go forward confidently with your decision.

Rowbel Services is an HVAC contractor company that proudly serves the Baltimore, Maryland, area. If you have an air conditioning emergency, call 877-769-2351 to get help within the next 24 hours. If you need a service appointment, you can send us a request.

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