Does your home's HVAC system need an air conditioning repair? If you're not sure whether a repair, replacement, or retrofit is the right option, take a look at the questions to ask the AC contractor before you agree to an estimate.
How Old Is the Air Conditioner?
The average lifespan of a central air conditioner ranges from 7 to 15 years, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). Whether you recently bought your home or you can't remember the AC system's installation date, the contractor can help you to determine the age of your air conditioner.
While an older air conditioner isn't the primary reason to replace your system, an AC repair may not make financial sense. If the contractor believes the system is at the upper edge of its lifespan or the repair is a temporary fix, consider a replacement. This could potentially save you the money over time in unnecessary repeated repairs.
What Type of Refrigerant Does the System Use?
Older air conditioners typically use HCFC-22 (or R-22) refrigerant. This chemical coolant adds to ozone depletion. As of 2020, this refrigerant is no longer made in the United States or imported — due to the environmental impact.
If your system doesn't cool effectively and has a refrigerant leak or loss, you need a Section 608 certified technician to repair the unit. Even though it's possible to refill an HCFC-22 system with reclaimed refrigerant, some homeowners prefer to replace or retrofit the air conditioner. A retrofit is an update of the existing system, making it possible to use newer types of refrigerant.
Like refrigerant replacement, only a Section 608 certified technician should retrofit a system. It's not always possible to retrofit a system. The technician will inspect your air conditioner and recommend a repair, retrofit, or replacement service.
What Are the Warranties or Guaranties?
Your air conditioner requires service. Whether that service is a repair, replacement, or retrofit, you want to get the most for your money. Ask the HVAC contractor if a warranty or guaranty comes with the service. A warranty or guaranty may cover parts, labor, or both. If you have an older system and a necessary repair doesn't come with a warranty, a replacement may save you money.
Most new air conditioners come with a manufacturer's warranty. But if you self-install the system, you may invalidate this contract. Review the warranty or guaranty with the technician before deciding on a new replacement air conditioner.