Should I replace or repair my broken air conditioning system?

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The summer heat can mean a painful rise in energy bills, but that’s nothing compared to the strain on your wallet when your air conditioner goes out.

If your AC unit breaks, you’ll be faced with two options: Replace or repair.

Replace or repair your AC: 3 things to consider

We’re going to get into what you need to consider with your AC unit breaks down. But before we do, let’s consider a few things.

For a 2,000 square foot home, the average price of a new AC unit is around $6,000 if no new ductwork is required, according to

You’ll find some HVAC technicians that are dead-set on getting you to buy a brand-new unit. That may be the case for a number of reasons:

  • It may be that you’ve had your AC for two decades or more and the parts are difficult to find
  • Or, the service technician may get a commission to “upsell” you on a new unit or product
  • Finally, if we’re being honest, the HVAC tech may not know much about your older unit

In any event, your decision will have a huge bearing on the comfort in your home as well as your bottom line.

So, let’s get into it: Whether you replace or repair your own will rest on the answer to a number of key questions only you will know.

Here are three things you need to look at when deciding whether to replace or repair your AC:

1. How much is your maintenance?

An easy way to decide whether to replace or repair your AC unit is to add up the costs of maintenance.

If you’re signed up for a seasonal maintenance plan and every time the service technician comes out you’re paying extra money, that’s a bad sign.


For example, if you had to replace a part six months ago and now another part has gone out, it may be getting close to the end for your unit. But there’s more…

2. Do the math

Here is a mathematical formula, courtesy of the All Systems Mechanical website, that can help you decide whether you should buy a new AC unit or replace a part.

Multiply the cost of the repair times the age of your unit. If the result is less than the cost of a new AC, then the numbers point toward getting it repaired.

Here’s an example (remember, a new unit costs around $6,000).

Repair Cost Age of Old Unit Result
$400 12 years old $4,800

In this case, the result is less than the price of a new AC unit. It makes financial sense here to repair the unit.

On the other hand, if the result is more than the cost of a new AC, then it would be worth it to buy a new AC unit.

Speaking of age…

3. Consider the age

If your AC unit is getting long in the tooth, replacing it may be the wise thing to do.

If your air conditioner is not giving you any trouble, we’re not saying to go out and replace it just for the sake of its age. The lifespan of a typical AC unit can vary greatly depending on climate and other factors.

Here’s what the Department of Energy says this on its website:


Today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid 1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.

So, the agency is saying that once the unit makes it a decade, a newer one may be able to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

If your air conditioner is older, consider buying an energy-efficient model. Look for the ENERGY STAR®and EnergyGuide labels — qualified central units are about 15% more efficient than standard models.

Sticking with your old unit? What you need to know

If the math works out and you’ve counted the costs and found out that it’s worth it to keep your old AC unit, you should read up on a big change concerning the discontinuance of Freon on January 1, 2020.

Do you have a unit that uses Freon? Learn how to find out and read more about the Freon phase-out here.