To Repair Or Replace Your HVAC System?

If you are experiencing HVAC issues, it typically comes down to either you are not able to cool your home properly, or you are not able to heat it properly. In either scenario, you must decide if it makes more sense to repair your HVAC system or replace it with a new one. In general, people would prefer to repair their current system. However, sometimes the sensible thing to do is to replace an old HVAC system with a brand new one.

We are going to take a brief look at common HVAC problems by our team of experts. First, we will explore issues with furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioners that are repairable. Then we will examine times when the best course of action is the replacement of your HVAC system.

The following are some common heat pump/furnace and air conditioner issues that are typically repairable.

If your air conditioner isn’t cooling your home – perhaps there is no cold air coming from your registers or the system will not turn on – many times we find the cause to be one of the following:

  • Blown fuse – when the fuse connected to your thermostat goes bad, simply replace the blown a fuse with a new one.
  • Blown transformer – typically, this is caused by a bad contactor in the outside unit, which is resolved by replacing both the bad transformer and contactor. If the issue is not the result of a bad contactor, there may be a wiring issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Failed capacitor – In general, outdoor units have two capacitors, a start and a run capacitor. Eventually, both will fail, and when either fails, you will not have air conditioning. An HVAC professional will be able to safely and properly replace them, and you will be back to cooling your home.
  • Low levels of refrigerant – This issue may or may not be repairable. For example, if there is a leak at the valve, tightening the valve can sometimes stop the leak. Or, brazing the refrigerant line set could repair the leak and then the system would be recharged with refrigerant.
  • Clogged condensate line – A blocked condensate line will cause water to pool up, and this will trip the system’s float switch (called the wet switch on systems we install). The system will automatically shut off until the drain line is unclogged, and the water is cleaned up.

Next, we will look at some repairable furnace or electric heat pump issues when you are having a problem heating your home.

  • Equipment improperly calibrated – During installation, all furnaces must be properly calibrated. If this is not done, your furnace can burn high amounts of gas. Although the furnace may not quit, homeowners will feel the pain in high gas bills. Many times, an improperly calibrated furnace will overheat, and you will need a professional to recalibrate it for you.
  • Dead blower capacitor – Furnace fans have a capacitor that turns them on, which eventually fail and must be replaced.
  • Dead starting components – If you use an electric heat pump to heat your home, then your systems use the same capacitors for both heating and air conditioning. Because they are used for both, they will go bad after a while and must be switched out.
  • Inducer draft motor – This is the component that clears gas leftover after a run cycle from your heat exchanger. The motor can get dirty or burn out. A safety switch will automatically turn off your furnace when the motor gets too dirty. In either case, the component can be replaced.
  • Cracked heat exchanger – Although your furnace will not generally stop, this is a very dangerous situation to be in. Having cracks in your heat exchanger can allow gases to escape, perhaps even directly into your living space. While repairing a cracked heat exchanger is not something we do, it is possible at times to replace this component without having to replace the entire furnace. Sometimes, a cracked heat exchanger will cause the furnace flame to roll out, tripping the safety switch and shutting off the furnace. In most cases, you will not realize you have this issue until a combustion safety test is performed.

The HVAC issues listed above can typically be repaired. However, the best way to reduce the need for repairs is through proper and routine maintenance.

What does this mean for the homeowner? Our service agreements at PV include two inspections each year – one just before the cooling season and another just before the heating season. We do our level best to inspect every possible problem area and advise you of any potential issues before they materialize.

DIY maintenance would include changing or cleaning your system’s air filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Our service agreements include air filter replacement.

Next, we will discuss when it is time to replace your HVAC system.

  • R-22 refrigerant leak – R-22 refrigerant was used in older systems prior to 2010. If your old AC or heat pump uses R-22 and has a leak, it doesn’t make sense to replace the coil, fix the leak, or fill your system again with new R-22 as this is a very expensive and obsolete product. Also, if your system is that old, it is likely to just leak again.
  • AC Compression failure – repairs on a compressor that is out of warranty are typically so costly that replacement is typically the best option.
  • Age-related replacement – If you need to replace either the furnace or AC because it is reaching the end of useful life, it might be a good idea to replace both at the same time since both are the same age and will soon need replacement. This will allow you to save on the cost of labor.
  • Recurring breakdowns – At some point, repairing frequent breakdowns and the cost associated with these repairs make replacement the best option. Also, reliability becomes a factor.
  • Energy conservation – old HVAC systems are not energy efficient and, therefore, not environmentally friendly making replacement a good option.