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Question DetailsAsked on 5/23/2016

Should I pay $3300 for evaporative coil and freon for 11 year old ac or $8,000 for new ac

live in palm springs CA

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1 Answer


Tough $ call - because that unit is probably at least 2/3 of the way through its life, so you might invest $3300 and then find out the compressor or control valves give out in short order for another couple of thousand in repairs and replacement gas or then being right back at the same decision point - several thousand $ repair versus new unit, having already sunk $3300 into it. Weighing that risk can be tough, especially if $ are short.

However - I would FIRST get more bids on a new unit, because $8000 for an air conditioner system, assuming normal size (not more than 4-5 ton rating) and assuming you are in an area where the minimum legal energy efficiency is acceptable energy costwise, is outrageous in my opinion. Perhaps your HVAC contractor is playing the game of saying you need a new AC, so replace the furnace at the same time - which is generally not the case, because furnaces tend to last 2-3 times as long as an air conditioner. You should be more in the $3000-5500 range for a new complete central A/C installation - in which case considering you get a new warranty for the entire unit with it (hopefully 5 years on major components), one would normally go with the new unit rather than repair the old one at more than half the cost. Also gets you away from the issue of how much freon will cost in the future as it is phased out - has gone from about $25 to over $100/lb (and usually system takes say 4-7 pounds) in the past few years - how much more will it go up ?

You can find info from state or utility websites on typical energy cost for A/C in your area (and of course from your own monthly bills comparing high and low A/C usage months), and figuring your minimum SEER for your area of 14 for a njew unit (assuming this is a single central air unit, not a split unit or heat pump) versus existing unit SEER rating of probably about 6-10, you would be saving maybe 30-55% on your A/C energy - so maybe around $100-200/month in the 9 or so A/C months, or maybe $1000-2000/year in energy savings alone - that adds up pretty quick for the new unit, compared to the added cost of a new unit. In fact, in high A/C use areas like your, not even counting the benefit of getting a warranty with a new unit, the difference in efficiency alone can make a new unit pay off against an older unit.

Then you can go through the same sort of exercise for a higher SEER unit, and see if that pays off - so you might get two bids from each bidder - one for minimum (14) SEER, on for a higher SEER unit (probably about 16-18). Generally, the higher SEER units do not pay off, but in your area might well be the case a high SEER unit would save you enough electricity cost. I would not use more than a 12-15 year assumed unit life in figuring the payback period, and the result will probably depend a lot on which power company you have - there can be quite a rate difference between SCE and Anza or IID. Your new unit power usage will be roughly proportional to the ratio between current SEER rating and the new one - may or may not be a rating plate on your current unit, if not probably assume 8-10 or eMail manufactuer with your model number and ask what the original SEER ratign was - or google for it. So new 14 SEER unit uses say 8/14 or 10/14 as much electricity as now for the AC. You should be able to figure your AC cost (assuming you do not run it much in the cool 2-4 months of the year) by figuring that low-month usage for the full year, subtracting from the total annual bill, and the remainder is roughly the AC electric usage. Multiply that by the ratio above for the SEER ratings you are looking at, and that is roughly what you would be paying for AC power with a new unit - subtract from your current usage for your savings.

My bottom line - if you can swing it financially without borrowing at or foregoing current income at a high percentage rate, I would be looking at different bidders for a new unit, good brandname (Carrier my preferred brand) then decide on high or low efficiency based on estimated power savings.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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