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Question DetailsAsked on 10/25/2014

What is the approximate expected lifetime of a 4 ton Carrier heat pump and electric heating air handler?

current system was installed in 2000. needs sequencer in air handler, a contactor in the heat pump cabin and has a possible freon leak in system. Contractor says it is best to replace entire system due to age but at 16.K... I'm trying to research options. How long can this compressor last? Do systems loose refrigerant over time or only due to leaks? What is the reasonable approach to these issue?

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3 Answers


If there's a loss of refrigerant, it is due to a leak. Leaks today are most often in the indoor evaporator coil, could be $2000.00 or even 3000, best to replace at that point,as risk of other major repairs is too great at 14 years old.

Average life ,in our area ,is 12 to 16 years, some much sooner due to coil failures at 8 or 9 years old.

The new system will be much more effiecent, say 16 SEER or more, so part of the replacemnent decision should be that fixing the old one, will still cost more to operate and the longer it lasts, the more you are paying extra in the electric bill.

16K ,in our area would be the top of the line system,and some accessories, but prices vary greatly around the county, major cties, much higher then we are,as overhead and wages are higher also.


Answered 5 years ago by BayAreaAC


To the original Questioner - a couple of thing I think may not have gotten fully answered in your question. Commonly about 10 years is considered a "safe" life for an A/C compressor and within that timeframe, unless the compressor self-destructs, repair is commonly viable and economic. Past about 15-20 years both they and evaporators (the indoor coil) are commonly considered to be on their last legs and not worth fixing, so at that point total replacement is commonly the option selected, particularly if your unit's efficiency is low because a new unit (at least in heavy A/C use country) can save you a lot in electric cost with a higher efficiency unit.

As for coolant leaks - most systems lose very tiny amounts of gas over time through seal leaks in the compressor and in the controller valves as well as diffusion through connections and tubing, so topping off with a pound or two every 5-10 years is not uncommon - though I have seen all soldered/brazed connection units over 20 years old that have never been topped up. A significant loss over the course of just a couple of years would indicate a leak somewhere that should be tracked down - possibly corroded evaporator or tubing, or possibly at a threaded fitting.

One other thing - you said Freon - if you actually mean R-22 Freon (which is being phased out), then you could be talking hundreds of $ just for the gas replacement, and more in the future if you have another leak or a failure that bleeds off the gas, so you need to consider that factor in deciding whether it is worth fixing at this time, versus replacing with a unit using one of the new "ozone layer safe" gases. You can find a number of prior questions and responses about the R-22 phaseout in the Home > HVAC link in Browse Projects at lower left.

BayAreaAC - are you serious - for normal size house (say 2000SF or under, so say 4-6 ton unit), that $14,000 is a normal cost in your area for a normal higher end unit - or were you saying that would be an absolute top of the line unit with all the bells and whistles ?

I did some web checking after I got back into my chair, because stand-alone A/C from scratch installation in my area (starting to become more common with global warming and hot summers starting to hit this area) generally runs under $8000 - and that in a high labor cost area - replacements including everything or a central A/C unit connected into an existing central HVAC forced-air unit more like $6000 for a mid-range brand.

Checked ACCA, DOE, five manufacturer and 3 larger HVAC company websites, 2 estimating guides and they all said $4000-7000 is the normal range for an installed replacement central air or 2-zone mini split unit, not including any ducting if a stand-alone unit. I know of a few recent commercial jobs with around 7-12 ton stand-alone units that came in cheaper than that, so $14K just sounds outrageous to me. Can you clarify for the readers of this thread roughly what the mid-range and high-end very high-efficiency total central air A/C system replacement costs are at your business - which if I recall is in mid-Florida so not an unduly high labor cost area, and certainly an area with significant competition.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


We have 2 systems in our house in Maryland (hot humid summers and cold winters). We installed one 12 years ago. Top of the line Carrier system, circa 2004. Now our compressor is on its last legs. Replace the compressor (about $2500-2700) or spring for an entire new

and presumably more efficient system...$8,000 (that's with a couple of different rebates).

I hate to put a lot into an older system...and I hate to spend $8,000 if I don't need to.

How to make the decision?

Answered 4 years ago by NorthPotomacJet

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