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Should I Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?

Author Rod Marchant-Smith | Peninsula Air Conditioning

Mullumbimby resident, Lyn asks

“Our air conditioning unit is about 7 years old now, and due for its next service. It’s been making some odd noises lately and we’re just wondering if we should replace it, rather than repair it? What’s recommended, repairing or replacing an air conditioning unit?”

Great question Lyn and one that we get frequently at Penair. There are a few things you need to be mindful of before you make your final decision. At the end of the day, it really depends but having said that, here’s what we usually recommend.

It’s not always easy to answer the question of whether or not a homeowner should repair or replace an air conditioner, especially in 2024 when inflation and living expenses play an important role the calculation. If you find yourself battling with this tough decision, you may think the most practical strategy is to weigh up the cost of repairing your system, against the cost of buying a new one. It’s a bit more complicated than that, unfortunately.

Repair costs can climb

One thing you need to be mindful of – especially with older, faulty units, is that often it can be difficult to estimate the final cost of the repair. What we sometimes find is that you’ll replace a part, only to find another part is faulty and it then becomes a process of continual elimination. We might replace a faulty part only to discover other problems that need fixing as well.

For example, we commonly see geckos crawling inside external units, getting caught up in the electricals, which can cause circuit boards to burn out. Replacing a printed circuit board is a no brainer, but there’s no telling if the short caused other damage that wasn’t apparent because the system was no longer running. In other words, we can’t test the system for further faults until the new circuit board is installed. We can provide you with a quote based on the initial evidence, but there’s no telling what the final bill will be until we begin working on the unit.

The type of system you have installed may also sway your decision. Ducted systems, for example, are more expensive to repair because they are more complex, and spare parts can be costly.

repair air conditioning unit

Age is a factor

Another consideration is your warranty. If you’re unlucky and your system has broken just outside of your warranty, then it’s worth looking at repairing it. It may merely require a new part, and it will keep going for years.

Just remember to store your warranty information somewhere safe when you install a new system. If we examine your system and can contact the manufacturer with the serial number of your unit, you are usually able to have the part replaced at no cost. If your system is way out of warranty, it’s worth weighing up your options. Just keep in mind that as the system gets older, some of the spare parts can also become either obsolete or very expensive.

There’s a misconception that new systems are cheaper than they were in the past. The systems haven’t increased in price much, but labour costs have. Therefore, the price of a new air conditioning system hasn’t got cheaper over time.

Corrosion is an easy call

One situation where we’re reasonably confident that a replacement is a better option is when an outdoor unit is rusted up.  The fan coil on an outdoor unit needs to be in good condition if they are going to transfer energy effectively. When they become corroded they become brittle and flaky, which is a clear sign they are unable to do any effective heat transferal.

Consider the environment

It’s not always about the price of a new system that’s important, what about the cost to the environment? Old systems work on R22 gas, which is known to deplete ozone. The government discourages putting replacement gas in these systems due to its effect on the environment. One of the ways they are doing this is to tax R22 gas heavily, which of course makes it an expensive exercise. So you’re better off investing in a new system that uses ozone-friendly gas.

The bottom line is that it’s often difficult to give you the answer to this question over the phone. We will usually always need to inspect your system and give you a ballpark figure to repair it. As mentioned, further unexpected repair costs could be added to your bill along the way.

If you decide to go ahead with a new installation, it also makes sense to check what warranty the manufacturer offers, and how easy it is to get hold of spare parts. Manufacturers are only required by law to supply spare parts while a model is still in warranty. However, some will continue to stock them for many more years down the line. This minor detail could end up saving you money in the future as you still have the option to repair, rather than replace.

Looking to replace or repair your system? Need advice? Give us a call

If your air conditioning unit is either faulty, close to being out of warranty or you’re just not sure, why not give us a call and we’ll organise a time to come out, take a look at it and provide you with the most cost-effective advice. Get in touch today, we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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