When you need to make a buying decision about an A/C replacement, think twice. Consider the price you see now and the price you’ll pay later. The initial cost of an A/C replacement is upfront and definite, while lifetime costs are deferred and speculative. The average central air conditioner today lasts between 12 and 15 years, as do whatever ongoing expenses come along with the purchase you make today.
A cut-rate upfront price may not be a good deal several years from now. On the other hand, a budget-busting sticker price may take too long to pay back. With any significant purchase like a new central air conditioner, you have to weigh both initial costs and lifetime costs to get the best deal in the short run and the long-term.
The good news is, you pay these only once. The sticker price for an A/C replacement may depend upon variables like the time of year you’re shopping and any local, state or federal rebates or incentives that may be available to you. The most important determining factor in first cost is usually the efficiency of the unit, expressed by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). High SEER ratings generally mean advanced technology that comes with a steeper sticker price.
Another factor in the upfront cost of an A/C replacement is installation. Getting a competent, professional installation isn’t something to skimp on. An unskilled job can cause efficiency and performance shortfalls that persist as long as the unit is in place.
Generally, if you’re upgrading to a unit of similar capacity, replacement is an uncomplicated process for professional installers. However, deteriorating, leaky ducts can negate performance and efficiency gains you expect from any A/C replacement. Many local codes require testing ducts for leakage and sealing to restore efficient air distribution any time a new air conditioner or furnace is installed.
The main price you pay over the lifetime of an A/C replacement usually comes in small, regular installments known as your monthly utility bill. However, other costs come and go over the expected service life of a unit and are influenced by the following factors.
- Quality – You get what you pay for, and in most cases, you will pay more in lifetime costs for a cheaper, off-brand air conditioner than a unit produced by a respected manufacturer. Reputable, recognized names in the industry stand behind their products with extended warranty terms, particularly on expensive components like the compressor. No-name bargain units? Not so much.
- Durability – Lifetime costs of an A/C replacement are figured on the basis of a system’s expected service life. You may get more than the average 15-year life expectancy out of a quality, well-maintained A/C. But what if a sub-standard unit fails after only eight years? Poor quality and low durability in a low-end cooling system typically incurs excess wear and tear. The extra service calls, repairs and replacement parts are no bargain.
- Maintenance – All air conditioners require annual service to sustain the manufacturer’s specifications for cooling capacity and energy consumption, as well as ensure maximum service life. It’s also required by most warranty terms. Regular maintenance will be a recurrent expense for any unit. Name-brand manufacturers generally have a network of endorsed HVAC contractors certified to provide skilled maintenance and service.
- Efficiency – The energy consumption of an A/C replacement is a major determinant of initial and lifetime costs. A high-efficiency unit with a SEER rating of 20 will cost substantially more at purchase than a standard-efficiency SEER 14 A/C. However, savings from lower energy use begin with the first day of operation and continue for the life of the unit, eventually compensating for that higher upfront cost. Will the payback occur in a time frame acceptable to you? That depends on variables like your local climate and the overall efficiency of your home. A qualified HVAC contractor can discuss these factors and help you make an informed decision.
For more information on A/C replacement, check out Bruce Thornton A/C’s air conditioning solutions or call 806-598-1014.
Image Provided by Shutterstock.com