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The Cost of Waiting to Replace Your Air Conditioner or Furnace

We walk through some considerations for homeowners looking to replace their air conditioner or furnace in the near future, including financial and comfort impact.

The Cost of Waiting to Replace Your Air Conditioner or Furnace

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Arne Jacobsen


October 8th, 2020

HVAC problems are rarely top of mind...until they’re an emergency. On the other end of the spectrum, nothing’s better than helping a customer find peace of mind with their decision, one that isn’t a result of an emergency but a confident, proactive plan for their comfort needs.

Sometimes we wish we could show our customers the other side of the HVAC industry. Because as a homeowner, you can’t be expected to know all the complexities of HVAC equipment and installation. That’s what we’re here for.

But sometimes knowing a slice of that knowledge can help you make better decisions when it comes to your HVAC projects.

That’s what this article is about. There are legitimate reasons to be proactive in repairing or replacing your air conditioner or furnace equipment, but those reasons aren’t always obvious. We see them every year in hundreds of households, but as a homeowner, you might experience them once or twice in your lifetime.

We’ve got a bunch of those reasons listed below. We also have recommended actions based on each one. Will they all apply to you? Probably not. But they represent considerations that are important for anyone to keep in mind as you approach your next HVAC project.

We understand that air conditioners and furnaces are large investments. That’s why we’re committed to helping you make the decision that’s best for you, your home, and your family.

Efficiency in HVAC

HVAC Price Increases

What’s the harm in waiting another year to replace your air conditioner or furnace? It’s working, right? You’ll get one more season out of it before looking into a new one. Well…

HVAC equipment doesn’t get cheaper. Trust me; we’ve seen it for decades. The trend is always the same. Sure, the technology is better, so your energy bills are lower. But the technical expertise required to manufacture and install the equipment is higher than ever.

And let’s be clear: This isn’t to scare you into a decision. But it is intended to be honest with you. I’ve talked to too many customers one year later who experience sticker shock due to this trend.

Why Costs Change?

Every year as technology improves, electrical work must become more sophisticated, metalworking techniques must become more refined, plumbing and ventilation systems must be catered to the specific equipment, and this all affects the bottom line. Sometimes materials costs will also change due to factors outside of the control of even the manufacturers.

The good news is, the level of comfort and control you’ll have over a new system is also higher than ever. We’ve come a long way in just the last couple of decades. But the price won’t go down. And to maintain a profit, HVAC companies will have to adjust.

So, one year to the next, what kind of price jump are we talking about? That’s where it gets trickier. We’ve seen 1-2% increases to keep up with inflation, all the way up to 10-15% increases to account for the changing cost of materials and/or training.

If a full HVAC system costs at least $8,000 - $10,000 (and often more if you want the best equipment), you can do the math on what that price increase could mean for your budget.

RELATED: Full System vs. Half System for Your HVAC Equipment

HVAC Utility Costs & the Weather

One of the things we generally ask homeowners is how long they expect to remain in their home. The answer can be illuminating.

We understand that a new air conditioner and/or furnace is a large investment. Nobody looks forward to dropping thousands of dollars, even if it’s for a home improvement that will benefit you for years to come.

However, the “other side” of this is looking at it as immediate savings on your energy bills, which a properly-installed, modern system will surely bring.

It also means more comfort immediately. Sometimes, lots and lots of extra comfort, all for lower costs.

True, you’ll still have the upfront cost. But if you’re going to be in your home for 5-10 years (or longer), you know that charge is coming regardless. Why not get the energy savings as soon as possible?

Only you know your financial situation, so there may still be good reasons to wait. That’s why the decision is - and always should be - yours alone. But if this year is as good as next year, financially speaking, you’re throwing money out by waiting.


Cost of Heating and Cooling Repair

Even with everything above, getting “just one more season” out of a piece of HVAC equipment can work for some. However, it’s a gamble.

The only thing more costly than replacing an HVAC system is having to repair an old HVAC system within a year or two of having to replace it regardless. If you get to the stage where a system is starting to “nickel and dime” you with repairs and upkeep, you’re losing money.

We’ve written before about the cost of waiting to repair or replace your air conditioner. And really, the same is true of any major piece of equipment. The loss of efficiency and yearly upkeep to, say, top your system up on refrigerant, likely isn’t worth it compared to getting a new system that doesn’t leak and operates at peak efficiency. But we allow ourselves to accept the slow trickle of smaller costs, even if they ultimately cost us more.

And there’s no judgment here. Heck, I’ve done it too. I’ve put off car repairs plenty of times, or tried to get “one more year” out of an old clunker. Sometimes, I make it through, though not without a lot of anxiety.

Other times, I haven’t been so lucky. So I could probably take my own advice here! What’s the phrase? “Do as I say, not as I do”? It’s an easy trap to fall into, though, which is why I’m so passionate about it!

Attention & Service

We have a busy season in the HVAC industry. Or rather, two of them. And they follow a predictable pattern. The busiest weeks of the year, by a landslide, are immediately after it gets really hot or really cold.

Why is this? Because people are turning on their air conditioners or furnaces for the first time, and they’re either having problems or they aren’t starting at all.

Every year we tell customers to be proactive about their maintenance, repairs, and replacements, and to turn on their systems early to avoid this. In fairness, every year a handful of people actually listen to us. But then the weather turns, and our phones ring off the hook for about a month. This phenomenon is echoed throughout the HVAC industry.

You can be the exception, though, simply by scheduling your maintenance, repair, or an estimate for a new system a month or two before you expect to have to use it.

Because the most attention you’ll ever get from an HVAC company is during this “downtime.” Want next-day installation because your A/C just died? Do you need to repair a furnace before you can use it? It probably won’t happen quickly if you’re calling the day after the weather hits 90 degrees. Or 30 degrees.

If you know that you’re going to be moving forward with the repair or replacement anyway, do yourself a favor: Be the exception to this rule. You won’t be sorry.

Rolling the Dice on Breakdowns

This is related to the section above, but it’s worth repeating: by far the most likely time for an old system to break down is the first week in a season where you’re using it heavily.

That creates the problem above of attention and service, which will trickle down into your experience as a whole. Maybe only half the companies you’d like to make an appointment with can fit you into their schedule in the next week, giving you fewer options.

Or you might feel pressured into making a quick decision because your heating or cooling needs are so great. Rushed, pressured decisions are rarely the best ones. We’d prefer that you have time to assess your options and schedule everything before you’re frantically trying to find a replacement. We don’t prefer that for our sake - when we install your system doesn’t much matter on our end, frankly - but it will certainly matter on your end. And that’s what we’re trying to look out for.

Value of Peace of Mind

How good does it feel to be truly ready for something? Not panicked, not rushing, but done well beforehand and confident that you made the decision? We all know how good that feels.

We’re talking about HVAC, but really, this can apply to anything. But we allow ourselves to put decisions off until the last minute, giving ourselves needless stress and, sometimes, making worse decisions as a result.

Again, I’m as guilty as anyone. But I see it every Fall and every Spring in my job with hundreds of homes, so I have a lot of reminders that this isn’t the best way of doing things.

A Fire & Ice customer with peace of mind with their decision is an easy person to spot. Talking with them reveals a confidence in their ability to plan and execute their goals on a timeline that is proactive instead of reactionary.

Life throws us curveballs constantly, so perfect peace of mind isn’t always possible. But when it is, it’s worth striving for.

If anything in this article helps you with that, I’ve done my job. And when you’re ready to have one of our experts out to discuss your maintenance, repair or replacement needs, we’ll be here. If that day is today, click one of the buttons below to get started. And on behalf of the team here at Fire & Ice, we look forward to speaking with you.

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