To stay current on trends, we monitor several air-conditioning and heating industry blogs and HVAC email lists. In them we are reading that a lot of homeowners are asking their local service company to do just the bare minimum to keep their AC or heating system running. In recent blogs, we have written on related topics, such as:
a- Initial installation cost may not be highest cost item of owning a heating and air conditioning system over its life. It could be electricity/fuel costs or even a combination of maintenance and repair costs.
b- Alternative sources of financing, such as a local community-chartered credit union. In those, a person does not have to work at a job related to the credit union. Rather it is based on residency or some easy-to-meet requirement.
c- $1,500 Tax credits, manufacturer or utility rebates or financing for purchasing a new a/c and heating system.
Given the current squeeze on household budgets, the request to avoid a major purchase or to minimize cash outlay is certainly understandable. Of course, if someone is requesting the minimum repair, chances are they are not calling for service until their system fails to cool or heat properly. However, If the system is old enough that replacement parts can no longer be sourced, or if a major component such as a heat exchanger or AC compressor has failed, even the minimum repair estimate may large enough to cause a cost/benefits dilemma with your current system.
When facing a major repair or even a modest service work on an older heating and AC system (generally, 10 years is considered old, especially in regards to efficiency), we are listing:
Seven Useful Questions For Repair Or Replacing Your A-C Heating System
1- How long do you plan to own your home or building?
2- How much have your repair bills averaged costing over the past 1-2 years?
3- Do you believe electricity and fuel costs will tend to go down, stay the same, or go up?
4- What other repairs might you be facing in the near future, other than the issue at hand right now?
5- How much would you save on your monthly utility bills in electricity and gas costs with the new system?
6- How much are the total rebates and tax credits available on a new system?
7- How many months will it take to pay back the cost of the new AC and heating system? After that initial payback period, how much will I get in return each month as a return on my investment?
If there is literally nowhere to turn for the funds to give you a choice, then you may only have to keep your cash outlay as low as possible. However, if you do have choices, making the decision to go with more efficient equipment could pay a monetary return of and on your investment. Your local HVAC service company should be able to answer questions 4, 5, 6, and 7. With these, you should then be able to make a well informed decision. We welcome your comments and experiences.