Should I Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?

repair or replace your AC?

Unless you are exercising – you do not expect to sweat inside your home. So when your air conditioning system breaks down, you want it fixed yesterday!  It’s time to call your AC contractor to get it fixed.

But a time may come when you need to decide whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, and the decision may not be an easy one. Unless your air conditioner is damaged beyond repair, there are no hard rules in determining whether to replace or repair your system. However, below are a few concepts that may help guide your decision:

This Old AC

Even with proper maintenance and the dedicated efforts of a highly-skilled HVAC contractor, an aging air conditioner may start to show its age. If your unit is nearing its life expectancy, you may consider a replacement as an alternative to costly repairs.

According to the Department of Energy, many older residential air conditioning systems in the U.S. have SEER ratings of 10 or less.1 Currently, the required minimum SEER rating of a residential air conditioning system differs by region, but ranges from 13 SEER to 14 SEER.

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit in typical day-to-day use.

Under similar working conditions, standards dictate that higher SEER air conditioning units are more energy-efficient than lower SEER units. “Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning up to 50%.”2 Based on this logic, if your aging unit is a low SEER model that requires significant repairs, it may be beneficial for a homeowner to replace it with a more energy-efficient one.

However, age isn’t everything when considering repairing or replacing your air condition unit.

Repair Cost vs. Replacement Cost

Air conditioning repairs come in all shapes, sizes and costs! Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician can provide you with an estimate of repair cost, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit.

If a repair is necessary, homeowners should decide their repair cost cutoff point. How expensive does an air conditioner repair need to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system? The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency air condition system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  However, if your HVAC contractor provides repair estimates that come close to your predetermined budget threshold, it may be best to start researching new air conditioner models.

On the contrary, if the air conditioner problem is an easy, relatively inexpensive fix that restores peak efficiency, a repair may be the best approach.

Comfort and New Technology

When deciding between an air conditioning repair or replacement, homeowners should consider if their cooling needs are being addressed by their current unit. You may ask yourself:

  1. Is my air conditioner unit loud?
  2. Do I notice inconsistent temperatures and fluctuations in my home?
  3. Is the AC cooling my house as I expect it should?
  4. Why are my energy bills higher than my neighbor’s house with similar square footage?


But before you replace your current system because of cooling issues, have your HVAC contractor check for large air leaks, insufficient ducting and/or breaks in the duct seals.  There are times when the real source of a cooling problem is not a dying HVAC unit, but ineffective components of the system.3

Technology is changing the way we live and AC manufacturers are taking note by applying advanced mechanics to their products to increase comfort. Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication may provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current model.


However, if you want your air conditioner to simply work the way it’s intended to, air conditioner repairs and annual maintenance may help you get the most miles out of your current unit.

Save Green

Despite SEER rating, if your air condition system is not running at peak performance, you may be spending more money on utility bills than necessary. According to the University of Kentucky Biosystems Engineering’s Builders Guide, a poorly functioning high-efficiency system may cost more to operate than a well-designed, moderate efficiency unit.  Keeping your system at peak performance and running as intended can be financially beneficial!

However, if your HVAC technician reveals that an aging, lower SEER air condition unit may be the primary culprit of your high utility bills, you should research the cost/benefits of a installing a higher SEER replacement unit.

SEER ratings associated cost savings can be compared to the set MPG (miles per gallon) in your car. Under the same driving conditions, your gasoline costs to drive 30 miles in a 15 MPG car will be higher than one with a 30 MPG rating. The same goes for SEER ratings. Under the same cooling conditions, a 10 SEER unit will be more expensive to do the same workload as a 14 SEER unit.

Length of Home Ownership

Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency air conditioning unit. When determining to repair or replace your current AC, homeowners should evaluate their anticipated length of home ownership by asking themselves the following questions:

  • Are you living in your “forever home”?
  • How long do you expect your current home to fit your lifestyle? (Getting married, having children, etc.)
  • Would a job change force you to relocate?
  • In how many years to you plan to sell your home?
  • Will a new energy-efficient air condition help sell your home if necessary?


While there are a lot of variables to examine when determining whether to repair or replace your air conditioner, the best source of information can come from your licensed professional HVAC contractor.  Because these local professionals understand the details associated with your particular system, they are the most qualified to provide repair or replace guidance. 


1 Central Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from

2 Air Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved from

3 Heat & Cool Efficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Star: