Should you Repair or Replace your heating and cooling system?

Find out when it’s right to replace your old HVAC system and when a repair is in order.

Illustration of man Choosing between two red Doors
Getty Images: Jack191

When your air conditioner or heating system breaks down, one of the most important decisions you have to make is whether to repair or replace it. Now a new HVAC system isn’t cheap, but throwing money at an old, inefficient system doesn’t make smart financial sense either. So how do you know what to do? We’ll help you sort through the details so you can make the smart choice when the time comes.

HVAC repair or replace checklist

STEP 1: IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM

If your HVAC system is currently malfunctioning, the first thing to do is get it evaluated by an HVAC professional. They’ll be able to diagnose your current system and provide an estimated repair cost.

STEP 2: FOLLOW THE $5,000 RULE

Take the age of your equipment and multiply that by the estimated repair cost. If the number is more than $5,000, then you should consider replacing your unit. If less, you should probably repair it.
For example:
A system that is 10 years old and has a repair cost of $300 = $3,000. It’s probably right to repair it. A system that is 10 years old and has a repair cost of $600 = $6000. You should probably consider a replacement. 

STEP 3: BE PROACTIVE

Sitting in a hot house in the middle of the summer is not the best environment to make a decision as important as whether to repair or replace your air conditioner. That’s why it’s best to keep a few general factors in mind so you’re ready to make an informed decision when the moment comes. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How old is your system?
    Air conditioners and heat pumps can have a lifespan of 10-12 years. Furnaces usually last 15-20 years.
  2. Are your energy bills too high?
    Older systems are usually less efficient than today’s more energy efficient models. Replacing your current heating and cooling system with a more efficient system can lower your energy bills – saving you money over time. 
  3. Are you ready to make an investment?
    A new heating and cooling system isn’t cheap. There are considerable upfront costs compared to a repair. However, there are financing options available that can make the investment more manageable.
  4. Is your system under warranty?
    If your system is currently registered and under warranty, your repair costs may be covered. However, make sure you check your policy closely – parts and labor may not be covered.

When to replace your hvac equipment

Product TypeProduct AgeEfficiency Rating
Air conditioner10 years or older10 SEER or less
Furnace15 years or older80% AFUE or less
Heat Pump10 years or older10 SEER  | 8 HSPF or less

Energy savings of a new HVAC system

It’s true, a new HVAC system is a major home investment. Even when it’s the right call, the sticker shock can lead some people to put off the purchase or repair systems that should really be replaced. One thing to consider is the energy savings you’ll earn by switching to a more energy-efficient HVAC system. Here’s what upgrading to a new air conditioner, furnace or heat pump can save you a year.

Product TypeAverage yearly energy cost savings
Air conditioner$140*
Furnace$372*
Heat Pump$526*

One last tip

To make sure you get an honest estimate and a recommendation you can trust, talk to your local Trane Comfort Specialist™. Trane has been recognized for 5 years in a row as America’s Most Trusted® HVAC System1.

*AC results based on PickHVAC’s SEER Savings Calculator for a 3-ton 22 SEER air conditioner versus the industry standard 14 SEER air conditioner in St. Louis, MO. Furnace results based on PickHVAC’s AFUE Savings Calculator for 95% AFUE rated furnace compared to a 60% AFUE rated furnace in a 2,700 sf home in St. Louis, MO. Heat pump results based on Energy Star’s Savings Calculator for a 3-ton 21 SEER/10 HSPF heat pump and programmable thermostat versus the industry standard 14 SEER/8.2 HSPF 3-ton heat pump and standard thermostat in St. Louis, MO.

1 Trane received the highest numerical score in the proprietary Lifestory Research 2019 America’s Most Trusted® HVAC Brand study for years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019. Your experiences may vary. Visit www.lifestoryresearch.com.