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Should I repair or replace my furnace or air conditioner?

We get asked this question a lot and as an HVAC contractor, you might think our answer is always going to be "replace" just so we can sell you a new piece of equipment, but that's not the case.  Sometimes it makes more sense to repair, even if the equipment is older or if the repair is costly.

Here are some factors to consider:


  • The average life expectancy of an air conditioner or heat pump is 10-12 years.
  • The average life expectancy of a furnace is 15-20 years.
  • If your equipment is nearing the end of its average life expectancy, you should keep in mind the possibility that more repairs may be needed soon.  However, you can’t always go off of the average life expectancy.  Some 10 year old units need to be replaced due to lack of maintenance or a poor quality installation and some equipment that is 20 years old might look and work like new because it has been well maintained. 
  • If the repairs approach 50% of the value of your system it’s generally time to replace it.


  • Equipment that is approaching the end of its life expectancy will typically be less energy efficient than new equipment.
  • Energy costs have risen in the last decade so consider the energy consumption of your existing unit and your potential savings over its lifetime.
  • New equipment will be more energy efficient with new energy guidelines that must be met.


  • There may be financial incentives for upgrading to a new system, which can be an important factor in your decision.


  • If there have been upgrades made to your home that improve its insulation and energy efficiency (like new windows, doors, insulation, roofing, etc.) then your current unit may actually be oversized or undersized for your needs.
  • If you have built additions onto your house, you may find your old system no longer meets the requirements for the new dimensions.
  • Research shows that water heating, air conditioning and home heating account for more than 50% of domestic energy use.

Another thing to consider is that some systems may have been improperly designed from the start.  Improperly designed systems may have ducts too small for the amount of air blowing out, or an overly large duct may siphon off air that should be going to another part of the house. The HVAC system could be undersized or too large as well, providing more or less pressure than ducts are designed to handle.

A bigger system is not necessarily better when it comes to HVAC and smaller isn't always more efficient. If you have too small of a system, your system will be running constantly as it tries to keep up with the temperature. If you have too large of a system, it won't run long enough to keep up with the humidity. In order to handle both temperature and humidity efficiently, an HVAC system should run for around 30 minutes at a time. If your system is staying on too long or shutting off after only around 10 minutes, you are not getting efficient performance.

In some cases, you may have a system that is so old that parts are no longer available or else they aren't up to code.  In this case you will have to consider replacing the entire system.

At the end of the day, repairing or replacing your HVAC equipment is a decision that only you can make.  

If you decide to replace your equipment call Central Heating & Air at 371-3076 to schedule an appointment for a free quote.

For Emergency 24-hr Service Call 605.371.3076

For safety and warranty reasons you should never attempt to service your unit yourself.