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Should I Repair or Replace my Furnace or AC?

a photo of an HVAC tool pouch to reveal the hand tools within
A Proper HVAC Service Pouch on Display

What kinds of furnace repairs are worth doing, and which furnace repairs are not worth doing?

One of the thorniest questions we get asked as HVAC technicians is about the cost/benefit of replacing furances and air conditioners (AC) vs. repairing them. And we get asked some version of that question a lot - maybe every day. While it is a question with no firm answer in most instances, we have some rules and guidelines we use in helping customers come up with an answer.

A photo of an HVAC service technician replacing a contactor on an AC condensing unit.
Warranty Service on a Heat Pump

1. Warranty - if the repair is a warranty repair, the answer is often, "yes, you should repair the machine". This is especially true if there is a labour warranty. In the instance of a broken piece of hvac equipment like a furnace or an air conditioner with a parts and labour warranty, almost any repair is worth doing. Some manufacturers offer better warranties than their competitors, and those parts and labour warranties are some of the major reasons that we install a lot of Coleman equipment. With Coleman (a JCI brand, like York) it is quite reasonable to add a ten year labour warranty to the price of an install, and it can even be a part of the financed amount if you are not paying cash.

2. Heat Exchanger - It is almost never worth replacing a heat exchanger, even with a parts and labour warranty, unless the furnace or boiler is less than 10 years old. Many warranty claims for heat exchanger are only partially covered on the labour side, and then even after the replacement of this large and expensive part, the rest of the furnace or boiler is still however old it is (presumably older than 10 years for the purposes of this exercise). If the heat exchanger is failing prematurely, then there may be something wrong with the way the machine was installed (venting slope, double trap for condensate, underfired, too much airflow, sooted ).

An AC condenser with the bottom corner corroded and damaged
An old and decrepit ac condenser that should probably be replaced.

3. Refrigerant - Is your air conditioner, or heat heat pump an older piece of equipment (probably built before prior to 2005 or so) using R22 Freon as the refrigerant? If it is an R22 unit, and you need any repairs that require recharging the system, like a compressor change, or leak repair, then you should probably be installing new equipment, not repairing what you have. R22 is at the end of its "phase-out" period as mandated by all world governments and it is becoming increasingly hard to get (read: expensive). So, not only will it put a mean hole in the ozone, it will really break the bank if you opt to repair instead of replace the equipment.

These are only three of the many considerations we encounter when talking about furnace and AC repair and replacement dilemma with customers. There are a million more and we have probably been through all of them. So if you have any questions about what to do about your equipment when faced with a costly repair, give us a call or fill in our service request form and we will start the conversation. We promise to be open about what we know without being pushy about solutions.

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