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Is It Time to Replace Your AC Unit? 

Is your AC system struggling to keep up on hot days? Have you had to recharge it to get your AC up and running? These are signs that it’s time to consider replacing your AC system. Even if your system’s current problem can be repaired, replacement may be a better option if the unit was installed before 2010. Here’s why:

Most units manufactured before 2010 utilize a refrigerant called R-22 that’s being phased out because it’s been found to be harmful to the environment. R-22 (commonly referred to as freon), which runs through many existing HVAC systems in Florida and elsewhere, is well on its way to being completely discontinued. New units use refrigerant R-410A, which is more environmentally sound.

A properly functioning AC system does not leak refrigerant and never has to be recharged, but occasionally systems, especially as they age, can develop slow leaks. The leaks can occur at different points throughout the system, and tracking them down and sealing them can be tricky and expensive.

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Some home owners work around the problem by periodically recharging their system to replace the lost refrigerant. That gets them through the current season, but the process has to be repeated each year, creating an annual expense. It’s going to get even more expensive as R-22 becomes increasingly scarce.

While it’s still possible to recharge and existing system with R-22, the cost of doing so has been on the rise and will continue to go up. Technicians use R-22 that’s been “recaptured” from other uses, because manufacturing of R-22 has already been cut by 95% and will be ended in 2020. Each time you have to recharge your old system, it will cost more.

If you’re straddling the repair vs replace fence, another factor to consider is the dramatically increased efficiency of newer AC systems. A new system can lower your energy bills considerably.

One way to measure the potential difference is to examine the SEER rating of your current system versus a new one. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, and it measures how much cooling a system puts out for each unit of energy it consumes. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently the unit operates. AC units manufactured between 1992 and 2005 typically have a SEER rating of 10 to 12. Units manufactured prior to 1991 typically have a SEER of 8 or less.

Current AC units start at SEER 13 and go up from there. A new SEER 13 unit is about 30% more efficient than a 1990s SEER 10 unit. More efficient units with higher SEER ratings increase energy savings even more, though they cost more up front.

Keeping HVAC systems in Florida running smoothly is especially important, thanks to our near-tropical summer heat. While recharging a system can help it limp through another summer, it’s a very temporary fix. The combination of the phase-out of R-22 and the increased energy efficiency available in new AC units means that replacement is often the better option.

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