Should I Replace the AC Condenser Coil or the Whole Unit?
If you have an older air conditioner unit that’s acting up, you may be wondering if you can salvage it or if it’s time to cut your losses. It all depends on the issue. Some problems, like clogged air filters, are relatively simple to fix. But other issues, like faulty condenser coils, are more complex.
This often leaves our clients wondering whether it’s better to replace the condenser coil or invest in a whole new unit. It’s a dilemma the team at Entek has seen time and again, so we want to help you find the right solution. Here’s what you need to know to make the most informed decision.
Let’s get to the bad news first. Evaporator and condenser coils are among the most expensive components of an AC to replace. Depending on coil capacity, the part itself could cost anywhere from $500 to $1,600. On top of that, there’s the cost of installation. You can usually expect that to run you anywhere from $500 to $1,200. That means, at minimum, the cost to replace a condenser coil is going to be around $1,000, and at most, you could be looking at nearly $3,000. At that point, depending on the age of your unit, it may be better to replace your AC unit instead.
But don’t get distressed just yet. If your unit is only a few years old, it may still be under warranty. Check your paperwork and owner’s manual or contact your HVAC company to see whether the warranty is still in effect. Coil warranties typically range anywhere from 5 to 10 years.
Keep in mind, however, there are typically separate warranties that cover parts and labor. While your coil warranty may still be in effect, it may not cover the cost of installation. Installation warranties typically only last a year or two unless you opt to purchase an extended warranty. So if the condenser coil itself is covered, you will likely still need to pay the labor costs for its installation.
Another factor to consider when deciding whether to replace the condenser coil or the whole unit is the age of the unit. If your AC is on its last legs, the last thing you want to do is spend money replacing the condenser coil only to have another major component of the system break in the near future. A well-maintained AC unit should last somewhere between 10 and 15 years. If your unit is approaching the 10- year mark or is even older, you should seriously consider replacing the entire unit.
Older AC systems use R-22 refrigerant, and since January 1, 2020, the EPA has banned the import and production of this gas. As the supply of R-22 becomes more limited, any repairs requiring this type of refrigerant will become more costly. Rather than invest more money into an aging AC, it may be wise to invest in a newer model that will help you maximize your energy savings.
On the other hand, if your unit is relatively new and you feel it would be better to replace the condenser coil rather than the whole unit, there are a few things you should know. First, there are two coils in your AC unit that work in tandem—the evaporator coil and the condenser coil. Second, it’s often difficult to replace one without the other.
That’s because the two coils should complement one another when it comes to things like refrigerant type, age, and energy-efficiency rating. Any difference between the two coils could negate the replacement and cause major issues with your AC unit, such as higher energy bills and a shortened life span. So the best thing to do is have a skilled HVAC technician evaluate your unit to determine if replacing the condenser coil is a viable option.
One final thing to take into account is how much money you could be saving by investing in a newer unit versus how much you will pay in repairs and upkeep to maintain your existing one. Many units on the market today are highly efficient, meaning they require less energy to operate than older units do. This can equate to hundreds of dollars in savings on your energy bill each year.
For instance, ENERGY STAR provides a breakdown of the most efficient central AC units and how much they cost to operate annually on average, as well as the estimated lifetime cost of operation. For a central air conditioner unit, the calculation is based on a lifetime operation of 14 years.
This breakdown will allow you to compare how much you are paying annually toward your current energy bill versus how much you would likely pay in annual energy costs after upgrading to a newer model. You can also factor in the estimated cost of repairs to your existing unit versus how much it would cost to buy a new one. Though energy use varies by location and household, comparing the costs of each scenario should help you get an idea of how long it would take you to start seeing cost savings by upgrading to a newer model.
One question to ask yourself if you don’t replace your AC unit now is, when do you anticipate doing so? Will you pay for a costly repair just to put off replacing the unit for another year? If so, it may be best to go ahead with the upgrade now so that you can take advantage of the energy savings a newer model would likely provide.
Still Not Sure What To Do?
If you still have questions about whether to replace the condenser coil or the whole unit, give Entek a call. We’d be happy to evaluate your particular situation and come up with the best possible solution for you.