With summer approaching, it’s time to take a look at the state of your air conditioning system. Regular maintenance can keep most home air conditioning systems running for a decade or more, however eventually all cooling systems will need to be replaced. Being educated about your air conditioner and it’s state can save you money when that time arrives to decide between repairing the current air conditioner and replacing.
Many homeowners are left wondering what components need or should be replacement at the same time. With many parts working together to cool your home, it may be confusing which part is which and what works with what. This guide will go over each of the critical components in your system and explain why you should (or shouldn’t) replace them.
This is the large box that sits outside the home that most would call the air conditioner. The condenser houses vital parts such as the compressor and condenser coil. A typical home condenser unit also includes a fan, to help the condenser coil release heat from the refrigerant, and control circuitry for the compressor. Without a functioning condenser unit, your cooling system will no longer function.
Since the compressor is one of the most important components in condenser, you will rarely have a choice when replacing this unit. Compressor replacements are expensive in terms of both parts and labor, making replacement of the whole condenser unit more economical for most homeowners. One exception to this would be when the compressor it self is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. On the other hand, a failed fan or capacitor is a less expensive replacement/repair and unless the air conditioning system is very old can be done without consideration of replacing the entire cooling system.
Indoor Evaporator Coils
The condenser coils outside your home help the refrigerant to release heat, but the interior evaporator coils absorb heat from your home’s air. The evaporator coil is located either inside the indoor system or directly outside the furnace depending on your application and setup. As the air from your home is pulled through the ductwork and passes the cooled refrigerant the heat from the air is absorbed. Having the heat absorbed into the coil the blower can then move the cooler air throughout your home.
If your compressor fails, your evaporator coils may still be in relatively good condition. However in most cases to be compatible with the current refrigerant, you will likely need to replace your evaporator unit any time you install a new condenser. When both the condenser and evaporator coil are replaced together you will also benefit from having the full air conditioning system covered by the maximum manufacturer’s warranty. Modern central AC systems use paired outdoor and indoor units for maximum efficiency, so leaving your old evaporator in place may compromise your new system’s energy savings.
Your condenser and evaporator form the indoor and outdoor endpoints of your system’s refrigerant loop, but your line set or refrigerant lines are vital in carrying the refrigerant between the two.
When you replace other parts of your air conditioner, you may not need to replace the line set. If the current lines are in good shape and adequate for your new components, then you can keep your old line set. Even though there may be a change in refrigerant your installer can flush or clean the copper tubing so that your new system is not contaminated with old refrigerant. It is ideal to have these lines replaced as well, but there are circumstances when it may not be possible. If the ceiling the line set runs over is finished there may be significant finish repairs required to replace them. Your installer will evaluate the condition, routing, and size of your existing refrigerant pipes to determine if replacements are necessary.
Ductwork and Thermostats
The final pieces of the puzzle are your home’s ductwork and thermostats. Fortunately, these two items rarely need to be replacing or upgrading when installing a new air conditioner. If you are concerned about efficiency losses, however, consider duct sealing. Leaky ductwork can potentially offset some of the efficiency gains of a new system.
Your old thermostats likely can also stay, although you may need a new one if opt to install Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) accessories, your new air conditioner has additional functions, or you add additional cooling zones to your house. You may also want to consider upgrading to thermostats with built-in scheduling, WiFi or smart thermostat functions to realize further energy savings. These relatively small changes can make a significant difference in both your comfort and your utility bills.
When you’re ready to replace your old system, give Bryant Air Conditioning, Heating, Electrical & Plumbing a call. We can evaluate your old system and recommend new components to keep you cool and comfortable all summer long.