Appreciating the Lifetime Costs of an A/C Replacement

Your old air conditioner is on its last leg, and soon it will be time for a new one. Now’s the time to shop around and decide what kind of replacement you want. You don’t need anything too fancy. A cheap one should serve you just fine, right? What are the costs of an A/C replacement, anyway?

Well, it depends on what kind you get. There are two different kinds of costs to consider when buying a new air conditioner: the first costs and the lifetime costs. If you cut corners on the former, the latter can end up accruing more than you realize.

First Costs

The first costs of an A/C replacement are what you pay upfront to take the unit home: the price listed on the price tag, minus any discounts, plus any applicable taxes or fees. This is often the only number that homeowners take into consideration when shopping for a new air conditioner.

They’ll buy the least expensive model, or maybe try to do something clever, like eliminate the least and most expensive options on their list and choose something in the middle, so as not to get saddled with a “cheap model.” But however they make their decision, that first cost is the only number they’re thinking about, but there’s so much more that needs to be considered in order to make an informed decision.

Lifetime Costs

Lifetime costs include everything you’ll end up paying for as long as you own the system: maintenance and repairs, energy costs and more. A good air conditioner can be with you for 15 years or more, so if you choose a less than optimal model, over time its lifetime costs can add up to much more than you were expecting.

As a general rule of thumb, the less you spend on the first costs of an A/C replacement, the more you’ll end up spending on lifetime costs. A cheap system may look good in the store, but it’s prone to break down more frequently, use much more energy every year, and lead a shorter life.

So should you just choose the most expensive model instead of the cheapest? Of course not. When shopping for a new A/C, it’s important to understand what it is you’re looking for and exactly what those extra costs are going toward to help you make an informed decision. Here are a few factors to consider when looking at the costs of an A/C replacement:

  • Quality – As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If you want a better quality air conditioner, you’ll have to spend a bit more. High quality air conditioners come with extra features, such as a two-stage compressor, which prevents frequent cycling on and off, extending the system’s life. Or a variable-speed blower, which can provide less air in milder temperatures, and more air in extreme temperatures, saving energy.
  • Durability – Unfortunately, durability isn’t easy to ascertain simply by looking at the price tag and offered features. Do some research online to see what other people thought of a particular model. Did it require frequent repairs? Did it last a long time? You can’t make a purchase decision based solely on customer reviews, but it’s a good place to start in conducting your own research of a product.
  • Maintenance – The standard maintenance requirement for an A/C is an annual visit from your HVAC technician to tune up the system, check settings and make adjustments. But cheaper models are less likely to make it from one annual visit to the next intact. A belt that was just tightened will be too loose again, or the blower motor won’t spin as well as it did, requiring further maintenance and repairs. A higher quality A/C is more likely to survive the season without any interim repairs.
  • Energy savings – Check the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). This tells you how much cooling an A/C will produce for the amount of energy it uses over the course of a given cooling season. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy you’ll save.

When shopping for a new A/C, consider all the costs, both upfront and over time. With a little research, you can find a quality air conditioner that will serve you well for years to come.

Learn more about the costs of an A/C replacement, as well as cooling solutions, from the pros at One Source Heating & Cooling, or contact us today at (205) 209-4246 to schedule an appointment for your Hoover area home!