Repair or Replace: What to Do When Your AC Stops Working


Imagine your worst nightmare: sitting inside on a hot summer day, getting a nice reprieve from the heat thanks to your home air conditioner, when all of a sudden your AC unit stops working—and you’re trapped in a sweltering, hot box.

While no one ever wants to find themselves in this scenario, it is a situation that can happen to virtually anyone with an AC unit, at any time. So, when your AC unit stops working, what should you do? Pay to have it repaired? Or replace it altogether?

Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer to this common question.

While repairing usually costs less upfront, it doesn’t mean this is the best option. Repairs often aren’t guaranteed, and spending a few hundred dollars in the moment for a repair, doesn’t mean you won’t have to spend more money in the future.


When it comes to deciding whether or not you should repair or replace your unit, you need to look at your individual system to determine the best approach, not only in the moment but in the future as well. These are the factors that will help you decide.


Age is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding whether you should repair or replace your air conditioning unit. According to the Department of Energy, the average lifespan of an air conditioning unit is between 15-20 years.

If your AC unit is more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing your unit with a more efficient version.

Newer styles may cost more money, but they will be more efficient than your previous model and can save you money on a monthly basis when your energy bills come,


Some air conditioning units require additional refrigerant. This is a sign of a coolant leak. However, not all refrigerants are the same. Most newer models have R-410a refrigerant, which is considered a more environmentally-friendly alternative for AC refrigerant. However, older models have what is known as R-22 refrigerant, which has become much more expensive as it gets phased out.

If your system needs a R-22 refrigerant, known as Freon, it can cost anywhere from $40-$175 more per pound, in addition to labor costs. This can add an extra $1,000 to your HVAC repairs.

R-22 refrigerant will not be legally available after 2020.  In most cases, a unit that requires R-22 and has a refrigerant leak, should be replaced, not repaired.


If your energy bills keep going up, but the rates from your electric company are staying the same, then it might be time to repair your AC instead of replacing it. You can do the math yourself or use the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick Tool to determine how efficient your home is.

Replacing an old AC unit, with a new energy-efficient model may cost you more upfront, but if you are planning on living in your home for 7-10 more years, the savings from your new unit can more than makeup for the costs.

While according to HomeAdvisor, the average energy-efficient central air conditioning unit will cost between $3,730-$7,154, according to EnergyStar, that unit can save you between 20-40 percent on home cooling costs.


When it comes to making HVAC decisions, the cost is almost always at the forefront of every customer’s mind. Of course, one of the biggest factors in deciding between repairing and replacing the system all comes down to dollars and cents.

A good rule of thumb is, that if you are going to be spending the next 10 years in your home, then you should replace your AC unit, if you are spending less than 10 years, it may be more cost-effective to repair.

The average lifespan of an AC unit is about 10-15 years. But remember, if the air conditioner is more than 15 years old, it is time to replace it. But, if you are on the edge about the financial commitment, you can do a little math to make the decision for yourself.


According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost the repair an AC Unit in the United States is $336. The typical range is between $163-$520 while the high end of repairs can be as high as $1100.

Certain types of repairs will also cost more than your average fix. For example, replacing a home air compressor can cost between $1350-$1800 while replacing an evaporator coil can be anywhere from $650-$1200.


So, you know the cost of replacing your unit and the cost of repairs. How do you make the right decision?

Many HVAC technicians will apply the $5,000 rule to making this call. Simply multiply the repair costs by the age of the unit.

For example:

If your repairs are $500 and your unit is 5 years old, your total would = $2,500. In this case, it would make sense to repair your system.

If your repairs at $900 and your unit is 10 years old, your total would = $9,000. In this case, it would make sense to replace your system.


No homeowner ever wants to make the difficult decision between repairing or replacing their system. While there is no way to guarantee your HVAC system will ever need to be repaired, or replaced, there are things that you can do to lessen your chances of having to make this decision. This includes finding a professional you can trust for your HVAC needs.

Regular maintenance should be done on your HVAC system every year. It can help you spot small issues before they turn into big problems and make sure your HVAC system has everything it needs to run properly.

While all of the aforementioned guidelines are a good foundation for an understanding of your HVAC system, the decision to repair or replace can be complicated. Every situation, and every system, is different. A professional HVAC technician can not only help you with things like regular maintenance but with making the difficult decision on whether to repair or replace your system.

The team of professionals at Service Legends can give you an informed opinion on the matter and help you understand the costs and benefits associated with repairing or replacing your AC unit.

515-657-6634Request Appointment Online