When Should You Replace Your Home Air Conditioning System?

A set of infographics about air conditioning in a house.

March 28, 2022

Have you ever asked yourself “My air conditioning broke or it’s not working as well as it used too, when should I replace it?”

No one likes to have their home air conditioning system break down during the summer. It’s especially frustrating when you need it most and then find out that your unit is 20 years old, has a leaky compressor or just isn’t working properly anymore because of age
Aging units are common in Santa Fe Springs because this city experiences hot weather year round so homeowners must replace them more often than other cities where temperatures only reach higher levels once every few months.

Find the most practical information you need to make the best decision on when to replace your air conditioning system.

So how long do home air conditioning systems last before they need to be replaced?

Most air conditioning systems can last up to 20 years before you really need to consider replacing your air conditioning system, that’s the easy answer. The more detailed answer is that it really depends on how it was originally installed, if the unit was a lemon from the factory, the weather conditions it has been in, the usage, and most importantly how it has been maintained over the years.

I have found over my 15 years of hands-on experience that home air conditioning systems in southern California usually fall into these categories:

  • Units that have major or consistent problems in the first 5 years are because it was not installed properly or is just a lemon.
  • Home Air Conditioning Systems that break down before 10 years can be fixed if it is something minor.
  • Air conditioning systems that start having problems around 10 years.
  • Systems that start having serious issues after about 15 years.
  • Can last up to 20 or more years if they have been maintained regularly and were installed correctly from the beginning.

In my industry most air conditioning companies that are large, have over 30 air conditioning repair technicians, are part of a franchise or more focused on sales than repairs, will recommend replacing your home air conditioning system if the unit is:

  • Unit is over 10 years old
  • Has a R-22 refrigeration leak (even a small one)
  • Compressor has trouble keeping up or is failing
  • Has a repair bill over a certain threshold

When an air conditioning technician says you need to replace your system because it’s old, that is not what anyone wants to hear. Usually, the first question that comes to mind is can I get more time out if it or how much will that cost?

Some of the HVAC repairs you can squeeze a little more time out if they are:

  • Bad run capacitor
  • Bad condenser fan motor
  • Bad electrical contactor
  • Bad fuse
  • Melted wiring

These repairs are most common in my industry, and you can usually kick the can down the road for a little more time, but if your system is older than 15 years you should really consider getting a new one. The repairs we listed for your home A/C sometimes are caused by bigger problems. Remember your air conditioning technician cannot diagnose your whole system until all components are running at the same time. If the condenser fan motor is bad then you replace that, your tech might find out it burned out because there is a contactor or bad wiring, people usually do not grasp that the A/C system only works when all its components work together, if one part breaks down it will cause a domino effect of issues. Cross your fingers until your A/C is blowing cold air, not when the technician said, “this is a simple and straightforward repair.”

When is repairing my air conditioning too much money and should I just have it replaced?

  • If the cost of the repair is over 50% of a new unit in the first 5 years, and it is out of warranty, replace it. The unit was a lemon, or the original installation company did a bad job that will only lead to more expensive problems down the line.
  • If the unit is between 10-15 years old and the repair costs you more than 25% of a new one, it is time to consider replacing it. At this point it is a major repair and you are losing out on no repair bills for 10 years with a new warranty and the energy efficiency of the new system.
  • If 20 years or older, consider replacing the unit if the repair is over $500. You’re wasting money on something that is already past its life expectancy.

What if you don’t have the money to replace it because it was an unexpected expense and you thought it could get you through another summer?

If you find yourself in a position where you must fix an old air conditioning system even after reading this blog and a technician telling you that you need to replace it, this can actually be a great opportunity to get the most value for your money! Ask your home air conditioning technician the following questions:

  • “How long is the warranty?” Make sure to read reviews online that the company you choose honors the warranty.
  • “Do I have to pay if it does not work?”
  • “Can you apply some if not all the repair fee to a new installation when I’m ready to go with your company?”

Remember this, there is no right or wrong answer on when to replace your air conditioning system. Money fixes everything, meaning you can dump more money at a problem to make it go away. At some point it becomes a question of, “is it a better investment to do it now or later?”

The key reason and question you should ask yourself when considering replacing your HVAC system because it needs a repair is:

  • “How much money will I save on utility bills?”
  • “How much does a parts and labor warranty mean to you for your peace of mind?”
  • “If I just repair it now, can I save more money in the winter because I heard it’s cheaper to replace during the winter in warm climates?”
  • “Can I fix other issues that my old air conditioning had that I hated when replacing it?” “Can your chosen air conditioning company fix hot and cold spots, noise level, location, comfort level or lots of dust and allergens in the air?”
  • “Should I get another opinion because I don’t trust the diagnosis of the HVAC technician that came to my home?”
  • “How do I know if I’m not overpaying for a new comfort system?”


Written by Angel Muro

I started Comfort Time Plumbing Heating & Cooling out of a love for HVAC & Plumbing and a desire to make our customers comfortable. My curiosity about heating, plumbing, and air conditioning turned into a career focused on expertise and customer care. Through this blog, I aim to share helpful tips and stories from my experiences, aiming to assist you with your HVAC & Plumbing needs beyond just outlining our services.

March 28, 2022

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About Comfort Time Plumbing Heating & Cooling

At Comfort Time Plumbing Heating and Cooling, we are your trusted HVAC & Plumbing experts serving Southern California. With years of experience in the industry, we take pride in delivering top-notch heating and cooling solutions tailored to the unique climate and needs of the region. Whether you’re in the coastal areas, inland valleys, or urban centers, our team of dedicated professionals is here to ensure your year-round comfort. We stay up-to-date with the latest technologies to offer energy-efficient solutions, and our commitment to customer satisfaction means you can rely on us for prompt and reliable service. When it comes to your HVAC needs in Southern California, Comfort Time is the name you can trust.

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