Timberline Blog

HVAC Lifecycle: When to Repair and Replace Equipment

March 14, 2022 by Timberline

Like all equipment, HVAC equipment has a finite lifespan. You’ll have to replace every component of your system at some point. That’s true even if you use the highest-quality systems and are diligent in how you maintain them.

But before you replace HVAC system components, you may be able to have a technician repair them in some cases. Consequently, when your system develops problems, you may wonder, “Should I repair or replace the faulty component?”

hvac installation

As you might expect, there is no easy answer to that question since it involves many factors, including the component’s:

  • Expected lifespan
  • Current age
  • Cost
  • Location within the system (and consequently the ease or difficulty of repairing or replacing it)
  • Ability to impact other components or systems

However, we provide some guidelines below that you can use as a foundation when talking with an HVAC technician about your system.

The ASHRAE Equipment Life Expectancy Chart

ASHRAE is a professional association founded in the U.S. in 1894 as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. It began doing business by its acronym in 2012 to reflect its worldwide membership and evolving global role.

As it states on its website, ASHRAE’s purpose is “advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment. The Society and its members focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. Through research, standards writing, publishing and continuing education, ASHRAE shapes tomorrow’s built environment today.”

Its work includes using the data it collects to produce a life expectancy chart for HVAC equipment. This chart provides the median years of service for various systems and components. (Note: “Median” and “average” are similar concepts, but there are differences. Read an explanation here.)

For example, a window air conditioner’s median years of service is 10 and a roof-top single-zone unit’s is 15. The median years of service for a gas- or oil-fired furnace is 18. Or, getting more granular, a pneumatic valve actuator has a median years of service of 20.

As car manufacturers say, “Your mileage may vary.” But the ASHRAE chart provides ballpark numbers that can help you and your HVAC technician collaborate on decisions about the different components of your system.

ASHRAE makes no promises about the life expectancy of your system, of course. Still, it’s good to have a data-derived number to consider.

Repair/Replace Decisions: Benefits and Risks

The decision to repair or replace HVAC system components warrants careful consideration for a few reasons.

When you choose wisely, you lower your overall cost. In other words, working with your technician to make a sound decision means you’re less likely to replace a component that could have continued functioning effectively with a less-expensive repair. You’re also less likely to opt for a repair that gives you a false sense of confidence and leads to a costly component or system failure down the road.

In addition, you don’t want to repair or replace a component if you will need to replace the entire system soon.

Beyond the Data: Getting Crucial Guidance and Insights from Timberline Mechanical

If you are a property owner, another factor you should consider regarding how to approach issues with your HVAC system is how long you intend to own the commercial space or home. For instance, suppose you plan to sell your commercial building within two years, and a $500 repair will allow your air conditioning unit to remain operational for at least 3-4 years. It may not be in your best interest to pay thousands to replace a particular component.

That’s not being sneaky or deceptive. It’s simply good business. Any potential buyer will have an expert assess the air conditioning unit and all the other systems in the building. That person will help them understand the condition of those systems and enable them to make an informed purchase decision.

A Timberline Mechanical HVAC expert can perform a system assessment even if you aren’t aware of any problem with it. They can inspect your equipment and report their findings. Our experts can also help with your “due diligence” as you consider purchasing a property.

If you’re a property owner, intend to hold a property for the foreseeable future and notice a problem with your system, we can generate estimates for both repairing and replacing components. Our technician will also give you their opinion on what course of action seems appropriate given all the observable conditions and their industry experience.

For example, they will know that Colorado’s moderate temperatures and low humidity tend to be easier on HVAC equipment than conditions in many other locations. That may increase the odds that a system will exceed the ASHRAE chart expectations.

Preventative Maintenance Is Always a Good Idea!

While it’s true that every property owner must replace their HVAC system eventually, you should do all you can to push that replacement out as far as you safely can. The best way to do that is to have a Timberline technician perform regular maintenance on your equipment.

Fast and affordable regular visits can extend the useful life of your air conditioner or furnace. Regular inspections can also reveal minor problems before they become major (and expensive) system failures.

And for businesses, the “cost” of system failures—especially if they become a regular occurrence—can go well beyond the expense of repairs or replacement. For example, if your business loses its heating or cooling and has to suspend operations, that can jeopardize deadlines and harm relationships. You may not feel the resulting loss of business opportunities immediately, but the long-term impact can be significant.

It’s much better to stay on top of your HVAC maintenance, repair or replace equipment as needed and keep your employees and customers happy!

To learn more about our HVAC design, installation and maintenance services, please get in touch with Timberline Mechanical at your convenience.

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