When is it necessary to replace an A/C system? It really depends on the age of the A/C and its current condition.

When is it necessary to replace an A/C system? It really depends on the age of the A/C and its current condition. The time when it is best to replace an air conditioner depends on how many years have passed since the original installation date and whether it would cost less to repair or replace the A/C system. To determine when it would be best to replace your central air system, consider the options in the scenarios covered in this article.

The A/C Was Installed More Than 10–15 Years Ago

Air conditioners are not built to last forever. In fact, an A/C will last the same amount of time as the average residential occupancy — roughly 10-15 years Beyond that point, an A/C system is liable to show an increased number of problem symptoms that can lead to costly repairs. As these problems become more frequent, the more economical choice might simply be to replace the central air system.

One of the biggest red flags of a faltering A/C system is when it requires some major set of repairs merely one year after you last had the unit serviced. If you sank several hundred dollars into your central air system last summer and now it is already failing, chances are this will be an ongoing pattern at the start of every warm season.

Regarding the age of the A/C, the decision on whether to repair or replace the system should be considered as follows:

  • Repair: If the air conditioner is less than 10 years old, it is generally best to have the system serviced when the system shows signs of inefficiency or dysfunction.
  • Replace: If the system is more than a decade old, the A/C is likely living on borrowed time. Even when you have it fixed, it will probably display more issues just a few years down the line. If the A/C is more than 15 years old, it would probably be better to replace the unit entirely.

Basically, if an A/C hasn’t reached its full life expectancy, do what it takes to keep the unit in good working condition. If the A/C has exceeded its life expectancy, it’s probably time to get it replaced.

The 5,000 Rule

When it comes to comparing the respective costs of A/C repairs versus a new air system, apply the 5,000 Rule, which works as follows:

  • Take the total cost of repairs and multiply that number by the age of your current system.
  • If the total exceeds the average cost of a new system ($5,000), a replacement would be your best option.
  • If the total falls under that amount, have the system repaired instead.

When refrigerant must be replaced, the issue is usually symptomatic of a coolant leak, which is a serious problem for any A/C unit. On older air conditioners, R-22 — alternately known as Freon — is the refrigerant used to condition air at desired temperatures of coolness. The trouble is, R-22 is being phased out by manufacturers due to its emission levels and is, therefore, more costly to replace in ailing units.


When you multiply those figures several times and add the cost of leak repairs, the price for new R-22 refrigerant could spiral into the $550–$1,000 ballpark. Currently, the high cost of R-22 replacement is due to its reduced production, which will stop entirely in 2020. Consider the following options accordingly:

  • Repair: If the A/C system was installed in the late 2000s and uses R-22 — manufacturers stopped producing Freon-based systems in 2010 — and the cost of repairs falls under the $5,000 threshold, you might be able to get another half-dozen-years worth of performance from the A/C with new refrigerant.
  • Replace: If the A/C is already on borrowed time, your best option is to replace the system. R-22 could be a pricey investment for an old system that is liable to have numerous other issues in the upcoming years.

To reduce carbon emissions and render A/C systems more efficient, newer A/C systems use R-410A — a longer-lasting and environmentally-friendlier alternative to R-22.

Green Apple Plumbing & Mechanical NJ are the experts you can trust. We have been serving the New Jersey area for years with professionalism and expertise. Customer service and care are always our number one priorities. If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of your HVAC or plumbing needs call us today toll-free at 888-611-7191

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