Should you Repair or Replace your HVAC units?
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
HVAC unit replacement
In life you will be faced with many important questions: Will you marry me? What shall we name him? Where shall we retire to? Where should we celebrate our anniversary? Do you want fries with that? These are crucial questions that cause people to feel very stressed due to many possibilities and unknowns that surround them. When it comes to retail facilities management one of the most common and trickiest questions is that of whether to repair or replace your HVAC units. In this blog, we look at some factors that you will need to consider when making this extremely difficult decision.
Cost of repairs
When the fridge goes warm or the washing machine stops spinning, you may face a crucial question: Is it worth spending time and money getting the appliance repaired, or would it be wiser to replace it? This is an extremely tough question, and one where the answer is really based on the unique situation. You might even have to consider the question of attempting to repair it yourself or paying for an expert to take care of it. Unfortunately, there are some issues that cannot be solved by watching a 3 minute YouTube video!
Trusted service provider
In most cases, calling a repair technician out can lead to an answer fairly quickly and could save you big, depending on how old your appliance is. However, depending on what services the company provides, they could also try to get you to buy a new appliance even though it may not be needed. For this reason it is crucial that you find a trustworthy company that has your best interests at heart.
Time vs. money
Chuck Matthews, lead appliance technician for Lanny Adams Appliance Service in Atlanta, says the cost of repairing is usually about 20 to 30 percent of the cost of replacing. “A repair person can come over to the house and fix the problem at a good cost,” Matthews says. “It will also save you the time of having to shop and compare prices [for a new appliance]."
Expected lifetime of units
Tim Shyver, Director of Client Solutions at Royal Services shared with us that "on average, most commercial units can expect to last at least 10 years with minimal maintenance. However, the major components of a unit typically have limited, material warranties". Quick research online provides the following as a guideline for warranty lengths:
- Heat Exchangers – 10 Years - Compressors – 5 Years - All Other Parts – 1 Year
Shyver continues, "As one can expect, the manufacturers know the life cycle of their products very well. Hence, the limited warranty terms that they provided. They provide a good insight to the lifespan of HVAC products. If properly maintained with periodic, scheduled maintenance & filter changes, we have found that on average most commercial units will last at least 15 years". Through strict scheduled maintenance programs, some of Royal's clients have seen their equipment last 17 - 18 years (an additional 5 years of operations), and this has been accompanied by a 58% reduction in service calls.
Even though these numbers are impressive, there are several external factors that need to be considered when looking at the longevity of your assets. Several factors can impact and shorten the life expectancy:
Location - Coastal locations take a great toll on exposed metals. The salt air and humidity have extreme corrosive impact on unit coils and parts. On average, a well maintained, air conditioning unit will last just 10 years in these conditions. Justin Bishop (Royal Services, HVAC Team Lead Project Manager) "We’re replacing 2 in Stuart, Fl that are 11-13 years old but look a lot older due to the sea air, so there’s a lot of factors to consider".
Ambient Humidity & Temps
Areas with high humidity and a large band of ambient temperatures make HVAC systems work harder. A good example is the KC Metro area, where Royal Services is based. We can go from high humidity days of 100+ degrees to very dry, sub-zero temps in a span of weeks. Believe it or not, units installed in desert areas with high temps & low humidity (Las Vegas & Phoenix for example), typically hold up well. The work load is steady & consistent with the system not experiencing a lot of starts and stops.
Over sized units have shorter run cycles i.e. more starts & stops. This typically leads to more component wear and failure. For this reason it is very important to install a properly sized unit for the space in question. This is a huge component that is taken into consideration by engineering companies such as Henderson Engineers when designing new HVAC systems.
Quality of Installation
Obviously a poorly installed unit will not run properly or last long. This includes the design and installation of the system duct work. Improperly ducted units can be starved for air, and work harder than normal resulting in shorter life spans or greater component failure. Working with a professional retail facility maintenance company is crucial if you are going to get the best value out of your assets. A service history, similar to CarFax, can be created in Royal's proprietary CMMS RAZOR, so that you can track spend over time throughout your portfolio.
Type of System
Multi-stage units typically last longer than single stage units. For example, a 10 ton RTU with two (2) compressors (2 – 5 ton compressors) & two stages of cooling will typically last longer than a single stage unit with only one (1), compressor.
As with everything in life there is a large variety of units that are available depending on which manufacturer you are buying from. Recent changes in manufacturing, the economy and outsourcing of jobs, and environmental requirements have meant more efficient units, but ones that sometimes not as resilient as they once were. More information about this can be found on the manufacturer's website by conducting a simple search.
It's your choice
Each person has their own way of deciding whether they should repair or replace. If your unit is 8 years old and the repairs are going to cost you less than $1000, keeping the current unit is a good option. However, if it is going to cost more than $1000 to do the repairs, buying a new unit makes the most sense economically.
Ultimately you are going to have to come up with a system that works for you and your business and stand by it. Be sure that you still have some flexibility and take the factors mentioned above into consideration.
If there is anything that we can do to help you through this process please do not hesitate to contact us at info@RoyalSolves.com or 1-800-728-1155.
We would be more than happy to provide a courtesy consultation regarding the maintenance and management of your assets. Share your biggest facility concerns with us, and we will connect you with trade experts who will be have to evaluate your current way of operating. Good luck!