Is it Time to Say Goodbye? When to Replace Your AC, Furnace or Heat Pump

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Homes in Rockville and the Greater D.C. area aren't necessarily uninhabitable without a functioning air conditioner in the spring and summer – but they are pretty close. Effective cooling and humidity control is vital in the summer, and reliable and consistent heating is a necessity during the coldest months of the year.

Not every air conditioner, furnace or heat pump replacement is motivated by a complete system breakdown, but many (maybe the majority) are a direct result of HVAC failure. In many cases, homeowners are faced with two options: pay for an expensive repair or shell out money for the more expensive replacement option.

There's not always a clear right answer to the question, "Should I replace or repair my HVAC system?" In some scenarios, it makes more sense to repair a broken component. However, if certain conditions are met, replacement is clearly the better option.

Thankfully, there are straightforward variables you can take into account to inform your decision making. These considerations are not overly complicated, and they don't require an in-depth understanding of HVAC technology to judge.


If your unit has seen more than a decade of service, it might be time for a replacement.

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy raised the minimum SEER rating for air conditioners from 10 to 13, a 30 percent increase in minimum efficiency. The standards were updated again in 2015 and most recently in 2023.

The EPA has switched over to "SEER2" rating measurements. More specifically, packaged air conditioners and heat pumps in the southeast region (where we're located) is 13.4 SEER2. Split ACs and heat pumps need to be at least 14.3 SEER2.

There are still homes in Rockville and the greater DMV area that have systems from the early aughts. Not only are those systems more likely to experience a high frequency of breakdowns, but their already substandard efficiency is getting worse with each year of continuous operation. HVAC systems also experience performance decline after a decade or more, especially if they have not been regularly maintained. This means they're costing you more to operate while providing less consistent and effective heating or cooling performance.


Have you noticed a consistent upward trend in your energy bills, even though you haven't been changing the temperature settings on your thermostat? Your air conditioner or furnace might be losing its efficiency. As systems age, they have to work harder to maintain the same temperature, causing higher energy consumption.

While there are specific scenarios in which replacing a broken or aging component might temporarily improve efficiency, there's no way to truly improve the efficiency of an old air conditioner or furnace. The monthly savings of a more efficient unit will vary based on the inefficiency of your current system and the level of enhanced efficiency of the replacement system. Replacement often results in a significant reduction on monthly household energy or gas expenditures.

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If you've been on a first-name basis with your HVAC technician these past few months, it might be more cost-effective to replace the unit rather than continue paying for frequent and expensive repairs to fix an outdated and inefficient system.

There are some types of repairs that can be particularly expensive. Replacing a compressor or condenser coils can cost you up to $2,500, a cost equal to a pretty significant percentage of a total system replacement job. Other repairs might only run you a few hundred dollars.

Homeowners probably want to consider several factors when making their decision. If it's an expensive repair on a 15-year-old system, HVAC replacement might seem obvious. If it's a $400 repair on an eight-year-old system that's only halfway through its estimated operating life, the repair probably makes more sense.


Are you finding yourself sweating in one room and reaching for a sweater in another? It could mean your HVAC system is struggling to distribute air evenly throughout your home. There are sometimes additional factors, like issues with your ductwork, that might impact the distribution of heated or cooled air in your home. Consulting with an HVAC professional is likely the best way to diagnose the problem.


People who live in a home day in and day out are intimately familiar with the normal operating noises their air conditioner, heat pump or furnace makes. If you suspect it sounds different or strange, it probably does. Similarly, a sudden increase in dust accumulation may indicate an issue with your ductwork, like leaks that are hampering the effectiveness of your system.


If your air conditioner uses Freon (R-22), it's very likely in your best interest to replace it. R-22 has essentially already been phased out, with the Freon officially going out of production and no longer being imported as of 2020. Although it's not necessarily impossible to find, supplies are extremely low, making R-22 system recharges more expensive and harder.


When you're ready to replace your unit, it's important to choose the right HVAC contractor. The experienced, licensed HVAC contractors at Vito Services can ensure your new system is installed correctly, runs efficiently and lasts as long as possible.

If you live in Rockville or the greater Washington D.C. area, our team is ready to help you through this process. With experienced professionals and top-notch service, we'll make sure you get the right system for your needs.

Call us at 301-315-6100 for a free AC replacement or HVAC replacement consultation.

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