Should you replace the evaporator coil in your central or just spring for a new HVAC unit? This article will help you make a smart decision:
So you heard, “The evaporator coil is shot,” from our expert air conditioner repair technician. Your heart sinks in your chest because you know it’s a costly part. Now, you have to make an important decision. Is it better to replace the evaporator coil or the whole unit?
Do you have to make a quick decision right now? Focus on three main factors:
Age. If your air conditioner is older than ten years, it’s usually smart to just replace it. That way you get a brand-new AC with modern advantages, a fresh warranty, and awesome performance.
Price. It costs three or four times more to replace the whole AC system compared to just the evaporator coil. If you have a tight budget, a replacement can be an attractive option.
Performance. If you originally chose a high-quality air conditioner that has performed great, maybe you can get several more years out of it. On the other hand, if the system has had lots of problems, it may be time to invest in a better brand.
Need more info? We explain everything in greater detail, including numbers and estimates, down below.
The evaporator coil is part of the indoor HVAC unit. It looks similar to a car’s radiator, with metal fins and copper tubes. The purpose of the evaporator coil is to extract heat from inside the home.
Cold refrigerant liquid flows into the evaporator coil from the outside condenser unit. Meanwhile, a fan draws in warm air from intake vents in different rooms. When hot air comes into contact with the aluminum fins and the supercooled liquid in the coil, it gets colder automatically.
This part helps your family enjoy cool temperatures inside the house. Without the evaporator coil, the system simply can’t function.
Exactly how much does AC coil replacement cost? That depends on your HVAC system’s brand, size, and output. The average cost in Arizona is around $1,000, including labor and parts. Some complex repairs cost $2,000–$2,700.
In comparison, replacing a complete HVAC system costs about $5,000–$10,000. This includes labor and the price of the new unit, but not ducts. If you decide to install an energy-efficient ductless mini-split, you may spend anywhere from $2,000–$14,000, depending on the number of units you install around the house.
The price difference should play a part in your decision, but it’s not the only factor you need to think about. When it comes to deciding on the evaporator coil or whole unit, it’s important to consider the big picture:
Modern air conditioners are a lot more energy efficient than past models. Older air conditioners topped out at around 8–9 SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio). That means they consume significantly more electricity. The cooling output is the same; your electricity bill is just higher at the end of the month.
These days, you can get something with 18–27 SEER or even more. Upgrading to a 20 SEER unit can save you around 35% on your energy bill for heating/cooling. If you normally spend $1,500 a year, you would save over $500 on electricity this way! In 10 years, that’s $5,000.
Plus, going energy-efficient may help you qualify for tax rebates and other incentives in Phoenix, AZ. These benefits are a good reason to think about upgrading if you have a less efficient system.
Most air conditioners last 10–15 years. The closer your HVAC system is to the end of that range, the more sense it makes to put your money towards a new unit. Is it worth investing $1,000 or more in an HVAC that may only last a few years more?
Don’t get us wrong, the evaporator coil itself and our replacement services are top-notch. They would last another 10–12 years without wearing out. The problem is that using money for replacement is like buying a state-of-the-art sound system for an old box TV.
Generally speaking, AC coil replacement is only a good idea if the SEER rating of the new coil is similar to the old one. That way, the system can adapt to the new SEER rating without issues.
Some air conditioner brands simply build great air conditioners. When something is constructed with great materials and careful work, it tends to last longer. So, even if your warranty period is over, you don’t necessarily have to be in a hurry to get a replacement. An important factor is how often the unit has broken down or needed repairs in the past.
If you’ve already had to replace several larger parts, that may be a sign that the entire unit is reaching the end of its life. Over time, being exposed to the elements, dealing with the weather in The Valley, and cycling refrigerant countless times takes a toll on even the best air conditioners.
This probably isn’t a question you can answer yourself. Our technicians can let you know, though, or you can check in the owner’s manual. The reason refrigerant type matters is that the evaporator coil has to be compatible with it.
Older HVAC systems used a type of refrigerant called R-22, but this product isn’t around anymore because it damages the environment. Trying to find a supplier that still has R-22 and purchase it generally costs more than just getting a new air conditioner.
Easily the most costly and important part of the HVAC system is the condenser. If the evaporator coil leaks too much refrigerant, it can freeze over. In some systems, this makes the condenser run constantly, potentially leading to overheating and permanent damage. This probably isn’t a problem if you noticed the issue right away, but an HVAC that was running for days on end without refrigerant may have serious damage.
Taking care of your system’s evaporator coil can extend its life significantly. Here are four tips to remember:
During preventative HVAC maintenance, we check the evaporator coil for leaks and make sure your system has plenty of refrigerant. We lubricate moving parts and keep everything in optimal condition. Investing in HVAC maintenance is always the right decision.
Contact our team right away in Phoenix, AZ, if you need more information about AC coil replacement or HVAC installation.
Featured Image: David Spates/Shutterstock
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