No one said that replacing a central A/C system was a financial cakewalk. According to the latest figures from Angie's List, it could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 to replace your current HVAC system. So it's no wonder that you might have considered replacing only part of your A/C, especially if one half of it failed and the other is still very much operational.
However, replacing only half of your central A/C could be a mistake in the making. The following explains why a partial replacement could prove an expensive learning experience in more ways than one.
Two Halves of a Whole
The average split central A/C system comprises of two distinct portions:
- The indoor cabinet, which houses the evaporator and blower fan
- The outdoor cabinet, which houses the condenser, condenser fan and compressor
Throughout the air conditioning process, refrigerant is pumped back and forth between the indoor and outdoor cabinets. Simply put, refrigerant that goes through the indoor cabinet absorbs the latent heat found in indoor air, creating the nice, cool breezes that come through your vents. When it heads back to the outdoor cabinet, it contains heat that must be vented to the outdoors using the condenser fan.
Both halves are specifically designed to help one another accomplish this important task. Needless to say, the indoor and outdoor cabinets are part of a perfectly coordinated team. This is where the importance of having a perfectly matched central A/C unit shines through.
Say that the outdoor portion of your central A/C suddenly goes kaput, but the indoor portion still works flawlessly. Thanks to the cost of purchasing and installing a complete HVAC system, it is often tempting to simply replace the half that's broken and pocket the savings. Here are a few reasons why that should be treated as a "no-go":
- Operating a mismatched A/C system places the older half in greater danger of a catastrophic breakdown. In most cases, the newer half's mismatched operation loads place strain on the older equipment. This could lead to the older portion of your A/C system breaking down under the stress placed on it.
- Both indoor and outdoor cabinets must use the same refrigerant. For example, if your new outdoor cabinet uses a non-ozone depleting hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant, but your older indoor cabinet still uses R-22, you'll have to replace the older cabinet first. Mixing refrigerants is a quick recipe for expensive system failure.
- If the older half of your central A/C system has been in place for 10 years or more, then you're doing yourself a disservice by attaching a newer half onto it. Eventually, you'll have to replace the older half of your A/C, so it makes sense to perform a complete replacement with a matching system now rather than later.
Under a best case scenario, your central A/C system will continue to operate if it's mismatched. However, it's no longer guaranteed to operate in an energy-efficient manner. Energy efficiency ratings such as SEER (Seasonal energy efficiency ratio) are based on the assumption that both units are perfectly matched to one another.
Consider Your Warranty
Using a mismatched HVAC system also has consequences when it comes to warranties. If you only replace your outdoor cabinet, then it's likely your indoor cabinet's warranty may expire well before your outdoor cabinet's warranty. In addition, many manufacturers only extend warranties to matching A/C equipment. This is one of the many reasons why most companies only sell central A/C equipment in matching pairs.
Unless your new unit happens to be the same exact model as the outgoing one, it won't be properly matched to the remaining unit. Having matching indoor and outdoor equipment ensures optimal cooling comfort and energy efficiency for your home. For more information on installing a new air conditioning unit, you can contact an HVAC company online at http://www.christianhvac.com.