HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

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BobStrauss
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HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by BobStrauss »

I've got a small home (1250 sq ft) in San Antonio, built about 24 years ago. DHVAC (dear HVAC, I know how to relate on this forum), a 12 SEER 2.5 ton fossil that keeps getting pounded summer after summer. Cranks cold air, though! A few years a capacitor went out, but no biggie, a cheap fix. Now it seems that the fan motor has a bad bearing, so I'm looking at $250 to get that sorted later today.

My wonder is: how long can/should I keep putting a band aid on this old thing? My parents believe I should replace it soon so it doesn't take a dump on us mid-summer, which makes some sense. I've got a wife and two young kids who would certainly find that disruptive. But I also hear stories on these things trucking along 30+ years.

What sayeth ye Bogleheads?
a) Band aid and continue until it gives out.
b) Replace the AC compressor only - we don't often run the furnace, and when we really do there's no power cause the grid's out anyway.
c) It's high time to replace it all.

TIA for your words of wisdom.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by bloom2708 »

I would go with a) on this one.

You aren't heating and cooling a 5,000 sq ft monster. A new system won't really add much in a 1,250 sq ft smaller home.

With a small place, I'd just fix things until someone says it is no longer fixable.
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Dave55
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Dave55 »

Having lived in Houston, I would not want to be without AC in a Texas summer for more than a day. I would replace the AC.

Dave
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jumppilot
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by jumppilot »

Replace it.

Things fail when you use them, and for you that would be 1am on a muggy July morning.
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Doom&Gloom
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Doom&Gloom »

Dave55 wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 9:32 am Having lived in Houston, I would not want to be without AC in a Texas summer for more than a day. I would replace the AC.

Dave
Yup.

OP's parents sound as if they are speaking from experience.
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Doom&Gloom
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Doom&Gloom »

jumppilot wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 9:39 am Replace it.

Things fail when you use them, and for you that would be 1am on a muggy July morning.
And also when repair guys are up to their elbows in work.
acegolfer
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by acegolfer »

If you understand HVAC, then a). If you are clueless and need someone to diagnose the problem, then replace.

My home is the only house in our subdivision of 100+ homes that still has the original '02 outdoor compressor unit. We replaced capacitor twice and fan once. I know how to troubleshoot common HVAC issues.
Last edited by acegolfer on Mon May 03, 2021 9:46 am, edited 3 times in total.
Monsterflockster
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Monsterflockster »

BobStrauss wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 9:23 am
What sayeth ye Bogleheads?
a) Band aid and continue until it gives out.
b) Replace the AC compressor only - we don't often run the furnace, and when we really do there's no power cause the grid's out anyway.
c) It's high time to replace it all.

TIA for your words of wisdom.
You live in San Antonio. It will go out during the biggest heat wave of the year and techs will be swamped til the end of the summer. Act now. Not tomorrow... now.
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RickBoglehead
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by RickBoglehead »

Does it crank the right temperature cold air? Have you measured it with a thermometer?

Are you doing the work? A failed capacitor is $20 self-installed. A fan motor as you noted isn't too high. The compressor or a failed line, will be the death of it.

If you keep it clean (vents), and make sure you're not about to have your internal coils fail, I would choose A.
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tyrion
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by tyrion »

I would pick A if I had an adequate backup solution (window or portable AC unit, or nearby family with space to take everyone in for a few days) and C if I didn't.
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galawdawg
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by galawdawg »

I recommend you keep the existing system.

The two needed repairs you've described, a capacitor and a fan motor bearing, are to be expected for a system of some age. Just like owning a car. But, unlike a car, your existing system has zero resale value. And what you've had to do is the equivalent of installing a new battery and a new water pump. It sounds as though you have a well-installed trouble-free system (a quality installation will prevent many HVAC issues).

If your system is not experiencing any freon leaks or other costly issues, I'd say keep it. Your current system is 12 SEER. If you install a new 16 SEER system (probably at least $7,500-$10,000), you'll save about $165 per year (assuming 11.11 cents/KWh and 2372 cooling hours annually, which are averages in San Antonio according to seerenergysavings.com). Even going to an 18 SEER will only save you about $220 per year.

And there is no guarantee that a new system won't go out during a very busy time for HVAC contractors. Just because the system is new and may have a warranty (usually 10 yr parts/1 yr labor except on York and Amana, which often have 10 yr parts and labor) doesn't mean a contractor will get to you any quicker than he would anyone else.

So I vote for option A. :beer
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

I'm not sure I would want to be in a very hot home with a wife and two small children.

YOU will take the fall for this if it fails!

Unless it is truly a financial burden, I would replace.

I would be ecstatic to get 24 years out of our heat pumps. I thought I was walking on the wild side when one of my heat pumps was 17 years old when replaced earlier this year. We have two heat pumps, so a catastrophic failure of one wouldn't have been totally unbearable, but certainly uncomfortable.

If you really want to milk it longer, get a portable air conditioner so at least you could keep a room or two cool for your wife and children. I kinda doubt they would be inclined to share the cool space with you. :D

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Watty
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Watty »

One thing to consider is how long you are likely to stay in that house. If you are unlikely to live in that house another 20+ years then it may be better to replace it sooner than later since you will get the use of it not be around when it needs to be replaced again sometime around 2040 or 2050.

For example if you delay replacing it for five years then move in 10 years you will have only gotten five years use out of the new AC. A new AC will likely be a lot more energy efficient so you will have lost five years of energy savings.

If you are likely to move in three years before the AC is replaced then the selling price will likely need to be reduced by the cost of a new AC because of the age of this AC.

The math is a bit different if this is likely your "forever home" that you will live in for the next 50 years. By stretching out how long an AC lasts you may be able to reduce the number of ACs you need to buy before you die.

I would go on and get several bids to find out how much it will cost to replace and then decide.

Now is a good time to get bids since it may be between the heating and cooling season there so HVAC companies may not be too busy yet. In August you may have a hard time even getting people to come out to give you a bid, and you will get their "August in Texas" price and they may not be able to schedule the installation for a week.

This may not be as dire as it sounds though since with a small house you may be able to buy a window unit AC to keep the house bearable until it can be installed. After the new AC is installed you can sell the window unit on craigslist.

There are lots of opinions on this but I also live in a hot area and proactively replace mine when they are about 20 years old. I have replaced two systems in September(in different houses) which is a slow time of year for HVAC companies here. When I replaced the last on when I call around for bids most of the companies came out the next day and when I selected a company they wanted to install it the next day since they had a crew with no work scheduled. The crew that installed it seemed to do a very good job and took the entire day since they did not have any other work scheduled for later in the day.

If you have a natural gas furnace I would go on and get bids to replace the furnace too since you can save some labor and it may work better as and all new system. 24 years is not bad for what is likely a builder grade natural gas furnace and if you sell the house the age of the furnace will be an issue.
Last edited by Watty on Mon May 03, 2021 10:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
solarcub
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by solarcub »

If it's that old, a new one would be more efficient. There's probably a calculator out there that would help you estimate before and after electric bills. A new one might cost less than you think.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Big Dog »

I'd start interviewing HVAC contractors and obtaining bids -- require a Manual J -- and then replace all.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by HomeStretch »

Consider fixing the existing problem but proactively getting quotes so you have a contractor and configuration identified beforehand if the current system fails.

I’m not in TX, but in my area last summer HVAC equipment availability was limited and prices were higher due to that. This year HVAC companies are also backlogged due to lots of new builds/home renovation.
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gr7070
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by gr7070 »

Band-aid!

Frankly I think band-aid is a mischaracterization. You're fixing a small, broken part appropriately. There's nothing to suggest you're stringing along faulty equipment with a barely adequate repair.

Highly risk averse Bogleheads don't even want to risk sweating for a day or two.

I recently replaced a 35+ year old system in a rental property in Texas.

There is zero reason to replace an otherwise perfectly functioning system that simply needs a small repair.

If for some crazy reason it fails at the peak of summer you can handle a day or few to repair or replace. There's always a $75 hotel if you really can't handle it.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by snackdog »

If it is a decent system it may last another 10-15 years. Replacing failed parts is no big deal. Replacing the whole thing will cost a fortune and could leave you with a really cheaply made replacement. Keep it for sure.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by jpelder »

I definitely wouldn't replace the compressor only on such an old system. If the compressor goes, it'll be time for a whole new one, especially since it likely uses the old type of refrigerant that is no longer allowed in new systems (which means that a new compressor wouldn't even be compatible with the old interior component). Your HVAC contractor should be able to tell you if the compressor is running well or not. If it's running well, you can probably leave it alone and just do the fan motor.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by alfaspider »

With a small house such as yours, you could get away with a window unit or two as a backup if you are worried about failure.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Dottie57 »

Dave55 wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 9:32 am Having lived in Houston, I would not want to be without AC in a Texas summer for more than a day. I would replace the AC.

Dave
+1
badger42
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by badger42 »

Old single stage HVAC systems are really simple and generally reliable. They are also generally incompatible with newer refrigerants which means you would have to do a complete replacement when the time comes - there are no half measures here.

I'd replace the fan motor and just keep going. Capacitors and fan motors are routine wear parts. It's sort of like how your car needing an alternator or fan motor or wheel bearing or similar does not mean it's time to replace the car.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by illumination »

I wouldn't do option "B", it's just not ever really done where you preemptively replace a compressor unless you have some sign its going out, and usually the better plan is to just replace everything.

Since you just got it repaired, I'd wait until after the busy season (and right now there seems to be shortages of everything) and then get some quotes.
If it's holding its charge and everything is working correctly, you've got some breathing room. I actually agree with the analogy that people should look at it more like a car, you wouldn't take a car to the junkyard if say it needed a new alternator. Capacitors and fan motors will fail on newer units also.

I just remember preemptively replacing an older heat pump to avoid it breaking down on me, and the very first summer, it broke down on me. I had to stay somewhere else for a week. You're not really a priority for a warranty repair. The older units were usually way more rugged than newer ones.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by scottgekko »

Having lived in Dallas for 5 years, if the unit is going to fail, it will fail in the middle of the summer. That's also the time when HVAC companies are the busiest. So it may not be uncommon to go 3 days with A/C due to scheduling, parts ordering, etc. There is no way in hell (literally and figuratively) I'd want to go 3+ days in the Texas heat.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by fatcharlie »

When you do decide to replace it, you sound like you're in a perfect position to get a heat pump rather than an air conditioner and just let your furnace die when it dies.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Meg77 »

A! I live in Dallas and have lots of rental units, and I've never replaced an HVAC until it goes out. I've also never had any issue having a system replaced within a day (in fact it's always been same day) even in the middle of the summer when they do ultimately fail.

Besides, you have no indication that it's on it's last legs - you've replaced the parts that have needed replacing after all. I have a 20 year old water heater in one rental they've been advising me to replace every year when I have it cleaned for 4 years now. Zero leaks or issues though the whole time I've owned the home (since 2012). I once had a slow HVAC leak in my own condo that was unrepairable, but I managed to delay replacement for 18 months by getting new freon put in every 6 months (it kept lasting a lot longer than they thought it might). I was younger and more frugal then so willing to roll the dice.

I'm just saying, don't let fear force you into a costly expense. This happens with cars a lot. Suddenly some minor repair is needed, or the miles simply tick over 6 figures and - for safety! - they "had no choice" but to borrow $30K for a new car.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by tibbitts »

I had a similar-age unit smaller 2t unit and am very glad I replaced it before it failed. I got 6 quotes and they varied by 2x, which was similar to my experience in my other residence (3t, again varied by 2x for similar-rated equipment.) And my experience has been that replacement, even in the off-season, takes several weeks from start (getting quotes) to finish. But like with so many things on Bogleheads, you will find equally valid experiences that range all over the place. You can't assume anyone else's experiences will apply to you, no matter how insistent someone is that they should.

Some people are willing to pay for and store window units for backup, and if you have that, then reliability is not as much of an issue. But at 100F+ you need significant window unit capacity.

My feeling is that if you're going to stay in the house, whether you replace the hvac after 18yrs or 24yrs or whatever really doesn't matter that much in average cost. Bogleheads greatly overvalue squeezing the last ounce of life out of products - you just have to accept that it's a hobby thing with them, not something that really matters to financial well-being.
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StevieG72
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by StevieG72 »

Keep it!

The parts you describe are inexpensive, routine maintenance items.

I just replaced a 35 year old air handler and a 20+ year 10 Seer compressor along with duct work. Mine had a freon leak that could not be traced down, also air handler also had 1/2 of the heat strips not working. In my case it was time!
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TexasPE
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by TexasPE »

tyrion wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 9:50 am I would pick A if I had an adequate backup solution (window or portable AC unit...
+1

Our single-story house (in SETX) is larger than yours, but the floor plan is "U" shaped and has two separate systems. A compressor went out in 2017 on the AC on our Master bedroom side - replacement was under warranty but it happened in late-August, just before Hurricane Harvey, so compressor delivery and installation took 10 weeks. I had a small (6000 BTU) 110 volt window unit I had earlier bought from my employer (provided to employees after Ike, sold with one month's usage for $50). It adequately cooled our master bedroom for the 10 weeks. My brother used the same window unit last year in Lake Charles for several weeks after their two Hurricanes - Laura and Delta.

Think about picking up a small window unit and have it on hand.- closing off rooms that aren't in use. Can also be used with a portable generator during a power outage.
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Exchme
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Exchme »

Lived in the Houston area for over 30 years. We've had air conditioners fail due to issues big and small during that time. Usually can get a repair person in 24 hours (sometimes the same afternoon/evening) and they can do everything including a full replacement within a day.

I hate to be hot, especially at night, so the couple times we couldn't get it fixed the same day, we went to a hotel, so no biggie. The problems you've had so far are minor and don't indicate anything about the compressor or evaporator, I wouldn't bother to replace until you start to get leaks, can't keep up with the summer heat or have a major failure. So I would choose a) - it ain't broke, don't fix it.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by carne_asada »

If it were me: I would keep it going until the compressor failed or it had an an expensive leak. You could always get a temporary window AC if it failed and you had to wait a week or two for replacement.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by sureshoe »

I personally would fix it. I think people run out to replace these things faster than they need to.

Like others said, you're in a small house. You can buy a window AC if you were in a horrible pinch. Or, you could do what lots of other people do - take a vacation and go stay at a hotel for 2-3 nights. Cheap hotel in most places can be had for under $130/night.

In general, if the repair of ANYTHING is less than 10-25% of the REPLACE cost, I would almost always repair. If you're doing $250 once every year or so, , I don't see why you'd drop $5k+ on a new system. If you have a single big $500-$1000 repair, maybe it's time to pull the trigger.

The flipside is if you "just don't want to mess with it" and have the money to throw at it. But I'm guessing you wouldn't be asking if that was the case.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by bertilak »

I was recently in a similar situation.

The things that sent me to option C (full replacement) were:
  • Needed new refrigerant but was not compatible with the new stuff so therefore that was an expensive proposition.
  • Old unit was not as efficient as new.
  • New unit was multi-stage.
What I learned after replacement:
New unit ...
  • is quieter
  • is better at dehumidifying.
  • keeps a more constant and even (throughout the house) temperature.
  • does not shake the house when it turns on. Actually, I sometimes need to put my hand near a vent to see if there is air coming out.
  • has a phone app that I can use to control it remotely. (fun but not critical)
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jco
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by jco »

We're replacing our A/C and furnace in Colorado. You might find the thread about it helpful: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=347237&newpost=5984559

We limped through the last 3 years on a dying A/C. It saved us some money. But the compressor went bad, so we pretty much needed to replace the A/C. And the furnace was old enough that the heat exchangers are starting to crack. So they would have instantly condemned our system. So we needed both.

If you really only have a bad A/C fan, I would definitely just fix it. It's a few hundred bucks.

However, I would also definitely start getting quotes on a new A/C or heat pump. Even if you're not going to replace the A/C now, by getting quotes now you can:
1. Figure out how much it will cost.
2. Figure out the size of A/C you will need. This might be more difficult than you think if my experience is common.
3. Figure out which contractor(s) you want to use based on price, service, etc.
4. Move quickly on a replacement if you do need one. Presumably, you can call the one or two contractors you like, get updated pricing, and schedule the install.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by frequentT »

I maintain the heck out of everything that I own so that they don't break down, on me and need to be replaced under duress.

However, to have HVAC fail in TX in summer would be a risk I would not take. Your furnace could also fail in winter exposing pipes to freezing.

You have realized full value from your unit. Don't take the risk just so you can brag about how long you got the unit to last. Shop smartly now as the above post recommends and enjoy the quiet and efficiency of a new unit.
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by MarkBarb »

As a retiree, I'd wait. If it goes out, we'll move to a hotel for a few days while it gets replaced. When I was a busy employee with children that had schooling demands, I'd be more inclined to avoid the disruption and pay the money to replace it. What's the cost to you and your family if it goes out at an inconvenient time?
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BobStrauss
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by BobStrauss »

Broken Man 1999 wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 10:02 am I'm not sure I would want to be in a very hot home with a wife and two small children.

YOU will take the fall for this if it fails!

Unless it is truly a financial burden, I would replace.

I would be ecstatic to get 24 years out of our heat pumps. I thought I was walking on the wild side when one of my heat pumps was 17 years old when replaced earlier this year. We have two heat pumps, so a catastrophic failure of one wouldn't have been totally unbearable, but certainly uncomfortable.

If you really want to milk it longer, get a portable air conditioner so at least you could keep a room or two cool for your wife and children. I kinda doubt they would be inclined to share the cool space with you. :D

Broken Man 1999
Hah, this post cracked me up. "Take the fall?" You and I have very different wives, here.

Thanks everyone for the ideas! I do believe that our new fan motor has fixed the situation for now. However, the unit is getting slightly lower on outdated/expensive R22 freon, and given the age of this thing I kinda feel like we're playing with house money at the moment.

A few other elements to add to the equation:

---- Local energy company would provide rebate of about $325 for SEER 16, but this would no longer be available once the unit's more than 25 years old (next couple years).

---- We'll likely be in this house another 8-10 years or so, and I'm guessing this gives us a 95% chance of seeing this HVAC to the grave. If the change will come regardless, maybe it makes sense to do it earlier and reap the energy savings and peace of mind?

---- Potential damage from extended AC outage in summer. Not sure how stuff like furniture, rugs, trim, or even indoor plants would do if subjected to high temps and humidity for several days. I've got a nice set of floorstanding speakers with wood bodies to them, for instance, that I wouldn't want to experiment with.
Reamus294
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Reamus294 »

This post has been helpful as I have a 24 year old unit and a small’ish house and feel like I’m playing with fire a bit, especially because we keep the house colder than most in the summer. The window units are a great idea especially since I’d like to pair one with my generator to have on hand.

I didn’t think of going through a couple of bids now while there is no stress about it and I won’t have as much sticker shock.
squirm
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by squirm »

Just replace the whole thing, it's old anyways. Enjoy a new unit, don't be penny wise but pound foolish.
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StevieG72
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by StevieG72 »

Reamus294 wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 10:20 pm This post has been helpful as I have a 24 year old unit and a small’ish house and feel like I’m playing with fire a bit, especially because we keep the house colder than most in the summer. The window units are a great idea especially since I’d like to pair one with my generator to have on hand.

I didn’t think of going through a couple of bids now while there is no stress about it and I won’t have as much sticker shock.
Good idea, get some quotes. To be honest I had sticker shock with the first bid, second bid came in almost exactly the same price but they seemed to be more knowledgeable and competent so I pulled the trigger.
Last edited by StevieG72 on Tue May 04, 2021 10:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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genefl
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by genefl »

Old appliances and ac’s were built to last. New ones seem to have obsolescence built in. 2 of 3 of my high end Trane AC’s have required new coils for leaks within 7 years. Out of warranty of course. Bottom line, I’d vote to repair if it’s simple and relatively inexpensive. It might still run longer than a new unit. However, if a new one makes sense from an efficiency standpoint, then I’d replace.
wootwoot
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by wootwoot »

Bandaid it till it dies. If the AC goes out on the hottest day of the year then get a hotel room for you and the family. All in all you'll do better financially to find a good repair man and keep the AC as long as possible. We have 2 30 year old Trane units and they just keep running. We considered replacing them when we moved in years ago and are happy we didn't. We pay a few hundred extra a year in electricity but it beats spending thousands of dollars on newer equipment that won't last as long.
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galawdawg
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by galawdawg »

BobStrauss wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 7:52 pm
Broken Man 1999 wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 10:02 am I'm not sure I would want to be in a very hot home with a wife and two small children.

YOU will take the fall for this if it fails!

Unless it is truly a financial burden, I would replace.

I would be ecstatic to get 24 years out of our heat pumps. I thought I was walking on the wild side when one of my heat pumps was 17 years old when replaced earlier this year. We have two heat pumps, so a catastrophic failure of one wouldn't have been totally unbearable, but certainly uncomfortable.

If you really want to milk it longer, get a portable air conditioner so at least you could keep a room or two cool for your wife and children. I kinda doubt they would be inclined to share the cool space with you. :D

Broken Man 1999
Hah, this post cracked me up. "Take the fall?" You and I have very different wives, here.

Thanks everyone for the ideas! I do believe that our new fan motor has fixed the situation for now. However, the unit is getting slightly lower on outdated/expensive R22 freon, and given the age of this thing I kinda feel like we're playing with house money at the moment.

A few other elements to add to the equation:

---- Local energy company would provide rebate of about $325 for SEER 16, but this would no longer be available once the unit's more than 25 years old (next couple years).

---- We'll likely be in this house another 8-10 years or so, and I'm guessing this gives us a 95% chance of seeing this HVAC to the grave. If the change will come regardless, maybe it makes sense to do it earlier and reap the energy savings and peace of mind?

---- Potential damage from extended AC outage in summer. Not sure how stuff like furniture, rugs, trim, or even indoor plants would do if subjected to high temps and humidity for several days. I've got a nice set of floorstanding speakers with wood bodies to them, for instance, that I wouldn't want to experiment with.
I just replaced a fourteen (14) year old heat pump yesterday, the old system (a Ruud) had nothing but problems from the our purchase of this house in 2011 and the nail in the coffin was a refrigerant leak at the reversing valve. Since the reversing valve has a plastic component inside, the leak could not be repaired without a very expensive part replacement and refilling the entire unit with R-22. Probably a $2,500 repair.

I did extensive research into different units and what SEER to go with. As I mentioned above, if you go to a 16 SEER unit, you will likely only save about $165 per year (assuming 11.11 cents/KWh and 2372 cooling hours annually, which are averages in San Antonio according to seerenergysavings.com). You can go to https://www.seerenergysavings.com/ to see what you'll save with different efficiencies. The quotes I received for a 16 SEER 2.5 ton system ranged from $7,400 to about $10,000 (in Georgia). The system I went with was a York 15 SEER system (actually rated at 15.75 SEER by AHRI) which included a ten year parts and labor warranty. That was about $6,000. So I wouldn't count on "reaping energy savings" as the payback period for a new 16 SEER system is likely to be measured in decades.

It sounds as though your HVAC unit has been absolutely trouble-free. The two repairs you have done are essentially maintenance/wear and tear items. If that is the case, you may sacrifice a high-quality system and installation for one that is not built or installed as well. And don't forget, just having a new system installed does NOT guarantee that you will not have a major failure or repair in six months or within a couple of years. If "peace of mind" is important, you may want to look at a York system from a Certified Comfort Expert, which includes a ten year parts and labor warranty which is transferrable if you sell the home.

However, if you have issues with your compressor or a significant refrigerant leak, that is an indication that a new system may be in order. You mention that the unit is "getting slightly lower on outdated/expensive R22 freon." What makes you say that? Did the service tech hook up his gauges and measure? If so, did the tech check for a leak? Was the refrigerant refilled to specifications? It seems very odd to me that an HVAC company would come out and replace a fan motor without an overall check of the system and correcting any other issues.

As far as damage to carpet, furniture, furnishings and "nice" speakers from lack of AC if/when it goes out, there shouldn't be any. Just keep your plants watered.

Good luck in your decision...
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Watty
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by Watty »

BobStrauss wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 7:52 pm ---- We'll likely be in this house another 8-10 years or so, and I'm guessing this gives us a 95% chance of seeing this HVAC to the grave. If the change will come regardless, maybe it makes sense to do it earlier and reap the energy savings and peace of mind?
That is how I would look at it. If the AC does last until you sell the house having a 30+ year old AC and furnace will be a real negative point for any buyer.

Since it is working now you might ask some of the HVAC people what the slowest time of year is for them in your area and get bids then.

I am in Georgia where humidity is a problem. Newer AC systems will have multiple or variable speed settings so that they can run at a low setting and run longer so that they will be able to take a lot more humidity out of the air. I forget all the details but I replaced a basic one speed AC with a mid-range AC that can run at a low setting and it makes a huge difference in the comfort level in the house. Sometimes I will turn it on just to lower the humidity even when the house is not that hot. The new thermostat that came with it even measures the humidity and will use that to calculate what mode to run in.

The new AC is also a lot quieter.
investingdad
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by investingdad »

We just found out our 11 year old AC has a coil leak. I noticed after running it for the first time this season there was frost building on the outside unit, a clear indicator of a problem. I just got on a service plan end of last year when our furnace had a bad vacuum switch.

Same company that did the install when we built our home.

They found the leak and topped the refrigerant... down to half. Cost to replace the coil is $1750.

I have them out this morning to give me quotes on some replacement options. I’m going to look at replace in kind and a step up to a two stage compressor. If it’s more than 3x the repair, I’ll repair it this time...
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gr7070
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by gr7070 »

Watty wrote: Wed May 05, 2021 6:17 am
BobStrauss wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 7:52 pm ---- We'll likely be in this house another 8-10 years or so, and I'm guessing this gives us a 95% chance of seeing this HVAC to the grave. If the change will come regardless, maybe it makes sense to do it earlier and reap the energy savings and peace of mind?
That is how I would look at it. If the AC does last until you sell the house having a 30+ year old AC and furnace will be a real negative point for any buyer.
I would have thought similarly on my recently replaced AC unit in a rental in Texas. Bought the house with a 15+ year system. 22 years later I finally had to replace.

As for negatives regarding a sale, any negative can be mitigated at time of sale, if needed. In some markets, like now, there is no need.
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TexasPE
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by TexasPE »

genefl wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 10:42 pm Old appliances and ac’s were built to last. New ones seem to have obsolescence built in. 2 of 3 of my high end Trane AC’s have required new coils for leaks within 7 years. Out of warranty of course. Bottom line, I’d vote to repair if it’s simple and relatively inexpensive. It might still run longer than a new unit. However, if a new one makes sense from an efficiency standpoint, then I’d replace.
+1
My dual Coleman (~13 years old) central HVAC system has required two evaporator coil replacements per system, (design issue), one compressor and one fan motor - fortunately all replaced under the 10 year P&L warranty.
At 20: I cared what everyone thought about me | At 40: I didn't give a damn what anyone thought of me | Now that I'm 60: I realize that no one was really thinking about me at all | Winston Churchill (?)
keithintx
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by keithintx »

BobStrauss -

From my username I am just east on I-10. I just had my 2.5 ton unit changed out a month ago. Went with a 15.5 Seer Rudd unit that was right at $6100 installed by a very reputable contractor. It is my upstairs unit so I did not decide to go higher in Seer value. I would suggest you would want a sligtly higher rated number for the variable speed fan if it is your only unit. This would make sense from a comfort and electricity usage standpoint.

My suggestion - brave the summer, save your nickles and dimes and plan for an install in Jan/Feb when HVAC contractors are less busy. I think I saved about $350-$400 doing a planned replacement versus when it breaks.

I agree with the other Texas folks that I would not want to be without a HVAC in a Texas summer. I would expect there would be a serious conversation about getting a hotel until the unit was fixed. If it died in July/August I would expect a 5-6 day fix to get on the schedule. HVAC contractors are only going to get busier as it gets hotter.
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Bogle7
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How long can you last?

Post by Bogle7 »

Ask yourself this question: If it dies on a very hot day in the Summer, how many days can I go without?
3 weeks because HVAC companies are backed up?
5 weeks because "supply shortage"?
Old fart who does three index funds, baby.
UTgrad
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Re: HVAC in Texas: how long to use band-aids?

Post by UTgrad »

I had this very decision here in San antonio recently and decided to replace it. I was quoted $4,000 for a 4 ton goodman out the door, but I went with a trane for a little more since that's what my last one was and it was from 1999. I'd say just replace it, if you have kids and a wife you don't want them being in the heat for who knows how long here in San Antonio. If you want PM me and i'll send you the info of the guy that charges that. It'll be probably around $3,000 out the door for you since it's a 2.5 ton. And yes he's licensed and insured, you can verify that before hiring. I've just installed mine so cannot attest to the longevity, but so far no issues.
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