Should I Replace My AC’s Evaporator Coil or the Whole AC Unit?

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If your air conditioner has been on the fritz, calling in a professional Denver AC expert is a good call. They can take a look at your unit and let you know what repairs are required. But if they say you have something like your AC’s evaporator coil is damaged, does it make sense to have that replaced or repaired, or is it better to replace your entire AC unit? While replacing the coil will certainly cost less, is it really the best solution to keep your home comfortable in the heat of a Denver summer? Here’s how to decide.

Why is Replacement Necessary?

Evaporator coils will eventually fail due to erosion. Because the cooling refrigerant flows through the evaporator’s coils it begins to wear down the inner lining. This in turn weakens the coils. Once this happens, you can develop refrigerant leaks and replacing the coil is more cost-effective than just trying to repair the leak itself. In fact, if your AC unit uses R-22 refrigerant, it makes more sense to replace the entire unit than trying to repair the leak.

Your AC unit uses R-22

R-22 is an older refrigerant that is no longer produced. Why? Because it is harmful to the environment. Because of this once your evaporator coil leaks, it gets expensive to replace the coil as you then also have to recharge your unit with more R-22. When this happens there are very few HVAC experts in Denver that would bother to advise you to replace the coil instead of the entire AC unit.

Mismatching Your Condenser and Unit

The older your AC unit, the more chance there is replacement could lead to mismatches. By this, we mean the evaporator coil doesn’t quite meet the needs of your entire AC unit. This is not because your repair expert has made a mistake. Instead, it’s because your AC unit is older and the specific part required is either very hard to find, or just isn’t available. So why is this an issue? When your condenser and evaporator aren’t ideal, they can vary in age, SEER rating or refrigerant. This means it’s just a matter of time before you experience issues such as:

  • Increased cost for energy bills
  • Ongoing repairs
  • A decrease in AC performance

All of these things can cause your unit to fail completely and sooner than expected.

Two Coils

Your AC has two coils:

  1. The condenser coil is on the outside
  2. The evaporator coils in on the inside

Although they are separate components they are designed to work together. If you just replace the evaporator coil, you can run into problems. A good rule of thumb is if your AC unit is over 8 years old, you should replace the entire unit. Since they are generally expected to last from 10 to maybe 12 years on the outside, the 8-year mark is not an unreasonable time to replace the unit knowing replacing parts can simply cause more damage. You then are out of pocket for the coil replacement AND the cost of the new unit when it dies in a few years. Also, because the two coils work together, the older coil will not be long for this world, as it is struggling to keep up with the new coil replacement. So it will die, costing even more money.

SEER Ratings

AC units receive a “SEER” rating from 13 to 21 to rate efficiency. The higher the SEER, the better efficiency your AC unit offers. This includes the coil for your unit. Today, the minimum SEER rating allowed is 14 according to the federal government. However, older units tend to have ratings below 14, depending on the age. This becomes a problem if your coil fails because coils suitable for a SEER rating of 12 or lower are obsolete — meaning, they are no longer made and probably impossible to find. If you run into this issue, you have to replace the entire unit, as mentioned above you’ll end up with a mismatch.

As a result, you interfere with performance and you are wasting money because, in the not-so-distant future, you will have issues with your other coil, and your entire unit. Investing in a new AC unit saves money in the long run, as you also have the benefit of lower energy bills thanks to improved technology and increased SEER ratings.

If you would like more information about AC unit replacement in Denver, speak to the experts at Bell Plumbing and Heating today.

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