HVAC - replace now or later?

16 Replies

The HVAC on one of my rental properties is nearing the end of its life. It currently still works but I can see it dying this summer or by next summer. I can't decide whether to just go ahead and replace it or if I should wait until it actually breaks down. I'd hate for it to break down in the middle of summer and then have to put the tenants up in a hotel if the HVAC company can't get to us immediately (as it's usually the case down here in the South). Pros and cons to doing it now or later? If I replace it now before it's broken, can I still expense it or would it need to be depreciated?

It’s already about 12 years old and the other week, the tenant noticed that it was running louder than normally. It could just use a tune up but I’m not sure whether to spend money on tuning it if it’s on its last leg.

I would get referrals from locals as to a good A/c company and have them take a look

Think of it this way, the tenant may be looking/listening for reasons for you to get a new HVAC unit 

I just replaced a HVAC system that was working and it was 20 years old. It is in a VRBO and I didn't want it to die on someone paying 350 per night. I would get yours checked out and see if it is really about to die or just needs something small like a new fan motor. Then decide whether it needs to be changed or not. 

My office has an A/C system that is over 20 years old. I have it serviced each summer for under $100 and it kept ticking until last year. I recommend you have it serviced and then ask the technician for a recommendation on when it should be replaced.

In my experience HVAC should last 15-20 years so at 12 it might have some years left. I agree with everyone have a reputable Tech look at it and see what they say.
I agree with your mindset it’s better to replace before it dies, typically issues come up in hottest or coldest day of the year when you will end up paying premium price for repair or replacement.

Use the rule of 5000 for AC. 

Multiply the cost of the repair times the age of the unit. If the number is less than 5000, you do the repair. If its more than 5000, you replace the unit.  

Our home's HVAC is now 25 years old and still running well...knock wood. I would try to keep it running as long as possible. Maybe keep some portable AC units on-hand for an emergency.

@Mindy Bowden get a tune up and ride it out. We’ve had several units last years past their expected lifespan. Also is a good idea to have a portable unit or two in hand in case of emergency. They sell them at Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc and you could always buy/install same day if the unit dies.

We moved into one of our rentals (HVAC original to 1950s) and the AC “died” last summer...got 3 portable units and loved them so much that we still haven’t replaced the HVAC (heat still works perfectly). Our energy bill was cut in half and they work really well. Your tenants might discover they like portable better too. Just research which are the good ones as they aren’t all so great I hear.

If it isn't dead or rapidly approaching end of life over the course of this summer, you might plan your upgrade for the winter months.  AC guys (down south at least) are not as slammed in the winter months.  They might give you a bit of a break for planning it out in advance during the slower months -- never know unless you ask.

Originally posted by @Peter S. :

Use the rule of 5000 for AC. 

Multiply the cost of the repair times the age of the unit. If the number is less than 5000, you do the repair. If its more than 5000, you replace the unit.  

Interesting rule, thank you.

What about the furnace? 

When I lived in Houston the a/c would get replaced twice as often as the furnace.  At least.  I imagine this is also true in Cary?  I have a sister there and know it's pretty hot and muggy as well. So if it DOES go out I would not necessarily assume the furnace has to be  replaced at the same time.

I would never replace an AC unit unless it was completely broken. Even if the Freon is leaking (which is very expensive), replacing that is WAY cheaper than replacing an entire system. And it may last for years and years after replacing the Freon.

I own a duplex built in 1975. Both (two) of the interior blower AC things are original AC units from 1975. Made by some random company that doesn’t exist anymore and they both work fine. Both outside units are 15 and 20 years old. They also work fine. If serviced regularly, they’ll last EXTREMELY long.