Not quite six months ago, I wrote about that fact that our central air conditioning was having trouble keeping the house cool. Cleaning the filters didn’t help, so we called for service. Unfortunately, the A/C repairman couldn’t find anything obviously wrong, aside from the fact that it was low on refrigerant. Since he couldn’t find an obvious leak, he recharged it, added a dye so they could find the leak in the future, and then handed us a bill.
Things were fine over the remainder of the air conditioning season. The weather finally cooled down, and we were able to stop running our A/C for a month or so. But this week it turned cold, so we flipped on the heat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working very well — it was pushing plenty of air, but it wasn’t pumping out much heat. Given that we have a heat pump, which basically means that the A/C runs in reverse to produce heat, I figured we were suffering from the same problems as before.
This time around, we called the heat and air guy that’s been running duct work for our new addition. He came out and not only verified that we were once again low on refrigerant, but he also found the leak. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the coil is cracked, and it’s going to cost about $1, 000 to replace it.
Normally, it would be a simple decision to repair it. But right now, the situation is a bit more complex… Since we’re adding on to the house, it’s possible that our current A/C unit won’t be able to handle the additional load. We originally decided to take a wait-and-see approach — if the A/C unit couldn’t handle the additional space, we could always replace it later. Our current quandary is whether we should: (1) roll the dice and pay for the repair in hopes that the unit will be able to handle the additional space, or (2) bite the bullet and upgrade to a larger system (which will probably cost around $8k).
A bit of background:
Our current system is 4 tons which, based on most rules of thumb, was already on the small side for our house (3000 sq ft before the addition). That being said, it never really had trouble keeping up, and it’s better to have an undersized A/C unit than one that’s oversized. With the addition, we’re now up to 3300 sq ft. While that’s just 10% more space, it might just be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
The other consideration is a newer A/C unit would be substantially more energy efficient, although I haven’t had a chance to run the numbers.
So… We now have to decide between spending $1k to fix a heat and air system that might not be sufficient to heat/cool our house, or cut our losses and replace it with a larger system that would definitely handle our needs.