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Old HVAC Unit

How Efficient Is A 20 Year Old HVAC Unit & When Will It Need To Be Replaced?

How Efficient Is A 20 Year Old HVAC Unit & When Will It Need To Be Replaced?

How efficient is a 20 year old HVAC unit? At what HVAC age does it need to be replaced? We’ve got the answers.

A LOT can happen over the course of twenty years. Think about it: Our national conversations are changing, computers have gone from clunky behemoths to sleek cell phones, and even hair scrunchies are making a comeback (or, um, so we’ve heard). So ask yourself this: How efficient is a 20 year old HVAC unit? HVAC age has a lot to do with how well it works — and how high or low your energy bill is. We’ll look at age, wear-and-tear, innovations in technology, and some other simple clues. By the end of this article, you’ll have a good handle on the relationship between HVAC age and energy efficiency… and more importantly, you’ll know if it’s time for you to replace your HVAC unit!

How to Determine Your HVAC Age

First things first: What is HVAC? HVAC means “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.” Your HVAC unit is a furnace or air conditioner unit. If you did not purchase it, you may have no record of when it was installed. (For example, the unit was installed by previous homeowners). Generally speaking, all HVAC units have a nameplate with their branding information. The manufacture date should be listed on that plate. But if that information is missing (or not visible), look for the HVAC unit serial number. A quick internet search or call to the manufacturer will help you determine the HVAC age according to its serial number. If neither of those pieces of information are available, can you locate the installation date in homeowner records? Typically speaking, the HVAC unit age will align closely with the installation date — it is rare for professional HVAC companies to install old or outdated models!

But age is not the only factor in determining the lifespan and energy usage of an HVAC unit. To answer the question, “How efficient is my HVAC unit?” you can use a few other clues. Once you know your HVAC age, you can do a little detective work about how efficient it is. If we’re talking AC units, a SEER rating will tell you how efficient it is supposed to be. Generally speaking, a higher SEER, rating means a newer model — as technology becomes more accessible, most air conditioner manufacturers are choosing to build smarter, more efficient units. SEER Seer stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. 13 Seer is the federal minimum to be sold, is single stage, and cheaper than the higher seer conditioners. ... The 16 seer is more expensive initially but saves you money in the long run by lowering your energy costs and has less of an impact on the environment. The higher the number the lower the cost to operate, like miles per gallon for your car.

Another way to determine the efficiency of a 20 year HVAC unit is to take a look at your energy bill. If your energy usage spikes and the payment rises when temperatures spike, it’s a cue that your HVAC unit is inefficient. Of course, you can expect to use more energy than typical during cold snaps and heat waves — but turning on the AC or raising the heat shouldn’t break your bank.

HVAC AGE and Energy Efficiency

Here’s the bad news AND the good news: HVAC age and energy efficiency go hand-in-hand. An old HVAC system is not as energy efficient as a new system. This is due to two reasons:

  1. New HVAC units contain technology that allows the system (furnace, air conditioner) to run at optimal energy efficiency. This results in quieter, intuitive systems that work hard and work smart, without using too much energy. Think of your HVAC unit like your cell phone or computer: New innovations in technology mean better, more efficient models each year.
  2. Old HVAC units are less efficient over time. Regular use and years of heating and cooling can cause an inefficient HVAC unit. An HVAC system breaks down over time, slowly losing energy efficiency. If your HVAC unit has been broken and repaired multiple times, it may also lose energy efficiency (especially if the job has not been handled by a professional)

What that means for you, the consumer, is that it pays to weigh the cost of a new HVAC unit with an outdated, low-efficiency model.

Replacing Your HVAC System

So. Your 20 year old HVAC unit is not working? Or it’s not working at maximum efficiency? If you have determined that your HVAC age means it’s time for a replacement, the first step is to call a professional for HVAC replacement estimate. Replacing an old HVAC system can be a big investment, and it’s important to work with a trusted professional to help you choose the right model (not to mention, install it safely). Why does working with a reputable company matter? They know the ins and outs of different HVAC models. Using their expertise and an evaluation of your home, they will help you understand the relationship between size, power, and energy-efficiency. Biggest, newest, and most expensive does not always mean best HVAC unit.

Keep in mind that it’s ideal to replace an old HVAC unit, or one that is in disrepair, before it breaks. This will save you a lot of money and headache. Ask yourself: “Do I need to replace my HVAC system?”


If you feel like you need to consult with a professional, schedule a call and we’ll be happy to answer your questions or call today 910-249-4898!

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