What Does the Average AC Unit Repair Cost?
Having a working air conditioning unit is something that a lot of people take for granted, especially in the summer. However, when the air conditioning unit breaks, it becomes immediately clear just how much it was relied on and how unpleasant it is to live without one. Unfortunately, it always seems as though air conditioning units break at the worst possible times, such as in the middle of a 95-degree July afternoon. When this happens, it’s important to know the average AC repair cost, how to get the air conditioning unit fixed quickly and how to find the right HVAC pro for the job.
National Repair an A/C Unit Costs
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Table of Contents
- Average Cost of AC Unit Repair
- AC Unit Repair Cost Factors
- Cost of common AC Repairs
- Signs AC Repair is Needed
- Dangers of Postponing Repair
- How to Maintain AC Unit
- What to Look for in A Repair Company
- HVAC Company Certifications
- Find A Pro
Average Cost of AC Unit Repair
The cost to repair a broken air conditioning unit can vary depending on the specific problem and the brand of air conditioner being serviced. However, the average cost for AC repairs, according to thousands of projects above, is $300. Nonetheless, we have seen certain air conditioning repair services run as low as $53 or as high as $900.
Of course, with occasional maintenance and quick resolution for the most common repairs, your AC unit should last a very long time, up to 20 years if you’re lucky.
AC Unit Repair Cost Factors
Of course, there are certain factors that can increase or decrease your air conditioner service cost. Those factors include:
- Efficiency & Size
- Applied Force
- Extent of Damage
The average lifespan of an AC unit is 15 years. Just like us, AC units get beat up and slow down over the years. As such, the older the unit is, the more expensive your repair will be. While the extent of the damage will certainly play a bigger role in your average HVAC repair bill, age will factor in.
If you’re unit is more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing the air conditioner. Many pros go by the $5,000 rule. Multiple the repair cost by the age of the unit. If it’s over $5,000, replace; do not repair.
Sadly, HVAC issues seem to come up at the worst times. That’s because most of us do not use the air conditioner until summer or late spring. Clearly, these are the months cool, constant air is most appreciated. Believe it or not, other homeowners are going through the same dilemma.
Since HVAC pros know they’re in high demand in the summer, they tend to charge more than a repair required in January or October. Essentially, just like a plumber, they charge extra for emergency repairs. As demand goes up, so does supply.
Efficiency & Size
In 2006, a new HVAC rule went into affect for residential air conditioners, requiring all to have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 13 or higher. As you might expect, the more efficient the unit is (or newer), the lower your average AC repair cost will be. Keep in mind, if for some reason your high-efficient repair bill is high, you’re still saving on energy costs every month through your electric and gas bills.
Additionally, larger-sized units require more work than smaller units. Since larger homes require larger units, there really is no way around the size of your air conditioner. As such, size is sadly one cost factor you can’t alter.
The less work your system has to apply, the longer it will last. Therefore, adjusting your thermostat or opening the windows can greatly deter and lower certain AC maintenance and repair costs.
When you’re not home, raise the thermostat. When you leave for vacation, raise the thermostat. Don’t apply so much force (e.g. lower temperatures) when it’s not needed. This will not only lower the lifetime cost of the unit, but extend it as well.
We will get into specifics later, but there are plenty of recommended maintenance items all homeowners should strongly consider if you want you to extend the lifespan of your AC unit. Furthermore, regular maintenance prevents certain repairs less organized homeowners see every few years. Some easy and highly recommended AC unit maintenance tasks include:
- Changing Filters
- Close Open Spaces
- Clean Coils
- Annual Checkups
Extend of Damage
All AC repairs were not created equal. While a new filter could cost as low as $20, a refrigerant leak repair can cost up to $1,600. Just like any aspect of the house, certain repairs will mostly depend on the damage. Clearly, the more serious issues will cost more. That not only means more time for the HVAC pro, but more complexity and materials as well. Sadly, neither come without a hefty markup.
Cost of Common AC Repairs
There are plenty issues that come up with any AC unit and fortunately, there are agreed-upon ranges for each and every one. While some of these projects may cost more than $900, just know that you can always reduce the price by shopping around for the right HVAC contractor.
- Refrigerant Leak Repair: $200 – $1,500
- AC Refrigerant Recharge: $250 – $750
- Control Circuit Boards: $100 – $590:
- Fuses, Circuit Breakers or Relays: $75 – $290
- New Thermostat: $115 – $470
- Outdoor Condensing Unit Fan Motor: $200 – $650
- Condensate Drain Line Flush: $75 – $250
- Compressor Replacement: $1,350 – $2,300:
- Replacement Condensing Unit Coil: $1,900 – $2,900
- Metal or Plastic Drain Pans: $250 – $575
- Condensate Pump Replacement: $240 – $450
- Condenser Fan Motor: $450 - $750
Signs AC Repair is Needed
Just like a car, your air conditioning unit will share when it’s in need of repair. The longer you wait to fix it, the more likely the unit will completely shut down.
The most common signs that the air conditioning unit may soon break down include loud or strange noises coming from the unit or warmer than normal air being released. In addition, if your unit smells bad, is frosty or water is leaking, chances are, you’re in need of repair. When the air conditioning unit displays these symptoms, contact a local HVAC pro. Just like a low tank of gas, it’s better to gas now versus running out in the middle of a 95-degree July afternoon.
Dangers of Postponing Repair
Delaying any repairs around the house comes with potential risks. Whether it’s additional repair or replacement costs down the line, safety concerns or an increase in utility bills, it certainly pays to fix your AC unit when you first recognize an issue.
If you see any of the signs mentioned above, that means your AC unit is operating with a limp. More strain means your entire AC system could completely shut down at any time. If that happens, you could be hit with a $4,700 bill to install a new air conditioner. The average AC repair bill of $302 sounds much more pleasant.
Increased Utility Bills
Just like running a marathon, we perform better at full strength. If we’re not feeling great, it’s that much harder to finish the race. Similarly, when you set your thermostat to a certain temperature, the system is tasked with maintaining that temperature throughout the room. Working at full strength, the system can easily maintain that temperature (as long as it’s not below 60 degrees or above 80 degrees). However, when injured, the system may struggle to keep the room at your desired temperature. As such, it’s working harder, which means higher utility bills.
No Air Conditioning
HVAC pros are busy, especially in the summer. Just because you need an AC repair right now, that does not mean an HVAC pro will be available. Additionally, if they are free, your cost to repair the AC unit just went up. Emergency situations call for changes in schedules, surprise road trips and many other sudden situations. As such, air conditioning contractors tend to charge more.
How to Maintain AC Unit
Rather than waiting for a repair to come along, why not prevent the repair in the first place? To do so, you must maintain your air conditioning unit, even if there are no signs of trouble. Luckily, each of the following maintenance tasks are easy, cheap and quick:
- Change the filter (bold?): A new filter can cost as little as $20. Since this is the most effective way of maintaining your AC system, there is no reason not to change your filter. Homeowners should change your AC filters whenever it gets dirty. Depending on the filter, you may have to change it once every six months or once every month. Each filter should indicate how long it will last.
- Change the thermostat: Do not waste energy when it is not needed. When you’re at work or away on vacation, increase the temperature. Remember, less strain on your system means less money out of our pocket.
- Clean coils: Leaves and debris can infiltrate your AC coils and fins outside your unit. If they do, your AC unit has to work that much harder to maintain your desired temperature. Therefore, make sure you clean your coils and air ducts once in a while to avoid higher utility bills.
- Close open spaces: Make sure there are no open spaces near your doors, you’re your windows or in your ducts. If there are, they need to be sealed immediately. After all, you’re not paying to air condition the exterior of the home.
- Schedule annual checkups: While there are certain telltale signs that AC repair is needed, more complex issues are under the hood. As such, we highly recommend scheduling an annual tune-up with an HVAC professional. For as little as $100, they could save you hundreds in repairs.
What to Look for in A Repair Company
In general, it’s best to stick with an air conditioner repair company that specializes in HVAC services. While many companies offer general household repair services, such as plumbing, HVAC and more, you’ll be better served by going with a company that specializes in air conditioning and heating.
Before you reach out to local HVAC companies, jot down a few notes. Know the model of your unit and see if it’s under warranty. If so, call the manufacturer first. Then, get multiple quotes for the project in question. Never get less than two quotes for any home remodeling project. Once received, compare all and make sure all include the same work. Check referrals and certifications before making a final decision.
HVAC Company Certifications
Besides basic licenses that all technicians should have, here are other certifications that make certain HVAC pros stand out. They include:
- NATE Certification: This certification is not required in the business, but in order to obtain, the pro had to have passed a knowledge-based exam on a specialized HVAC category.
- Excellence Certification: This certification is very similar to the NATE certification, but requires at least two years of professional HVAC experience.
- EPA 608 Certification: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that all technicians who open a system containing a controlled refrigerant be certified to do so. As such, make sure you ask your pro if they have a Universal or Level II EPA Certification.
Find A Pro
Life without air conditioning is not fun. It’s a luxury we sadly take for granted. Following the recommended maintenance tasks above and knowing the average costs of all AC repairs ensure that luxury never goes away.
If you’re in need of an HVAC tune-up, ImproveNet can connect you with up to four HVAC companies for free!
Last updated on Jun 28, 2016
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