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Evaluating Risk Factors for Aging HVAC Equipment

Knowing when to repair or replace a piece of HVAC equipment is tricky.  It can be extremely frustrating in determining the "right thing to do," and that determination is ultimately different for everyone depending on budget AND patience level.  We often struggle in giving good bedside manner on this subject because "it depends" so much on a variety of factors.  This article is intended to explain as best as possible.

We know the average life-span for HVAC equipment, in East Texas for example, is approximately 10-15 years.  The older the unit, the larger the repair costs, and the more risky that repair becomes from an investment standpoint.  Much like a vehicle that has a lifespan of let's say, 200k miles, an AC system that is on the cusp of 10 years or so is likely to experience some major part failures as it runs nearly non-stop for it's entire life.

Large repairs involving major components such as compressors, condensers, evaporators or blower/ fan motor failures are typically trigger points on systems older than 10 years for full-replacement consideration.  Certainly, there is always the option to repair, but the person tasked with making the decision will assume that risk moving forward.

One could estimate that there are thousands of parts on a single AC system alone.

Fixing one part today does not eliminate the fact that there are still thousands of OTHER parts that could fail tomorrow.

Repair Risks for Older Equipment

When you do decide to repair equipment that is on the cusp or exceeds the normal lifespan of operational equipment, these are some of the risks you assume:

  1.   Continuing multiple service calls on a routine basis, especially during peak usage seasons (i.e. Summer months).
  2.   It becomes absolutely essential to maintain the system routinely at a minimum, quarterly basis.
  3.   You will be subject to having comfort issues when the unit breaks down, which disrupts your residents, tenants, patrons, employees, workflow, etc., causing increased complaints.
  4.   Financially, the upkeep and repairs on older equipment can be a budget-draining headache and is often completely unpredictable.
  5.   Other issues and damages could have been incurred during the failure of the part that was recently serviced/ repaired. These issues often do not present themselves right-away.

We've built a repair vs. replacement analyzer tool to help you with your decision process.  Read more about this RvR Tool and how it can help with your decision making process.

Surviving Leasing Terms

When equipment is on the cusp of its life span and you as the Landlord or Tenant are moving into/leasing a space, understanding the "survive-ability" of the equipment for the duration of your lease agreement is paramount.  Not understanding the life-span and risk of failure will affect your budgets and lease commitments no matter what side of the lease you are on.  

If equipment is aging to the point of potential catastrophic failure, you should measure that risk prior to implementing the lease agreement.  

For example: a 14 year old system is on the roof at your "new" space, the chances of that equipment needing replacement or significant repair during your 5 year lease agreement is GREAT. 

This article has been shared by Direct Service, Construction and Design to specifically accommodate our intended clientele.  The intent of sharing this information is to better inform the public of these general topics, expand knowledge and safety for all and provide crucial information in regard to their MEP and building systems and/or assets. It is NOT our recommendation that any article recommendations or how-to scenarios be attempted by anyone other than a qualified or competent person.