Find out why you should replace your central AC unit instead of putting in a new coil if it is very old. If you are interested in a heat pump, consider whether the placement of your duct system will allow it to heat evenly.
LESLIE: Sherry in Tennessee is dealing with an air conditioning situation. Tell us what’s going on.
SHERRY: Well, the unit went out – it is central air – and I have three options: I can replace the coil for $1,200; I can – and they said it would probably last a couple of years. I can get the air conditioning unit replaced for 3,500 or I could put in a heat pump for 4,000.
TOM: Well, first of all, what kind of heat do you have right now, Sherry? Are you using the – do you have a heat pump now?
SHERRY: No, I have electric heat.
SHERRY: And I have a central air unit but not the heat.
TOM: So you have electric resistance heat.
TOM: And where is the duct system for the central air? Is it all in the ceiling?
SHERRY: Yes. Well, upstairs it’s in the floor.
TOM: You have some in the floor as well?
SHERRY: Yes, on the upstairs it’s in the floor and it’s in the ceiling on the downstairs.
TOM: OK, because if you try to use a heat pump and you’re supplying that warmed air at the ceiling, it’s not going to heat very evenly. I mean you’ll get some heat out of it but you won’t be completely comfortable. So you’ll probably end up still using some of the resistance heat. I will say that if you did the improvement now, you could qualify for a tax credit of up to about 1,500 bucks. But the tax credits are only available through the end of the year and you have to use a high-efficiency compressor.
LESLIE: It has to meet certain requirements.
TOM: It has to meet the requirements. But it’s a really good time to replace the equipment because this tax credit is not going to be around past the end of the year.
LESLIE: And a lot of the manufacturers are offering rebates as well, currently; so if you go with a smart HVAC contractor who knows a little bit beyond what that product has to offer, you might be able to find a good, energy-efficient solution that you’ll get some money back on.
SHERRY: OK. OK, that sounds like a good idea. I had no idea to look – I did not know what to look for, so …
TOM: Yeah, I think it’s probably a really good time for you to think about replacing it. How old is the unit now?
SHERRY: Well, I’ve lived there for ten years and it was old when I moved in, so …
TOM: I would not put a new coil in that.
TOM: Something else is going to break. I’d replace it. My only concern about the heat pump is it may not do a real good job heating because of the placement of your duct system.
SHERRY: OK, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Sherry. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.