If you’re looking at the possibility of an A/C replacement, give careful consideration to both first costs and lifetime costs of the air conditioner you’re thinking of buying. These costs will affect the quality, reliability, efficiency and longevity of equipment you purchase. Following is a brief overview of the role of first costs and lifetime costs in A/C replacement.
First costs are those expenses that must be paid before an air conditioning system is in place and operating. It covers factors that have to be accounted for before the system is even switched on for the first time. They’re essential parts of purchasing the equipment, having it installed, and making sure it works like it should.
- Purchase price – The sticker price of the A/C replacement is the first and most obvious of the first costs. It’s your initial exposure to what the system is going to cost you, but it’s not the only element that will ultimately affect total costs. For example, retail sticker prices may be higher or lower depending on the time of year the A/C replacement is purchased. Retailers will often discount air conditioning systems purchased during the winter when sales of A/Cs are slow.
A lower-quality system will typically cost less than a higher quality or brand name system, but the savings may be compromised by lower efficiency, less reliable function or a shorter life span. Better-quality systems will also be more durable and will likely require less maintenance to keep them working. High-efficiency air conditioners usually cost more than their lower-efficiency counterparts, but the savings on monthly operating costs can easily compensate for the higher initial investment.
- Installation – Air conditioning systems must be properly installed to work safely and effectively. This often involves some complex technical skill on the part of the installer to make sure the equipment is correctly installed. In many cases, the purchase price of an A/C replacement will also include installation. Ask your contractor if this is the case. If not, make sure you understand how much installation will add to the first costs of your A/C replacement purchase.
- Structural revisions – Installing a replacement air conditioner isn’t simply a matter of pulling out the old system and slotting in a new one. Sometimes structural changes to your home may be necessary to ensure the new system will work like it should. The physical space housing the indoor unit may need to be expanded to allow enough room for the new equipment. Ductwork may have to be expanded or revised to make sure it works correctly with the new equipment. High-efficiency systems, for example, may require smaller ducts to ensure efficiency and avoid wasted energy.
Lifetime costs are those costs that start accumulating after the air conditioner is turned on for the first time, such as:
- Monthly operating costs – Every month, the A/C will consume a certain amount of electrical power. High-efficiency systems will use less energy, which means their monthly operating costs will be lower. Monthly operating costs can also be affected by factors such as the cost of energy in your section of the country and by how much you use your A/C system.
- Supplies – The A/C will require some consumable supplies, such as air filters. Lower-quality filters will cost a few dollars each, while higher-quality filters will be considerably more. The system may need to be recharged with refrigerant at some point to ensure it continues to cool effectively.
- Maintenance and repair – Preventive maintenance keeps your A/C working properly and at its initial level of effectiveness and efficiency. Regular maintenance is a necessity, usually at least once a year before cooling season begins. You can purchase a service contract from your HVAC company that will ensure preventive maintenance is performed on time every year. Repairs when the system malfunctions will also be required.
For more information on A/C replacement and the effect of first and lifetime costs, check out Griffith Energy Service’s A/C replacement solutions or call 888-474-3391.
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