July 2022, at the peak of a 99 – 106 degree heat wave, my central air conditioner broke. I learned that there are a lot of differing thoughts on the best solution for our little 1100 sq ft home:
- 2.5-ton vs 3-ton condenser and coil
- 80% vs 96% efficiency natural gas furnace
- Smart vs traditional thermostat
- Replacing what’s broken vs the whole system
I told one of the repairmen about all of the conflicting information I was getting. His simple explanation:
“because that’s what they have in stock”
Due to current supply chain issues, nobody could mix and match what I wanted. So I ended up going with my third cheapest option. 3-ton 16-seer condenser, 3-ton coil, 96% efficiency gas furnace, and a smart thermostat. Even this came with a bit of a wait time.
New HVACs are so expensive! … But so is the alternative
The first guy I called informed me that prices had increased significantly over the past 6 months. I could have saved thousands of dollars had I needed a new system at the beginning of the year. That said, I am glad I didn’t need a new system at the beginning of the year. I started the year with over $8,000 in floor repairs and outdoor improvements to help protect my new floor. A few thousand more to replace the heating and air conditioner would have sent me into panic mode!
I spoke to some friends who used window units to keep their similar-sized homes at a comfortable temperature. Their summer and winter electric bills were like 3-4 times higher than mine! I figured replacing the HVAC would be similar in price or maybe even a little cheaper than switching to window units, and I wouldn’t lose the option to open windows for fresh air when it’s nice out. (Plus the two windows I tried to put a window unit in while our air was broken were too small.)
How did we live without air conditioning during a heat wave?
I usually consider myself to be pretty accepting of hot weather. But over two weeks of my home in the mid-90s was just too much! (I am so thankful that our place is well-insulated. I’d hate to see how hot it could have gotten mid-day.)
The local appliance store offered to loan us a window unit, but it didn’t fit. I tried to order one that would fit online, but they were out of stock.
At home we had fans, refrigerated squirt bottles, and ice packs that I wrapped in towels to cuddle with at bed time. Mid-day I took my daughter out for lunch so we could cool off either in the grocery store or in a restaurant. And I brought my daughter and dogs to the office a few evenings to cool off before bed time.
All of the above really wasn’t enough. My daughter and I had symptoms of heat exhaustion, so we grabbed the dogs and spent a couple of nights in a hotel to catch up on sleep and cool down. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but my daughter has a harder time sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings.
Why didn’t I fix the old system or just replace what was broken?
Our old air conditioner had a freon leak that could not be repaired. I did seriously consider just replacing the part that was broken, but the furnace was getting old too. In the long run, it would have cost more to have them come out an extra time and take things apart to replace the furnace separately.
All said and done, how do I feel about my decision?
Once the old furnace was removed and I could get a better look at the various parts, I was confident that it was the right decision to replace the whole unit. I can’t help wondering if 2.5 tons would have been better. Our house seems so humid and I read that the longer cool times of a smaller unit would help pull some of that moisture out. That said, the man who installs it believes 3-tons was the right choice because we were having airflow problems in the furthest away room. This is just an exceptionally humid spring.
I don’t like having to come up with an extra $124/month to pay off my HVAC loan. But it’s better than the alternative. Time will tell if upgrading to a 16-seer system helps with the electric bill.