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Repairing vs. Replacing Rooftop Units

Rooftop units are tough, sturdy pieces of HVAC equipment. They have to be; they're installed outdoors and are constantly exposed to weather and environmental forces. No matter how rugged your building's rooftop unit is, however, there will come a time when its performance becomes degraded. When this happens, you have to decide whether to repair or replace the equipment. The following information provides some factors you should consider when considering whether to repair or replace rooftop units.

How Long Should Rooftop Units Last?

In general, you should expect rooftop units to last between fifteen and twenty years. This lifespan can, of course, be reduced by multiple factors, such as storm damage, neglect of maintenance, or the effects of ice and snow. In geographical areas where the climate demands your rooftop units run constantly, you may also see a decrease in equipment lifespan.

Rooftop Unit Problem Indicators

  • Age of the unit: If your rooftop units are between fifteen and twenty years old, it may be time to consider replacing them. Age, however, should not be the only factor influencing a repair or replace decision. If the unit is still in relatively good shape, it could still give you several seasons of service before it needs to be replaced.
  • Performance reductions: Reductions in overall heating or cooling, areas in the building that are too hot or too cold for the season, and inconsistent heating and cooling can all be signs of performance issues requiring either repair or replacement.
  • Efficiency loss: If it seems like it's costing more to heat or cool your commercial space, the problem could be in the rooftop units' efficiency. Sudden spikes in heating or cooling costs are also a sigh than the efficiency of the unit has decreased.

Repair or Replace Considerations

A rooftop heating or cooling system that has completely failed leaves no choice; it must be replaced. If your rooftop units are still functional enough to be fixed, however, you may struggle with the repair or replace choice. Repairing the unit will get it back into service quickly, but cumulative costs of repairs can mount up significantly over time. Replacing the unit will require a substantial monetary investment, but you'll have a new unit with as many of the more modern performance- and efficiency-boosting features as you want to buy. Give some thought to these and the following factors while making your decision.

  • Cost: When the cost of repairs of a piece of HVAC equipment has reached half the cost of a new unit, it's time to choose replacement.
  • Efficiency needs: A new rooftop unit can provide a boost in HVAC efficiency that reduces energy usage and monthly costs. Equipment must meet minimum efficiency standards, but if you invest in even higher efficiency models, you'll see even more savings.
  • Sizing: When replacing a rooftop unit, make sure it is properly sized--that is, that is has the functional capacity to provide only the amount of heating or cooling you need. Oversized units waste energy and money. Undersized units can't heat or cool properly and tend to wear out earlier.
  • Environmental concerns: New requirements for HVAC system refrigerants mean that once-common refrigerants are becoming more costly and harder to find. A new HVAC system should include the newer, more environmentally refrigerants.
  • Maintenance needs: After investing in a new rooftop HVAC system, implement a plan to make sure the equipment is properly maintained. Preventive maintenance, regularly performed, is probably the best way to keep a heating or cooling system working at its best. Regular maintenance also extends the system's lifespan and ensures that you get the full value out of your investment.

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