A homeowner called to say that a mouse made a nest in her A/C unit. When we got there, we realized that the mouse had been there a while, and probably had several litters.  She had done massive damage to the unit. We recommended that the unit be replaced.  While the mouse damage was severe, other issues made a replacement the best idea.

Even without a mouse problem, if your Air Conditioner breaks down, here are a few hints to help you decide whether you should have the unit replaced or repaired:

1. Age of the Unit 

If you have A/C problems and the unit is more than 12 years old, it might be time to consider that the unit has fulfilled his useful life.  This is especially true if you have had the unit repaired several times.  (This unit was 20 years old!)

2. Estimated Repair Cost

We suggest the “Rule of $5,000” to help homeowners decide whether to replace or repair.  The rule says if the cost of the repair multiplied by the age of the unit exceeds $5,000, it’s time for a new unit.  (The equation for this unit was $500 x 20 = $10,000. The answer was obvious.) 

3. Coolant Leaks

A/C manufacturers have switched from R-22 coolant to a more environmentally friendly coolant called R401-A. While this will probably mean nothing to the average homeowner, if your unit uses R-22, you can expect to pay up to $175 (or more) per pound of coolant.  Since production of the older coolant will be discontinued after 2020, the prices are expected to go even higher.   In fact, fixing a leak and adding several pounds of refrigerant could cost $1,000 or more.  In addition, if there is a leak in the compressor, it will cost up to $2,000 to replace that.   (While there was no a leak yet, the unit was using R-22 and had just been ravaged by a rodent.)

4. Energy Efficiency

There are other reasons to consider a new unit. Energy Star estimates a 20% saving on cooling costs with a new energy efficient unit.  (This might actually save money in the long run!)

5. Financial Considerations

Homeowners often don’t have a couple of thousand dollars lying around to purchase a new air conditioning unit.  There are some terrific rebates being offered by ComEd (and Nicor) for the next few weeks, take advantage of these super savings and replace that unit – mouse or no mouse!

That did it!  She was in. However, she promised to check the unit often to make sure that the mice haven’t found other dwellings!

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