If this is the year you replace your aging air conditioner, congratulations! You have many high-quality, high-efficiency systems available to choose from. Replacing your AC with the best, most efficient and most cost-effective system requires a careful look at first costs and lifetime costs. The following brief guide can help you understand the differences between these types of expenses and give you information you need to make a better-informed decision on your AC replacement.
The Difference Between First Costs and Lifetime Costs
When buying a new air conditioner or any sort of HVAC equipment, first costs are those expenses associated with purchasing the equipment and ensuring that it’s installed properly. Some sources equate first costs with the sticker price of the equipment alone, but there are other costs that may have to be accommodated before the AC replacement is in place and functioning correctly.
Lifetime costs include the initial costs, plus those expenses that are incurred during the operation of the air conditioner over its functional lifetime — from the moment it is first turned on to cool your home to the time when it is replaced by another AC system. This includes maintenance, energy and repairs.
Typical First Costs
- Price of the equipment – This refers solely to how much the AC equipment costs when purchased from a dealer or contractor. The price of the equipment can be affected by multiple factors, such as the brand name, quality and the system’s energy efficiency rating. Regional differences in price can also affect this cost, as can sales or discounts provided by the seller, tax incentives offered at the federal or local level, or the time of the year when the equipment is purchased. For example, cooling systems may cost less when purchased in the middle of winter rather than at the height of the summer heating season.
- Installation costs – Air conditioners and other HVAC systems must be properly installed by trained and knowledgeable professionals to ensure the equipment works correctly and safely. An improperly installed A/C system could provide hazards for electrical shock or fire. If not installed correctly, the equipment won’t perform at its best. Installation is often included in the price of a system, but ask the seller to be sure.
- Duct system revisions – Some revisions of the ductwork system in your home may be necessary when purchasing a new air conditioner. Higher-efficiency models, for example, may need smaller ducts that reduce the possibility of air loss. The cost of revising ducts is a legitimate first cost.
- Structural revisions – Similarly, some structural revisions may be necessary to fit new equipment into your home or to otherwise accommodate an A/C replacement. If so, they fall under the heading of first costs.
Typical Lifetime Costs
- Ongoing monthly expenses – The amount you pay each month for cooling is part of the system’s lifetime costs. Monthly expenses usually refer to the electrical energy required to keep the air conditioner working on a month-to-month basis. These can be affected by the cost of electricity in your area, how much you run the equipment, and whether you can run the system on fan-only during some periods.
- Supplies – Some supplies will be necessary over the lifetime of the air conditioner. Most notable among them are air filters that must be changed regularly, often about once a month. The refrigerant that circulates through the AC system and allows for heat capture and release must sometimes be refilled, especially if there has been a refrigerant leak.
- Preventive maintenance – Your air conditioner will need regular preventive maintenance to keep the system working properly and at its highest level of efficiency. Most often, cooling systems should be inspected and maintained in the spring or just before cooling season begins. Maintenance appointments can be paid for individually, but you may be able to save a significant amount if you get a service contract from your local trusted HVAC services provider.
- Repair – Over its lifetime, your cooling system will inevitably need some repairs to put it back into operation. A well-maintained system is likely to need fewer repairs, however. At the same time, a well-maintained AC in good condition will usually cost less to fix when repairs are needed.
Learn more about AC replacement, first costs and lifetime costs, as well as air conditioner solutions available from Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning, or give us a call at 847-272-5836 to schedule an appointment. We provide top-quality HVAC services to the northern Illinois communities of Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston and surrounding areas.
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