The expected lifespan of any heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is 15 to 20 years, notes the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The newest, most efficient HVAC systems use 30 percent to 50 percent less energy than those manufactured during the 1970s, thereby reducing costs for the consumer while operating more sustainably for the environment. Because technology keeps advancing, even an HVAC system that is only ten years old could be 20 to 40 percent less efficient than a newer model.
In addition to wasteful energy consumption, there are other ways that old HVAC systems can be problematic and need to be replaced, indicates The Refrigeration School. Many are not fully aware of the dangers that may exist with older units. In some circumstances, older systems can be a source of contamination that causes illness. In others, old wiring can cause fires or leaky heat exchanges can result in the release of carbon monoxide, an odorless but deadly gas.
5 Considerations for Replacing an Old HVAC System:
- Likelihood of breakdowns during extreme temperatures.
- Damage to building structures from water leakage.
- Mold contamination.
- Hidden fire hazards.
- Potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Problems can be more common with older HVAC systems, according to the DOE. Such systems may not give any warning of a breakdown. While there may be some signs of problems, such as loud noise while operating, complete breakdowns can be sudden and catastrophic.
Many complete system failures occur during periods of peak performance, such as on a hot summer day or a winter’s eve with temperatures below zero. This type of scenario is especially severe for those who lack another place to stay during emergency repairs.
For some older HVAC units, spare parts can be difficult to locate or simply not available. When a complete breakdown occurs and the HVAC system is not repairable, the only solution is a new installation. In the meantime, the occupants may suffer.
2. Water Damage
Over long periods, moisture can damage the ductwork of the HVAC system, reports Inspectapedia. Leaks may result. Not only do these leaks reduce the efficiency of the HVAC system, depending on where the leaking water flows, they can cause significant damage to building structures. Sometimes, the leaks cause serious structural damage in areas behind the walls where it is not apparent.
3. Mold and Contaminant Risk
When HVAC systems first come on after a period of disuse, a “dirty sock” smell may be noticeable, indicates ACHR News. This is evidence of mold infestation. A green-black mold that grows in HVAC systems is Stachybotrys chartarum. It causes problems for those with allergies and asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, the HVAC system and the building itself may harbor other contaminants. This is known as “sick building syndrome.” Occupants may experience a range of symptoms, from headaches to difficulty breathing to more acute conditions. Legionnaire’s disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria, which can be spread through air conditioners, notes the Mayo Clinic.
4. Fire Hazards
The wiring of an old HVAC system can pose a fire hazard. In 2011, more than 47,000 home fires and about 17,000 non-home fires resulted from old, damaged electrical wiring, including the kind found in air conditioners and heating units.
5. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
One of the most dangerous things that can happen with an old HVAC system is that the exhaust flue and/or the heat exchanger can develop cracks, which can leak carbon monoxide gas, according to Inspectapedia. This gas is odorless, tasteless, invisible—and deadly.
Advantages of a New HVAC System
Replacing an old HVAC system is important. Doing so will not only save money on utility bills but will also prevent potential threats to the building occupants’ health and safety. Moreover, upgrading to a newer unit will ensure a comfortable indoor climate regardless of seasonal temperature extremes. Call your local HVAC technician or repair company today to have them perform a check up on your unit. It could save you time, money and health problems.