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Out of all the parts of Aircon units, the compressor is easily one of the most important. Unfortunately, like all parts in machines, it’s going to wear out. When that happens, replacing the AC compressor is usually cheaper than replacing the entire unit. Here’s what you can expect.
Replacing The AC Compressor In A Car
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Prices for a new AC unit for a vehicle typically range from $ to $$, depending on the size and style, with another $$ to $$$ for labor. You don’t have to buy the labor if you’re capable of doing it yourself, though it’s always better to let a professional handle it if you’re not sure you can take care of it.
Several factors influence the price you should expect to pay, starting with whether or not you want to get aftermarket parts. Unlike some other parts of the vehicle, it’s okay to getan aftermarket AC compressor. In most cases, they make little or no noticeable difference in the operation of the AC unit. Since the quality is about the same, the lower price makes them a smarter purchase.
While many stores sell the AC compressor separately, there’s one major problem with doing the replacement yourself: the refrigerant. You cannot merely drain the coolant the way you would oil. Improper drainage of this chemical can be dangerous, and you need a particular machine to remove it. Unless you have one of the most unusual houses in the nation, you don’t have this machine at home.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Most mechanics have the necessary equipment, and many of them will be willing to drain the refrigerant from your car for a small fee. This is much cheaper than the labor cost of a full repair job, and it’s the best way to go if you want to do it yourself and save some money.
Whether you want to do it yourself or you’re willing to pay for someone to do it for you, remember to look around and find a mechanic with a good reputation. Don’t be afraid to get competing offers. The last time we needed work done on our vehicle, the second garage we checked gave us a bid that was half of the other location’s offer. It does pay to shop around.
Replacing The AC Compressor In A Home
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This is trickier to price than replacing the unit in a car but on the whole, the fact that the parts of Aircon in homes are more substantial means that it’s more expensive to replace them. Here are the primary factors that will determine the price.
Tonnage sounds like it refers to the physical size of the unit or how much air is moved, but neither of those is correct. The tonnage of an AC compressor refers to how much heat is removed from the air, and the compressor size is directly correlated to the tonnage size.
This is a case where bigger is not necessarily better. If you’re thinking about ‘upgrading’ to a better air compressor while the old one is broke, stop right there. If your compressor is too small, it will overwork itself and never shut down. That will drastically increase your electricity bill and wear the parts out much faster.
On the other hand, if your unit is too large, it will turn on and off more than it should. That will also wear out the parts, and worse, it can lead to uneven temperatures in your home as everything experiences rapid heating and cooling.
All Systems Mechanical, an installation company, has an excellent guide to tonnage and room sizes for home AC here. Note that these sizes are for central air conditioning units, not individual room units. Those are much smaller, easier to calculate, and easier to replace in their entirety if a significant part fails. (This may be cheaper, especially if they’re on sale.)
Your central AC unit should have a waterproof sticker on it that states the tonnage and other relevant information. If you don’t know – and most people don’t – check for this. If you don’t have a label, you may be able to research it online.
This varies mainly on location. In cheaper areas, you can expect a price of $$ to $$ for labor, based on the size of the unit you’re replacing. In more expensive areas, prices typically range from $$$ to $$$. As always, it’s best to get several bids to be sure the first one isn’t trying to cheat you.
Avoiding AC Scams
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Believe it or not, there are scams related to replacing AC compressors. Here are the most common scams and how to handle them.
Scam #1: Suggesting Parts Need Replacement When They Don’t
This is usually done by technicians who want to sell you a whole new unit, rather than accepting the lower pay for a repair job. In most cases, an AC fails because of one part going bad. This is easily prevented by getting multiple bids for the repair job – if everyone says various elements need replacement, you know they’re telling the truth. If only one does, avoid them.
Scam #2: One Bid Is Way Lower Than The Others
Cheaper is better, right? Well, not always. If a bid is too far below the others you get, it’s probably because the company is willing to cut corners and hopes the lower bill distracts you. A smaller invoice now is not worth it if it’s going to lead to another repair job when all is said and done – maybe even from the same company that did a shoddy job in the first place.
Scam #3: Not Providing A Written Agreement
Every reputable company will provide a written quote – usually on a standard form describing the job – before they leave. The reason for this is simple. They know that having an offer in your hand can help them land the job, especially if you’re comparing prices from several different companies.
Any company that refuses to provide a written agreement about the job is probably doing something wrong.
Scam #4: A Salesman Shows Up
Air conditioner repair jobs do not require a salesperson – all they need is a technician. Every reputable company knows how to get the parts they need and, in general, they’re not going to give you any additional things to choose from.
The repairman might ask if you’ve had any other problems, and they may try to sell you on a full inspection of the rest of your HVAC system. That’s okay – you can say yes or no. However, if someone tries to show you a bunch of new systems and talk you into buying something you don’t need, send them away.
Scam #5: Selling Too Much Refrigerant
This is one of the sneaky things technicians may try to do. By “selling” more refrigerant than you need, they can discreetly increase the price of the job. In most cases, the coolant they add needs to be weighed before and after the installation, with the numbers recorded in an ongoing ledger.
The best way to deter this is simple: Watch the repair job. If you observe the technician, chances are they’re not going to try and cheat on the numbers. You don’t need to loom over them or anything – merely keep an eye on things from a reasonable distance.
Scam #6: Insisting The Unit Needs Immediate Replacement
Unless your air conditioner is literally on fire, it doesn’t need to be replaced immediately. This is a scare tactic that some companies use to try and pressure you into buying an expensive new unit without thinking about it. Even broken parts like leaking pipes are relatively easy to replace, and it costs far less to do so than a brand-new unit would.
Scam #7: Charging For Extra Work
Technicians cannot charge you extra for additional work that needed to be done on the parts of Aircon in your home. Any extra labor, like replacing other parts to get at the broken one, should be included in the original estimate. Hold firm and only pay what’s listed in the written agreement.
Getting multiple estimates helps stop this scam, too. If all that extra work needed to be done, you can ask, then why didn’t anyone else notice it when they inspected the unit? There is no reason to believe that a group of professional inspectors all failed to see some work.
Scam #8: Demanding Cash Upfront
No. Reputable companies do not ask for cash payments before they do the work. If a technician asks for this, politely ask them to leave and tell them that you’re no longer interested in their services. They may not even be working for a real company.
Checks and cards are a much better choice. Most of them come with added consumer protections and can be reversed if there’s a problem with the service you received. It’s far harder to get your cash back.
Recommended AC Compressor
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