How to Replace an AC Condenser

An AC condenser is an essential component of your home's central air conditioning system. Over time, the condenser's parts may develop faults that require replacement. If you're looking to save on the cost of hiring a professional, do not attempt to replace an ac condenser yourself.

You cannot perform this as a DIY job. If you are not a certified HVAC or refrigerant professional, contact a certified professional to perform these tasks. They will test and ensure that your unit is safely and properly replaced. A certified technician or certified HVAC system professional is required anytime chemicals like refrigerants need to be handled.

How Do You Know if Your AC Condenser is Failing?

If any of the following occur, your unit or run capacitor might need to be replaced:

  • Your condenser doesn’t blow cool air
  • Your condenser has a clunky humming sound while working
  • Your energy bill increases month-to-month
  • Your condenser done not turn on or takes a while to start
  • Your condenser randomly shuts off
  • Your condenser makes a rattling or buzzing noise
  • Your condenser has a slow turn on
  • Your condenser creates water leakage

How Much Does It Cost to Replace AC Condensers?

An average AC condenser replacement costs typically $1200 to $4200. If the unit remains in warranty, you will only pay installation expenses, which will reduce the price between $300 and $1200. One crucial component of the unit is the condenser coil, which plays a vital role in transferring heat and converting the refrigerant from a gas to a liquid form. If the ac condenser coil becomes damaged or develops leaks, it may need to be replaced. Additionally, the condenser's radiator and fan motor, including the condenser fan, are important for dissipating heat and maintaining proper pressure within the unit. If any of these components malfunction, they may require replacement, contributing to the overall cost.

AC condenser replacement cost is based on the size of an AC condenser unit measured in tons. In terms of air conditioning, tons don't refer to how much the AC unit weighs. Tons measure the amount an AC unit can cool in a home within one hour's time. One ton is equivalent to removing 12000 BTUs of air an hour. A standard air conditioner usually ranges from 1.5 to 5 tons. The AC condenser price increases as the tons of the unit increases. Material costs can range from $800 at 1.5 tons to exceed $3000 at 5 tons. With added installation fees, that cost can increase to between $1200 and $2300 at 1.5 tons to between $1900 and $4200 at 5 tons.

The replacement process involves evacuating the refrigerant from the system using a vacuum pump. This step is necessary to remove any air or moisture from the refrigerant lines that could interfere with the system's performance. Once the vacuuming process is complete, the refrigerant can be recharged in its liquid form.

In some cases, the need to replace an AC condenser arises due to a refrigerant leak. If the condenser develops a leak, the refrigerant escapes, affecting the AC system's cooling capabilities. In such situations, the cost of replacing the condenser will also include locating and fixing the leak to prevent further refrigerant loss. It's crucial to address leaks promptly as refrigerant is a specialized gas that contributes to the cooling process, and insufficient levels can lead to diminished AC performance and discomfort in hot weather.

Purchasing a new ac condenser unit can cost anywhere between $1200 to $8000, not including labor costs.

How Many Hours Does it Take to Replace an AC condenser?

Changing a condensing unit takes three to six hours and many companies charge minimum service fees. Expected labor costs for a total AC condenser replacement are around $200-$1000.

Other Considerations for AC Condenser Replacement Cost:

  • AC Type: It is usually cheaper to fix split air conditioning units than packaged HVAC systems. Consider this when choosing between split or packaged ACs.
  • Replacement Parts: Brand name condenser parts tend to cost more, while generic parts can void your warranty agreement.
  • Type of Coil: Condenser coils come in different materials, with the cheapest being aluminum. However, condenser coils with aluminum material damages easily and has a shorter lifespan than copper condenser coils.
  • Age of Condenser: If the condenser is more than 10 years old, it is best to replace the whole unit.
  • Cost of Labor: Some HVAC technicians charge more than others per hour of labor. Labor cost for a complete condenser unit replacement ranges from $200 to $1500 dollars. Depending on the location, HVAC Contractors can charge anywhere between $75 to $250 per hour. On average, the installation process to replace a condenser unit takes 3 to 6 hours to complete. Additionally, some contractors require a minimum service fee charge. These can really add up. Consider how much labor will add to the total cost of installation.
  • Time of Year: During the summer months, HVAC contractors charge more for condenser repairs and replacements because that's the busiest time of the year. Not to mention, the rush fees that can cost up to $200 for emergency repairs. If your unit breaks down in the summer, you're easily shelling out an extra $200 to $600 dollars.
  • SONE Rating: A new model condenser operates more quietly than an older system. However, they are more expensive.
  • Unit Efficiency: Condensers with higher SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) ratings, have higher pricing. They deliver more energy efficiency but that comes at a high initial cost.

Can You Replace Just the Outside Air Conditioning Unit?

Yes, you can, but it is not advised. Except in cases of weather or climate damage, it is better to replace the whole unit.

Although your initial cost might be lower, your long-term expenses will probably total more than if you replaced the entire unit in the first place.

Always replace the outdoor unit coils and the indoor air conditioning cooling coil at the same time for the best result overall. Only replacing the coils on the outdoor condenser unit lowers the efficiency of the unit. It can also lead your unit to premature failure and void most manufacturer warranty agreements.

Mismatched AC Compressor and Condenser Can Create High Costs

If your new condenser fan is incompatible with your older cooling system, several issues can occur. Here are the biggest problems that occur:

  • Reduced efficiency: When the parts are not properly matched, the system will not be as efficient. This means that it will use more energy to cool your home, which will result in higher energy bills.
  • Shorter lifespan: Mismatched ac parts will also cause a shorter lifespan. This is because the compressor and condenser will be working harder than they should which can lead to premature wear-and-tear.
  • More repairs: A mismatched system will also have a shorter lifespan. This is because the compressor and condenser will not be working together as efficiently, which can lead to problems.

If you are considering replacing your AC system, make sure that the compressor, radiator, and condenser unit are properly matched. You will save money on energy bills and extend the lifespan of your system.

Low SEER Rating

It also lowers the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of the unit because the older indoor parts have a lower SEER than the new outdoor unit. When working together the efficiency of the entire system is decreased.

Lower Efficiency

The decreased efficiency of the older indoor unit lowers the overall efficiency of the replaced outdoor unit. That alone means your AC condensing system is operating below manufacturing standards and increases your energy costs. Lower efficiency means your unit needs to work harder for the same results as a completely replaced AC system. Electricians and HVAC manufacturers heavily suggest replacing the outdoor unit and the indoor cooling coil when they pass system life expectancy.

Incompatible Parts

Advancements in technology for HVAC systems led to the development of better tubing, fins, grooved surfaces, materials, and surface coverage. As a result, older parts are not compatible with new model parts. Even if the system can operate, it will work harder to do so.

An AC condenser unit that is over 10 years old will not be compatible with your indoor unit. A new AC unit with new refrigerant will not be compatible with older units. Why is that? Old air conditioners use Freon, also known as R-22 or HCFC-22. Freon is a harmful refrigerant that US manufacturers stopped using in 2010. R-22 is banned because of its damage effect on the ozone layer.

A new air conditioner unit uses R-410A, R-407C, or R-134a refrigerant to improve energy efficiency. Two separate refrigerant types will not work together. For example, if your new ac condenser unit uses R-410A and your old indoor unit uses R-22, the ac system will not work.

Void Warranties

Additionally, using a new ac condenser with an old indoor unit can, in some cases, void the manufacturers’ warranty, leading to higher ac condenser repair costs if something goes wrong. This is because warranties usually include clauses that cover parts defects.

However, the defect or faulty parts clause only covers units built by the same manufacturer. When only replacing the outdoor unit, it voids the agreement because the outdoor unit is a different make and manufacturer.

Benefits of Replacing Your Whole Unit

Saving on cooling cost

An older unit wastes more energy at a higher cost. To be more efficient, replace both the ac condenser unit and indoor AC unit. After replacing your ac condenser coil and condenser, your monthly energy cost will decrease.

Covered under HVAC warranty

Once the replacement services are finished, your new ac system will have an active warranty. This protects your air conditioner when problems occur.

Warranties can come in two types: Labor or manufacturer's part warranties. Labor policies cover the services and labor call charges through the manufacturer. A Manufacturer's parts warranty covers defective components and equipment problems in your condenser unit and indoor unit. This means you don't have to pay for a replacement part or to fix an issue.

Some brands require that you register your new equipment and sign up for full coverage or extended term. Don't forget to register your new air conditioning system to benefit from any term extensions offered. Standard part warranties are 5-years but some brands extend the agreement up to 10 years after registering the equipment.

Better cooling in your home

After your condenser unit replacement, your system will be more efficient. The new air conditioner ensures your ac removes heat without wasting energy. Kiss sweating in the summer heat goodbye!

Recommended Reading

Beat the heat by preparing your AC unit ahead of time! With a few simple tips, like checking your thermostat and replacing filters, you can have your air conditioning ready in no time.

HVAC air conditioning systems use a condensing unit as part of their cooling process. Outdoor condensers work with an indoor air handler to transfer heat from inside your home and disperse it outside.

Installing a DIY mini split system requires a few steps! Find out more with our blog.

MRCOOL 4th Generation DIY mini split systems offer additional benefits over their 3rd generation counterparts. Find improved SEER ratings, the DIY Pro Cable, up to 5 zones, and a quality warranty.

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