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This question gets asked to almost as mush as people ask about R22 refrigerant. Its a common issue that faces our industry and most people are not aware and feel like they may be getting ripped off or lied to. Don't worry, your not alone. Its completely normal to research and look into these things. This is why I am writing this blog, these questions are why places like Angie's List, Home Advisor, Google reviews all exist. For so long, so many people scammed people and misled people. The majority of homeowners and business owners are not heating and air repair specialist and therefore do not understand this industry. People just want to find a good, honest, hard working company that will show up, educate them, make them feel at ease and take the time to explain what is going on and what we need to do repair it. However, more times than not, the service technician or salesman at the home or property forgets this essential component, and either gets upset, annoyed or frustrated with a customer who is just simply asking questions. It is your right to ask questions and get informed and we want to be the ones that can help you do that.
To answer the initial question why do I have to replace both my indoor and outdoor units, its because of several factors. I know what your thinking, the service technician told me my outdoor compressor is bad, or my outdoor condenser coil has a leak, why do I have to replace the indoor? None of those diagnostics mention a leak or bad part in the indoor systems. Most times it sounds like a scam or a way to up sell you. It sounds like we are making this up in order to get the full replacement, charge you more money, make more commissions, make our bosses happier or maybe it seems like we just don't want to fool with a smaller repair. The truth is, sometimes we really do have to change both. I will explain more in detail.
First, if your system is R22, its at least 12 to 13 years of age. When you spend the money on replacing the outdoor its not much more to replace the entire system. The biggest reason is SEER Rating and refrigerant. When we change the outdoor unit over to R410a we will have to update the indoor coil as well. A replacement R410a coil to retro fit an existing R22 system actually costs more than a complete new indoor air handler. I have no idea, I guess the factory is more interested in selling whole pieces of equipment rather than parts. We also have to make sure the new SEER Ratings match, if they don't match you lose a lot of efficiency and your power bill can still be very high. When we upgrade your system we want you to get what you are paying for and start to see power savings. Thats the reason you upgraded in the first place. Be sure to get what you paid for.
Another issue facing the refrigerants, R22 operates at a much lower pressure than R410a, and therefore if you leave the same coil in, you are more likely to spring leaks all over the coil because you did not upgrade to a coil that was built and designed to hold and operate the much higher pressure.
Next, labor, doing a whole job right then, we can save more on the labor than having to come back and replace more things later. Another important note deals with the warranties. Units that don't have a corresponding match up, meaning a indoor and outdoor unit, will not register for the extended warranties. Units have to have either a new outdoor heat pump and air handler or a new outdoor condenser and indoor ac coil in order to be registered and acknowledged for the extended warranties. Otherwise it falls short and defaults back to commercial grade warranties. Some manufacturers will not even warranty the outdoor unit at all if they find out the unit has been retrofitted to an old indoor unit. Often times these new systems will not be acknowledge at all and the warranty will be recorded as null and void.
So when a technician or salesmen suggests that we need to replace both the indoor and outdoor units, make sure you asks the right questions. If he knows what he is doing and really cares, then he will take the time to answer your questions, explain to the why behind the what and make sure that you feel comfortable moving further with his company. Anyone who pushes you and does not answer your questions, take that as a red flag, don't waste your time and move on.