Can You Replace Just The Outside AC Unit?

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According to the U.S. Department of Energy, your HVAC system must be replaced every 10-15 years. Of course, how soon you replace it will depend on the condition of your HVAC system and how well it was maintained throughout its lifetime. If it remains in top condition and receives regular checkups, it may even last for more than 15 years. Experts recommend a minimum checkup and tune-up by a professional HVAC technician twice a year, preferably before the winter and the summer months. There are cases, however, when an HVAC system replacement is necessary. If you are wondering “Can you replace just the outside AC unit?”, read on.

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Can I Simply Have The Outdoor AC Unit Replaced?

Put simply, no, you cannot. According to the HVAC experts at Lawes Company, you will have to replace both the indoor and the outdoor air conditioning units together. You could, of course, simply replace one and retain the other but you could be facing a problem with efficiency, which could later lead to air conditioner performance problems and higher cooling costs.

Why You Should Replace Both Outdoor & Indoor Air Conditioning Units

The Indoor And Outdoor Air Conditioning Units Need To Match

The AHRI (Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute) states that outdoor units are usually designed to match specific air handlers or indoor units. The match is critical to ensure that not only is the system compatible, but it is also highly efficient. If only the outdoor unit is replaced, you could end up with a system that is mismatched. This system could likely perform poorly and inefficiently, causing a number of troublesome air conditioning issues. You could experience anything from high operating costs to premature air conditioner failure to reduced indoor comfort.

Air Conditioner SEER Rating

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SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This air conditioner rating indicates the cooling output of the AC system within a cooling season in comparison to how much energy it consumes each year. In short, the SEER rating of an air conditioner is an indicator of its efficiency. The U.S. EIA (Energy Information Administration) recommends an air conditioner that has a minimum SEER rating of 13 to enjoy its benefits. To ensure optimum efficiency, the SEER rating of the indoor and the outdoor units must be the same. This is why replacing just the outdoor or indoor unit is a delicate job because there is a chance that their SEER ratings will not match. If these units do not match, there will be problems down the line.

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R-22 Phaseout

The goal of many HVAC manufacturers is sustainability, which is why more and more eco-friendly designs are being utilized for modern air conditioner systems. One part of such design is the phaseout of the R-22 refrigerant. This is an older type of air conditioner coolant that has been a contributor to the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer, according to the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Federal laws passed a few years back mandate manufacturers to begin using R-410A coolant because it is considered safer.

If your air conditioner still uses R-22, you may have to consider upgrading it to one that uses the newer R-410A coolant. This will help increase the efficiency of your system and promote safety, on top of being environmentally friendly. This is why we do not recommend replacing just one of either the outdoor unit or the indoor unit.

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Air Conditioner Manufacturer’s Warranty

hvac system warrantyAll brand new HVAC systems are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty to protect you against the cost of breakdowns that are caused by flaws or defects in parts installed in the factory. If the indoor and outdoor air conditioning units happen to be incompatible, either your dealer or manufacturer may consider your air conditioner warranty void.

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Premature Failure & Frequent Air Conditioner Repairs

If your air conditioner is well-maintained and its components are matched, you can reasonably expect it to last for a minimum of 10+ years. However, a mismatched air conditioning system will work harder as compensation for its inefficiency. This significantly reduces its lifespan. Simply getting one unit replaced will cause the system to become inefficient, putting an unnecessary burden on the system. This leads to frequent HVAC repairs and premature air conditioner failure. If you want to avoid these issues, you will have to replace both indoor and outdoor units and not just one.

Benefits Of Replacing Both Your Outdoor and Indoor Units

  • Save On Cooling Costs: It does not matter how high the SEER rating of the system is, as long as it is mismatched, it will not perform as well as it could. It will have reduced efficiency and work harder to generate enough cool air to deliver the desired temperature. As a result, you will notice an increase in your energy consumption.
  • Enjoy Increased Home Comfort: Because the system is well-matched, it will have excellent efficiency. This translates to excellent home comfort that you and your family will enjoy.
  • HVAC Warranty: A matched system will ensure that your system is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. This will ensure that your HVAC system is protected and that its warranty remains valid within the specified period.
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Getting Your Air Conditioner In Top Shape

There are ways to prevent premature air conditioner replacement and system failure. Here are some of them:

  • Keep the HVAC filter clean and have it replaced periodically
  • Check if the fan is functioning properly
  • Consider installing a programmable thermostat
  • Get the condensate drain inspected by a licensed HVAC technician to ensure that it drains properly; have it unclogged when necessary
  • Make sure the system is matched
  • Make the necessary adjustments in the temperature settings to reduce the burden on the HVAC system, especially when it is not being used
  • Perform HVAC checks regularly or have them done by a professional
  • Call a professional HVAC technician for tune-ups before summer and before winter

These steps will not make your HVAC system invincible but they will help prevent premature failure and increase the lifespan of your unit. These tips will also help increase the system’s efficiency, thereby lowering your cooling costs. Make sure to get your HVAC system serviced only by a qualified and licensed HVAC contractor who has the training and experience to handle all aspects of inspection, tune-up, and maintenance.



Given the different scenarios that could occur due to a mismatched system, you already know the importance of ensuring that your HVAC system is matched, especially its outdoor and indoor units. If you must replace one, you will have to replace the other as well. This is particularly critical if you are looking at replacing components from different manufacturers. The same SEER rating for both units will still not work as long as they are mismatched. If you want to ensure an efficient and safe system, call your local HVAC contractor for advice.

Call Lawes Company For Superior Heating & Cooling Solutions

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Lawes Company is one of the leading heating and cooling service providers in Monmouth and Ocean County, New Jersey. All our services are performed by certified HVAC technicians who can perform a range of heating and cooling services, from installations and tune-ups to repairs and replacements to ensure that your HVAC system is in good shape. We offer the most competitive services in the county and you can be assured that every job we perform is guaranteed to meet your expectations and budget. If your A/C unit is not performing as it should, give Lawes Company a call today. We offer in-home estimates at no cost to you.

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