Why Should I Replace My Furnace with My Air Conditioner?

June 20, 2014

If it’s time to replace your air conditioner, you might have been flabbergasted when you were told you should also be replacing your furnace.

“What?” you might be thinking, “The furnace works fine. And it’s not even winter, so I can wait to do that later.”

You are correct. You could replace your air conditioner now and your furnace later down the line. But there are some pretty good reasons why we don’t recommend this approach.

Here’s 3.

Part of your air conditioner is in your furnace

If you, like most Kansas City homeowners, have a split air conditioning system, part of your air conditioner actually lives inside of your furnace. That’s right, the box sitting on a concrete slab in your back or side yard is only ½ of your system (that’s why it’s called a split system).

Let us explain.

Technically, an air conditioner doesn’t actually cool your air, it removes heat. The box outside your home (referred to as the condensing unit) is responsible for exhausting the heat. If you feel the air blowing out of it while it’s running, it will be hot. This makes the refrigerant (sometimes mistakenly referred to by the brand name Freon) cool.

The cool refrigerant runs through a refrigerant line into your home into the second part of your air conditioner (the evaporator unit). Here, air from your ducts is blown over the cool refrigerant and out into your home.

A diagram of a typical split air conditioning system with a furnace. Image source: AHRI

Here’s where it gets tricky. If you have a furnace, the inside unit shares the fan (usually called a blower or air handler) with the furnace. So to replace the inside unit, you need to replace the furnace, as well.

Mismatched systems create costly problems

If you replace only the outside unit of your air conditioner (or only the inside unit), your system won’t work the way it’s supposed to. This is because air conditioners are created to work as a system with two parts.  

If you take one part that was designed for one system and one part designed for another system, it only makes sense that there would be problems.

These can range from inconvenient to downright severe. Here are a few problems commonly caused by mismatched systems:

  • Decreased energy efficiency – A benefit of installing a new air conditioner is that you’ll likely save money each month on lower energy bills. But you won’t get as much savings without replacing both parts of your system.
  • Decreased comfort level – Some rooms will be cold while others are hot, in addition to other comfort problems. Your new unit was designed to work with another new unit, so it won’t work quite the same with an old unit.
  • Repairs & premature breakdown – In extreme circumstances, a mismatched system can break down prematurely because of the increased stress placed on it.

You can’t take advantage of new refrigerants

Older air conditioners use a now-outdated refrigerant called R-22, which is being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Besides being bad for the environment, R-22 is also very expensive (as a result of the phase-out). 

Most new air conditioners are designed to work with new refrigerants. But you can’t use a new refrigerant with an old system, so you must replace both the indoor and outdoor units to take advantage of the new refrigerants.

Have more questions? Let us answer them

We hope this article informed you on why it’s important and recommended to replace your furnace when you replace your air conditioner. 

But if you have any questions we didn’t answer, or if you want to get an estimate on a new air conditioning system, contact us today.
 
Santa Fe Air is the air conditioning and heating company trusted by Kansas City homeowners since 1987.


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