I get this situation a lot where people will have the need to change the outside portion of their AC or heat pump system. The air handler will be in good shape and the condenser is falling apart or the fan and compressor are in need of replacement and it seems it is more economical to replace the whole outside unit.
“Can I change just the outside part of my air conditioner?” Don’t be tempted to go this route! There are very limited scenarios where you can get away with this. Here is a comprehensive overview of this subject broken down into easy to understand.
When you can:
1. You system is very new. The efficiencies changed in 2006 to 13 seer and the change from R-22 Freon to R-410a went into effect in 2010. Your system must also have an ARI number assigned to it, which means the equipment model must be manufactured currently. So basically if your system was installed in a matched set in or since 2010 and it is still being produced, your in good shape. If this is the case then your equipment is most likely still under warranty and it doesn’t make sense to change it out, unless that is, you like throwing away money.
Reference: EPA phase out data,
Why you can’t:
1. Air conditioners and heat pumps work on the principal of moving heat from one location (inside your home) to another (outside your home). There are different combinations of air speed, pumping quantity and surface area that can be changed to achieve the same result. Your equipment MUST be matched in order for this to work together properly. If this isn’t working together properly it can result in: an indoor coil that freezes continually, a loud compressor, lessened compressor life and higher power bills. I don’t know about you but none of these sound good to me.
2. Freon (R-22) oil isn’t compatible with Puron (R-410a) oil. R-22 uses a mineral oil and R-410a used a synthetic oil. Mineral oil turns to acid in the high pressure and temperature environment of a Puron system. So if you change your condenser only and the air handler, even if it is designed to handle R-410a, was running r-22 through it, you will have a bad compressor on your hands in no time. It won’t be lubricated properly. It is impossible to remove all of this mineral oil from and air handler evaporator coil in order to install a newer condenser using R-410a.
3. Older air handlers using r-22 were designed for much lower pressures ranging form 60 psi. to 300 psi. Newer air handlers range form about 120 psi to over 500 psi. An older air handler obviously can’t deal with these higher pressures.
4. A “dry charged” unit is a condenser that is designed to be installed on an R-22 system. It has no freon in it so suppliers can sell them. When installed a technician can charge this system with r-22 and the system will work if the air handler was manufactured after 2005. The problem with this is that you will not be able to permit this work in many jurisdictions especially here in Florida. This would be considered an illegal match up.
In summation, it is not advantageous to the homeowner to replace just the condenser. It is a quick fix and lucrative for the tech. Even though it may seem enticing because it is cheap and fast does not make it the correct choice. I see more people regretting this decision than happy they did it.