HVAC Q&A: Do I Need to Replace My Indoor and Outdoor Unit At The Same Time?

Recently, we received a question from Gina in Las Vegas, Nev., that might help out anyone who is thinking about replacing an outdoor HVAC unit. She writes:

“Dear HVAC.com team,

My husband and I need to replace the outdoor heat pump unit for our home. The indoor unit is still working, but our HVAC technician said we should consider replacing both at the same time. Do we really need to replace the indoor unit as well?”

Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. You should replace your indoor air handler at the same time as your outdoor heat pump — or air conditioning unit if it’s that time of year. I know it seems like an extra, unnecessary expense, but let’s look at why:

It is a necessary evil to replace both, here’s why:

  1. Matched systems perform better.

    When outdoor heat pumps and air conditioning units are designed, they are built to work with a matched indoor unit. This matched system works in tandem to generate optimum efficiency and ideal system performance.

    Replacing an outdoor unit without installing the matching indoor unit will work. However, you are jeopardizing the dependability of both the units and compromising your HVAC system’s efficiency, which may cost more in the long run.

    Air conditioner

  2. Efficiency ratings are based on matched systems.

    When you purchase a new unit, the heating and cooling efficiency ratings are based on matched system performance. That means if you bought a heat pump with an 18 SEER rating to help you save money on monthly bills, you won’t realize the full potential of those savings without the matching air handler.

  3. Technology has changed.

    Over the last 20 years, advances in residential HVAC technology have made outdoor and indoor units better than ever.

    When it comes to debris filtering, noise levels, and air handling performance, the units today simply outperform those installed in the past. Replacing both your indoor and outdoor units at the same time ensures that your HVAC system is running on the latest technology to make your home comfortable and your family healthy.

  4. Replacing both now will save you money long-term.

    Like I mentioned above, a mixed system will result in poor efficiency, which will cost money on energy bills. But that isn’t the only money replacing just an outdoor unit will cost you.

    Since most systems are installed as pairs, your indoor unit is probably just as old as your outdoor unit. Additionally, if your heat pump or air conditioner is 10 years old, it’s time to replace it anyway.

    If you choose to replace only the outdoor unit, you’ll probably have to spend the money to replace the indoor unit shortly thereafter, and that means paying installation costs twice. Replacing both ensures you will have an efficient, dependable system for a longer period of time.

  5. New units mean new warranties.

    Purchasing new HVAC equipment means a new manufacturer’s warranty and service guarantee when your equipment is installed.

    If you only replace your outdoor unit, your indoor unit’s warranty may expire before your outdoor unit’s. Additionally, some manufacturers may not extend full warranty coverage to an outdoor heat pump or air conditioner that is not attached to the matching indoor equipment. Replacing both the outdoor heat pump or air conditioner and the indoor unit allows you to breathe easy knowing that your entire HVAC system is covered for the same period of time.

I know replacing just the outdoor unit might appear cheaper right now, but long term, it will only cost more money. Replacing both units at the same time may seem like a more costly option, but a matched design system will run more efficiently, perform better, and last longer, delivering cost savings well beyond the extra expense.

If you need help finding the right system for your home or locating a local HVAC pro to help you install your system, contact our experts at HVAC.com; we’re always here to help you.

Do you have any experience replacing both your outdoor and indoor units at the same time? Share your thoughts with all of us in the comments below!

Matt, HVAC.com expert

If you have a question you would like our HVAC.com experts to answer, send us an email at [email protected].


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