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Can I Replace My AC Unit Myself in Big Bear, CA?

Bear Valley Plumbing & Heating


An AC unit is indispensable in a Big Bear home. If your AC unit develops a fault, you may wonder if you can replace the unit yourself. Many people consider this to save money or to enjoy DIY home repairs.

The answer is yes; you can replace your AC unit by yourself in Big Bear. However, this is not an easy task. HVAC systems are more complicated than they look, so it may be dangerous for a non-professional to handle them.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of self-installation and how to replace your air conditioning unit in your Big Bear home.

Pros of DIY Replacement in Big Bear, CA

Replacing your air conditioning unit will save you some money. You can skip installation costs since you will be doing this yourself. But, the cost of purchasing the unit yourself may be higher since most companies have discounts with manufacturers. Also, you may have to spend on tools.

Additionally, you can do your market survey and choose the air conditioning unit that best suits you. Most companies recommend brands they already have discounts and relationships with. So you can make the best choice for your budget when making the purchase yourself.

Moreover, DIY projects are a way for handy people to learn something new. You get to clear your head during the task and learn everything about your system.

This helps you learn the system’s processes and maintain them better over the years.

Cons of DIY AC Unit Replacement in Big Bear, CA

Working on a DIY replacement can take longer than you imagine. Unless you are on vacation, the several hours of work can be tiring and frustrating. The time investment may even cost more than the monetary compensation to a professional.

Moreover, working with an HVAC is complicated, so technicians have several certification requirements. For example, if your system needs a refrigerant, you will need an EPA certification to work on it. This requires several hours of studying and stage examinations.

Besides, there are also several technical issues that one may ordinarily not focus on. For instance, you will need to

  • Ensure the ductwork is correct
  • Follow state and federal laws on installation
  • Ensure the paperwork for installing a new unit has been completed.

Steps to Replace an AC Unit in Big Bear, CA

Here’s a step-by-step guide to replacing your old unit and installing a new one.

Remove the Old System

Some systems are easier to remove than others, but a split system can pose some gas leak risks.

The traditional way to do this is first to shut off the outlet tap of the first unit. This automatically shuts off the second tap, and all the freon will be in the outdoor unit.

However, this process is more complicated than it sounds. You will probably need an assistant, but professional help is the best.

Demolition and Disposal

Getting rid of the old equipment takes more work than you think. You can’t just throw it in a dumpster. Instead, companies usually separate the materials and have certain parts recycled or the whole system repaired for a new owner. Also, the EPA has struck regulations on freon disposal. So, there are Big Bear companies that specialize in this.

Get A New System

You can easily order a new system with specifications online, but the shipping costs may be more than what you save when you DIY. So, it would be best to consider buying from a local company or checking your local hardware store for referrals and discounts. This makes it easier to arrange delivery services as well.

You can also call local contractors to ask for recommendations. Then, if you need to save money, you can buy a pre-used system. However, it may not be in the best working condition.

Choose the Right Location

It’s easier to figure out where to install your unit if you only replace it. Then, you can simply place it in the same spot where the professional placed the former. However, you may miss a few things if it’s your first installation.

First, your central air unit should be installed outside and connected to the ductwork. You can either place it on the roof or a concrete pad.

Ensure the location has adequate airflow, is positioned and connected properly, and is not in your way.

Check the DuctWork

Your ductwork needs to be properly insulated. Faulty or leaking ductwork will reduce the fresh air entering your home and increase energy costs.

You can check your ductwork to see if everything is properly sealed. You should also check for sags and bends. You may have to remove the flooring to check or go to the crawl space under your house.

Inner Component and Connections

You may have to figure out some inner components to ensure the proper running of your AC unit. For example, you must connect the system to the thermostat and electrical line, remove any contaminant in the refrigerant line, and configure the proper length of the refrigerant line and drain piping.

If the AC unit requires charging, you should do this with the refrigerant. Ensure you rely on the unit’s installation manual, as each system can differ. They usually contain diagrams to help you decipher parts of the system you are working with, but good mechanical knowledge is still required if you want to do a good job.

Run a Test

You must run a test to check if everything is working properly. Here are a few things you should check:

  • Set the thermostat and turn it on.
  • Check if the air blowing through the ductwork is as cool as it should be.
  • Check for unit operations like electronic control failure and refrigerant links.

Safety Precautions When Installing a New Unit in Big Bear, CA

When installing a new unit, you must recover any refrigerant from the old system. This is a dangerous process that requires an EPA refrigerant-handling certification. The best bet in this situation is to get a new AC unit that comes with refrigerant. Still, if the refrigerant isn’t properly charged, you will need the extra refrigerant.

This means it’s best to leave the whole process to professionals.

Also, you must ensure there are no devices containing flammable gasses around the area you want to place your external unit. You should also use an air leaker breakage. Without this, there may be electrical shocks during operation.

In addition, the drain hose pipe should not contain water during installation, and the earth cable shouldn’t connect to gas, water, or telephone earth cable.

Lastly, one must have the right collection of tools for installation. Professionals usually have anemometers, clamp meters, wire strippers, vacuum gauges, and wire strippers. They also usually have leak detectors to sense any gas or radiation leaks.

Acquiring all these tools for one DIY job may be frustrating, but if you are a handy person with these tools, using them will dramatically improve the quality of your installation.

Why You Should Leave It to a Professional

From the above, an AC installation is a lot of work, and many things can go wrong for first-timers. In addition, this will eventually cost a lot of money and stress.

Here are a few reasons you should consider leaving your AC unit installation to a profession

Saves Time and Legwork

A professional will handle all paperwork related to a new system. For example, in Big Bear, some local government permits for home repairs and improvements may affect HVAC installation and repairs. This can be frustrating for an ordinary homeowner, but a professional will obtain all the permits easily, making the job smoother and faster.

Moreover, you can avoid lifting heavy machinery, pouring concrete, climbing the roof, and walking from one end to another during installation. This may sound like fun initially, but it can quickly become tiring.

Professional Maintenance

Most HVAC professionals offer maintenance plans on air conditioning units they install. In addition, most companies offer discounts and regular checkups to keep your system in pristine condition for years.

Safer Procedures

Air conditioning units are prone to gas leaks, and removing the system may cause dangerous Freon exposure.

However, a professional will have the right equipment and certification to do a proper job and test your system after installation. Besides, a good company will offer you a warranty for a faulty job.

Other Ways to Save Money on AC Unit Installation in Big Bear, CA

As we’ve pointed out, getting a professional to do the job is the best option for you and your home. However, there are a few ways you can save money when you call a Big Bear technician.

Seek Big Bear Financing Programs

Big Bear and California have financing programs and options to help residents get energy-efficient upgrades.

The more energy-saving approach you use, the easier it is to qualify for these programs. They usually don’t have money-down or interests, as long as you have some home equity.

Make Major Replacements at The Same Time

Pairing your AC replacement with your furnace or insulation repair can reduce your costs drastically in the long run. For example, if your AC is fifteen and needs a replacement, but your furnace still has a few years of work left, you can replace both.

First, getting the same technician on the job at once may reduce the labor costs compared to doing them at intervals.

Also, fixing your furnace and thermostat simultaneously may ensure you get the right thermostat that couples well with both pieces of equipment. Again, this will save costs in the long run.

Get on a Maintenance Program

Regular tune-ups for your AC unit will extend its life and save you costs in the long run. You can detect issues earlier and prevent further damage to your system.

Maintenance programs usually include scheduled tune-ups a few times a year.

Final Thoughts

An AC installation is best left to certified and trained professionals to do a good job. However, this may be expensive, and you may even find it hard to get a good company.

But while you may be able to DIY the task, you need to purchase a good system, get the necessary Big Bear permits, take proper precautions, and test the system. This may take longer and leave you dealing with tumultuous weather until you wrap it up.

However, you can save money long-term by buying a more energy-efficient system, doing major repairs or replacements at once, and getting a financing program. A good maintenance culture will also increase the lifespan of your system and save you money.

We are One Call Away in Big Bear, CA!

To replace or install a new air conditioning unit, engage an expert service in Big Bear to run periodic checks. Bear Valley Plumbing and Heating is available 24/7 to handle any repair, installation, demolition, and servicing of air conditioning units. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Related Content: How to Install Air Conditioning in Big Bear


If you are looking for a Big Bear plumbing, heating & air conditioning contractor, please call (909) 584-4376 or complete our online request form.