How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?

Central AC units typically last 15-20 years, but this can vary significantly depending on how much you use it and how well you take care of it. You extend the lifespan of your AC unit with routine maintenance, good installation, and quickly addressing any issues.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into how long air conditioners typically last and provide tips on when it might be time for a replacement. So keep reading and stay cool!

a technician checking an air conditioner

Factors Influencing The Expected Lifetime of Your Home Air Conditioner

Now that we know the average lifespan of a home air conditioner is 15-20 years, we should reiterate that several factors can influence how long your particular AC unit will last.

For the most part, skipping HVAC system maintenance and tune-ups and ignoring issues that need to be repaired will lead to a shorter life for your air conditioning unit.

Here are the significant factors that affect its lifespan.

How Often And For How Long You Use It

The first factor is how long and often you use your air conditioner.

For example, you will use an AC unit most of the year in Austin and run it more frequently due to the high temperatures. On the other hand, if you live in Minneapolis, you might only use your AC unit in June, July, and August — just three months of the year.

In other words, if you use your air conditioner 24/7 and most months of the year, it will have a shorter lifespan than an AC unit that’s only used occasionally.

The shorter lifespan from increased usage is because mechanical components wear down over time.

Think of it this way. If you drive a car 100,000 miles a year versus 20,000 miles a year, you’d expect the one getting the most mileage to not last as many years. You can apply this same logic to your AC unit.

Location Of Components

The location of the air conditioner’s components also determines how long it will last.

For example, if your evaporator coils and air handler are constantly exposed to high moisture or humidity, they will corrode much faster than if they were in a dry location. This is why it’s essential to ensure all the AC unit’s components are properly sealed and protected from the elements.

Note: Where your outdoor unit (condenser unit) is located matters too. Being in direct sunlight for most of the day makes it run hotter, and if it is below trees, branches can fall and damage it or leaves clog it. In both cases, this can reduce its lifespan.

Quality Of The Installation

HVAC professional installing an AC

Another factor influencing your AC unit’s lifespan is the quality of the installation.

If the installation isn’t done correctly, it can cause all sorts of problems that will shorten the lifespan of your unit.

For example, if the refrigerant isn’t charged correctly, it can damage the compressor. If the AC unit isn’t level, it can cause premature wear and tear on various parts from excess wobble and vibration. Also, if the ductwork isn’t properly sealed or insulated, it can lead to air leaks and inefficiencies that put extra strain on the unit.

All of these installation issues can reduce how long your AC unit lasts. That is why choosing an experienced and qualified HVAC contractor is significant.

Size of the AC Unit

The size of your air conditioner also affects its lifespan. If you have a unit too small (meaning not enough BTUs)  for your home, it will have to work harder to keep your home cool.

On the other hand, if you have an AC unit that is too big for your home, it will turn on and off much more frequently (AKA short cycling). This also puts extra strain on the unit and can lead to a shorter lifespan.

In short, you want to ensure your AC unit is correctly sized for your home for it to last as long as possible. An experienced HVAC professional can properly size an AC unit for your home using the Manual J calculation.

Servicing and Maintenance Regularity

HVAC professional checking the outdoor unit of an AC

Another factor that affects an AC unit’s lifespan is how well you maintain it.

As we mentioned earlier, skipping tune-ups and maintenance appointments will shorten the lifespan of your unit. This is because, over time, the different parts of your AC unit will start to wear down and break.

If you don’t catch these issues early, they can quickly become extensive (and expensive) problems that will require major repairs or cause your unit to break down completely.

Not to mention, if you don’t regularly clean your AC unit’s filters, it will have to work harder to circulate air through your home. This reduced airflow puts extra strain on the unit and can lead to a shorter lifespan.

So, if you want your AC unit to last as long as possible, you must ensure you keep up with regular maintenance appointments and change the air filter when needed.

Type of AC Unit

A significant factor that affects an AC unit’s lifespan is the type of unit you have. Compared to portable AC units and window air conditioners, central ACs and ductless mini-splits tend to last longer.

This is because central air units are larger and don’t have to work hard to cool your entire home. As such, they don’t experience the same level of wear and tear as window units do.

Additionally, high-efficiency central AC units (with two-stage and variable speed compressors) also tend to last longer than single-stage units. This is because they run more efficiently and don’t have to work as hard to achieve the desired temperature.

Quality of Components

The final factor that affects how long an AC unit lasts is the quality of its components.

As you can probably imagine, AC units with high-quality parts tend to last longer than those with lower quality parts. This is because high-quality parts are built to withstand more wear and tear.

So, which brands use high-quality parts? Trane, Lennox, Carrier, Rheem, American Standard, York, and Goodman are all high-quality AC brands, just to name a few.

Note: AC units with digital controls often last longer than those with analog controls. This is because digital controls are more precise and don’t use as much energy to maintain the desired temperature.

In short, if you want your AC unit to last as long as possible, you must ensure it has high-quality components.

How Long Will The Parts of My Air Conditioner Last?

While the average lifespan of an air conditioner is about 15-20 years, the different parts inside your AC unit have their own lifespans.

For example, your air conditioner’s compressor lasts much longer than the air filter. And many components will last as long as you use your air conditioner. Here’s how long each component lasts.

Filter

The lifespan of our AC varies depending on the type of filter your AC unit has, like the MERV or HEPA rating and how thick it is. Generally, higher MERV and HEPA ratings and thicker filters last longer.

In general, air filters last anywhere from 1-12 months. But you should check it monthly regardless. It can get dirtier faster if you have pets, light candles, or smoke in your home.

Some AC units have washable filters. In that case, they last much longer. But you need to clean them regularly.

Condensate Pump

The condensate pump removes water from the air conditioner. Depending on how much your air conditioner runs and the climate (mainly the humidity levels), the condensate pump will last 6-10 years.

Condensate pumps are important since they prevent water damage in your home and mold and mildew. The HVAC technician will check your condensate pump when you schedule routine maintenance.

Blower Motor

The blower motor moves air through your ductwork and into each room in your home. The average lifespan of a blower motor is 10-15 years.

But, the lifespan of your blower motor can be significantly affected by how much your air conditioner runs. In general, if you live in a climate with long and hot summers, your air conditioner will run more often and for a more extended period. As such, the blower motor will have to work more often and won’t last as long.

Control Board

HVAC technician checking the control board of an AC

The control board is the “brain” of your air conditioner. It controls all of the air conditioner’s functions, and its average lifespan is 15-25 years.

But, like the blower motor, the lifespan of the control board can be affected by how often your air conditioner runs. In general, your air conditioner will run all the time if you live in a climate with long and hot summers.

As such, the control board will be working overtime. When it is running, the board will warm up. Over time, the extra heat degrades components, and eventually, a solder joint may fail, and the board will stop working.

Evaporator Coils

The evaporator coils absorb heat from your home’s air and then transfer that heat to the outdoor unit through a series of tubes filled with refrigerant. In general, evaporator coils last as long as the air conditioner.

Condenser Coils

The outdoor unit contains the compressor, condenser coils, and fan. The average lifespan of an outdoor unit is 15-20 years. For the condenser coils, they usually last as long as your AC unit.

But, if the coils get damaged and have refrigerant leaks, you will need to replace them sooner.

Thermostat

woman using a digital thermostat to control the AC

Your thermostat controls when your air conditioner turns on and off. Modern thermostats can last 10-15 years. If yours is older, it may need to be replaced sooner. Consider a smart thermostat since it makes your AC unit more efficient and reduces repairs while decreasing your energy bill.

Compressor

The compressor is one of the most critical parts of your air conditioner. It’s responsible for pressurizing refrigerant and circulating it throughout the system.

In general, compressors last 10-20 years. But, if you don’t maintain your air conditioner regularly, the compressor can fail sooner.

Refrigerant Lines

The refrigerant lines are the tubes that connect the indoor and outdoor units. They’re usually made of copper or aluminum and are well insulated.

Refrigerant lines usually last as long as your air conditioner. However, if the lines get nicked, impacted, or otherwise damaged and start to leak, you will need to replace them entirely.

How To Extend The Lifespan of your Air Conditioner

AC technician conducting a routine AC maintenance

The lifespan of your air conditioner can be affected by many factors, such as the climate, how often it’s used, and whether or not it’s properly maintained.

Here are a few tips to help you extend the lifespan of your air conditioner:

  • Schedule routine maintenance: One of the best ways to ensure that your air conditioner lasts as long as possible is to have it regularly maintained by a professional HVAC technician. During routine maintenance, the technician will inspect and clean all of the major components of your AC unit.
  • Change your filters regularly: Another essential way to maintain your air conditioner is to change the filters regularly. Depending on your filter type and how often your AC unit is used, you may need to change the filter every few months.
  • Keep your AC unit clean: In addition to changing the filters, you must keep your AC unit itself clean. This means cleaning the coils and removing any debris that may have accumulated around and inside the unit.
  • Upgrade your thermostat: If you have an older air conditioner, it likely has an outdated thermostat as well. Upgrading to a newer, more energy-efficient, smart thermostat can help reduce the amount of wear and tear on your AC unit.
  • Don’t wait until it’s too late: One of the worst things you can do is wait until your air conditioner breaks down before you call a technician. If you notice that your AC unit is not cooling as well as it used to or making strange noises, don’t hesitate to contact a technician. The sooner you catch a problem, the easier and less expensive it will be to fix.

Ultimately, how long your air conditioner lasts will depend on several factors. But, if you take good care of your AC unit and have it regularly maintained, you can help ensure that it lasts for many years and avoid costly repairs and unexpected breakdowns.

Signs You Should Replace Your AC Unit

There are a few key signs that it may be time to replace your AC unit. Many of these are challenging to diagnose or repair on your own. We suggest calling a professional HVAC technician for a thorough inspection.

Low Airflow

a man using a paper to cool himself

If you notice that the airflow from your vents is weaker than usual, it could be a sign that your AC unit is no longer working as efficiently as it once did.

A clogged filter or dirty coils can sometimes cause low airflow. But, if these issues are not the cause, your AC unit is likely losing its ability to generate sufficient airflow. In such cases, you will need to replace its blower motor or get a new unit entirely.

Increased Energy Bills

As AC units age, they lose their ability to generate the same level of cooling power as they did when they were new. To compensate for its dwindling performance, they often draw more electricity. So, if you’ve noticed a sudden spike in your energy bills and nothing else has changed, call an HVAC contractor for help.

Strange Noises

If your AC unit is making strange noises, it’s another sign that it may be failing. Common noises that indicate a problem include banging, clicking, hissing, and rattling.

These noises are usually caused by loose parts or components coming into contact with each other and creating friction. Ignoring these noises will eventually lead to more serious damage and may even cause your AC unit to break down entirely.

Leaking Refrigerant

a technician recharging the AC unit

Another sign that your AC unit is failing is leaking refrigerant. Refrigerant helps cool the air in your home, so if it’s leaking, it can’t do its job correctly.

There are several reasons why a refrigerant might leak from your AC unit. The most common is that the unit was not appropriately charged during installation or had a slow leak due to a manufacturing defect or an impact.

Whatever the cause, if your AC unit is leaking refrigerant, you should call a local HVAC technician for an inspection and repair.

It’s Old

A picture of an old AC unit

Age is another factor that can influence how long your AC unit lasts. The average lifespan of an AC unit is 15-20 years, but this can vary depending on its make and model and how well it’s been maintained.

If your AC unit is getting older and you’ve noticed some of the signs we’ve listed above, it may be time to start shopping for a new one.

You’re Always Too Hot or Too Cold

If you find yourself constantly adjusting the thermostat to find a comfortable temperature, it could be a sign that your AC unit is no longer working properly.

As mentioned earlier, AC units lose their ability to generate the same level of cooling power as they age. As a result, you may feel hot one minute and cold the next as your AC unit struggles to maintain a consistent temperature.

Significant Repair Costs

If you find yourself having to repair your AC unit more often, it’s a sign that it’s reaching the end of its lifespan. Over time, parts will inevitably wear out and break, and as they do, the costs of repairs will begin to increase.

Eventually, the cost of repairs will become so high that it will make more financial sense to replace the unit entirely. If you’re noticing that the repair bills for your AC unit are becoming more expensive, it’s best to jump into the market for a new one.

Is Your Air Conditioning Running?

Central air conditioners last about 15-20 years. And as you can see, a few key signs indicate it may be time to replace your AC unit. If you’re noticing any of these issues, it’s best to call an HVAC professional for an inspection.

Remember, the sooner you catch a problem, the easier and less expensive it will be to fix. So, don’t hesitate to call a technician if you think there may be an issue with your AC unit.

Do you have any other questions about air conditioners? Let us know in the comments below!

About The Author

Jonathon is a mechanical engineer with over ten years of experience in the HVAC industry. He has hands-on experience with all types of HVAC systems.

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