How Long Do HVAC Systems Last?

Buying a home with a mature AC unit? Learn how long most HVAC systems tend to last and how you can maintain it better.

Hvac unit outside home

Chronological age isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to determining how long your HVAC system should last. Your furnace should last longer than your air conditioner, but you can extend the life of your entire HVAC system with regular maintenance and timely repairs.

Your System’s Lifespan

The average lifespan of a furnace today is about 15 to 20 years. A heat pump should last about 16 years, and an AC unit should last 10 to 20 years. 

Regular HVAC maintenance can help you identify potential problems before they become serious enough to shorten the life of your system. You can do some maintenance tasks, such as changing your HVAC filter, yourself. If you have pets, or if someone in your home has allergies, change it every month. Otherwise, change it every three to six months.

Other tasks, such as a yearly furnace and AC tune-up, are best left to the professionals. An HVAC contractor can clean the condenser and evaporator coils on your AC unit and examine it for signs of damage. If your AC needs repair, it’s best to figure that out before it fails completely. If you have a home warranty with American Home Shieldâ, you can relax knowing our contractor network can help with your AC maintenance.

Routine AC maintenance should take place early in the spring, so your unit will work properly from the very first day you turn it on and so you can avoid breakdowns during the summer, when you depend on your AC to keep you comfortable. The same goes for maintaining your furnace. Schedule an HVAC tune-up for your furnace before cold weather sets in, so you can avoid breakdowns that will leave you in the cold. 

Upgrading to a New System

If your AC unit is more than 15 years old or if your furnace is more than 20 years old, it may be time to upgrade to a new system, especially if something breaks. When you figure in the cost of labor, some repairs, like replacing a condenser or evaporator coil in your air conditioner, can be just as costly or even more expensive than replacing the unit entirely.

Homeowners in some areas face the prospect of upgrading a legacy HVAC system to a more modern one. For example, you may have a coal or oil furnace that was installed 50 years ago and should have been replaced 20 years ago. Replacing this system will do more than save you from coping with an unexpected breakdown. It may also significantly lower your heating costs, especially for systems that rely on fuels that are now very expensive, like heating oil.

Likewise, you may want to replace your heat pump or evaporative cooler with a new AC unit, which will last about as long, perhaps even a little longer, than your old system. It will also function more efficiently, saving you money. The sooner you replace your legacy system, the sooner you can begin reaping the benefits of lower energy bills.

Top of HVAC system

Factors that Affect Your AC System’s Life

There are many factors that can affect the lifespan of your system. These days, the climatic conditions most units must deal with have changed from 20 or 30 years ago. The weather is getting warmer, but that’s not the only issue. Off-gassing - the release of airborne particulates from common household products - often occurs with chemicals in newly constructed or newly renovated homes and cleaning supplies, all of which can affect your unit’s lifespan.

The chemicals used in the manufacture of building components today can cause the copper condenser coils inside of indoor AC units to corrode more quickly. Modern building methods also mean that houses aren’t as drafty as they once were, so there’s less air flow through your home. While that’s great news for your energy bill, it also means that chemicals from cleaning products and new building components can remain in your home longer. For these reasons, outdoor air conditioning units tend to last longer than indoor units.

Of course, another big factor that affects the life of your HVAC is how you use it. In many parts of the country, homeowners only use their air conditioning for a few months out of the year. An AC unit in Pennsylvania, for example, that only gets used for four or five months of the year will last longer than one in Arizona that gets used 24 hours a day all year long. That second air conditioner simply experiences more wear and tear in a shorter period of time because it’s used more.

These days, HVAC systems are more complex than ever, but they can still last a long time with proper maintenance and regular repairs. Buying a home warranty can help protect components of your HVAC system. Contact American Home Shield today to learn more about the HVAC coverage our home warranty plans provide.

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