Air Conditioning Lifespan: How Long Do AC Units Last?

If you’ve had your AC unit for a while, you may be considering getting a replacement unit. With summertime just around the corner, it’s good to take a look at your air conditioning system to make sure it’s ready to keep you cool.

This article will look at the average air conditioning lifespan and some of the factors that can contribute to your system breaking down earlier than expected. 

What’s the average lifespan of an AC unit?

When we install a new AC unit, one of the most common questions we get from homeowners is “how long do air conditioning units last?” Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all answer because AC units can last anywhere between 12 and 20 years, depending on a variety of factors.

For example, here’s a general guide:

Type of air conditioning systemAverage lifespan
Window air conditioning unit10 years
Portable air conditioner 5-10 years
Residential single whole-home air conditioning system15 years
Central air-source heat pumps15 years
Ductless mini-split air conditioner systems20 years

This, however, doesn’t give you the whole picture. There are other factors that contribute to the lifespan of AC units.   

What other factors determine how long your AC unit will last? 

Let’s take a look at the factors that affect the lifespan of your AC system.

The size of your air conditioning unit

If your air conditioning unit is too small for the space it is trying to cool, it may have to work harder and longer to reach the desired temperature. This can result in increased wear and tear on the components of the unit, potentially leading to premature failure.

Alternatively, if your air conditioning unit is too large for the space it is cooling, it may cool the room too quickly and then shut off. This causes the unit to cycle repeatedly on and off or short cycle. Short cycling puts increased stress on components, including the compressor, leading to early breakdowns. 

How well your AC unit is maintained

Without regular maintenance, parts can become damaged, dirt and debris can build up, and your air conditioning lifespan won’t extend as long as it should. 

Your thermostat settings and placement 

Believe it or not, incorrect placement of your thermostat can affect your AC performance. Here are some places to avoid: 

  • Avoid your thermostat too close to windows and doors as these are sources of drafts. Consequently, your thermostat will read the whole house temperature as hotter or colder than it really is and act accordingly, heating or cooling when it doesn’t have to.
  • Avoid mounting your thermostat on exterior walls. Unless you have exceptionally good insulation in your walls, the external temperature will have at least a slight effect on the reading of your thermostat.

    This is especially true in the summer months, where an exterior wall facing the sun can be significantly warmer than the rest of the month.
  • As far as rooms go, avoid the kitchen. This spot is usually the warmest in any home, especially when cooking, and placing the thermostat here will give an incorrect average reading for the rest of the house.
  • You should also avoid hallways, corridors, and unused rooms, as the airflow in these locations can result in a temperature reading that is higher or lower than the rest of your home.

So, where is the best location for a thermostat in your home?

  • Your most used room. Placing the thermostat in the room you use most will help the system to effectively regulate your entire home.
  • The center of the house. A thermostat in the central area of your home is more likely to have an accurate temperature reading.

Bonus tip: since heat rises, install your thermostat roughly five feet above floor level. This will allow your thermostat to give the most accurate average temperature reading. If it’s lower the thermostat will read a cooler temperature, any higher and it will read a warmer temperature. 

How to extend your air conditioning lifespan

For those wondering “How long do central air conditioning units last?” Here are some tips to keep your unit up and running. 

Regular maintenance

Schedule annual maintenance with a qualified HVAC technician to clean the coils, check refrigerant levels, and ensure all components are functioning properly. This helps minimize issues and keeps your AC unit running efficiently.

Keep air filters clean

Your air filter traps dust, dirt, and debris, preventing them from entering the system. Clean or replace your air filter regularly, typically every 30-60 days or as recommended by the manufacturer. Doing so will improve airflow and prevent strain on your AC system.

Clear the area around your AC unit

Make sure there is no debris, leaves, or other objects obstructing the outdoor unit of your air conditioner. This allows for proper airflow, and prevents it from overheating.

Use a programmable thermostat

Avoid setting your thermostat to extremely low temperatures, as it can put excessive strain on your AC unit. 

A programmable thermostat allows you to set temperature schedules, reducing your unit’s workload. Set your thermostat to higher temperatures when you’re away from home or during the night to reduce the strain on your AC and extend its lifespan.

Keep the ducts clean

Clean and well-maintained ducts can improve airflow and help your air conditioner work more efficiently. Have your ducts inspected and cleaned by a professional HVAC technician periodically to remove dust, dirt, and debris.

Use shade and insulation

Keep your home shaded from direct sunlight with window coverings, and trees. Additionally, make sure your home is properly insulated to prevent hot air from entering and cold air from escaping, which can reduce the workload on your AC.

Signs your air conditioner needs replacing 

Now that you know the average lifespan of an air conditioner and how to take care of it, here are some signs your unit has run its course: 

Strange noises and frequent breakdowns

If your AC unit is consistently experiencing breakdowns and requires frequent repairs, it could be a sign that it’s nearing the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced.

Also if your AC unit is making unusual noises like grinding, rattling, or banging, it may indicate that there are internal issues with the system that may require replacement.

Reduced cooling capacity

If your air conditioning is struggling to cool your home adequately or if there are noticeable temperature inconsistencies between different rooms or areas in your home, it may indicate that your AC unit is not functioning efficiently and needs to be replaced.

Increased energy bills

If you notice a significant increase in your energy bills despite normal usage patterns, it could be a sign that your AC unit is not running efficiently and may need to be replaced.

Poor indoor air quality

Suppose you notice an increase in dust, dirt, or other pollutants in the air despite regular cleaning and maintenance of your AC unit. This suggests that your AC system is not effectively filtering the air, which could be a sign that it needs to be replaced.

Also if you notice your home has become more humid, it may be a sign your air conditioning needs replacing. 

Home renovations or additions

If you’ve made significant renovations to your home that require increased cooling capacity, your current AC unit may not be able to meet the new demand, and upgrading to a larger unit or adding additional units may be necessary.

Is your AC unit getting old? Let a professional take a look.  

To help extend the lifespan of your air conditioning, or to run maintenance on your current unit, contact Anderson Air to schedule a visit. Our skilled technicians can perform the maintenance that could give your AC a new lease on life!

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