How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?

Repairman repairing ceiling air conditioning unit

What is the average life of a central air conditioning system?

Purchasing a new air conditioner is something that most of us dread.

Fortunately, most air conditioners should last at least 15 years – as long as they are serviced regularly and protected from external factors. Still, they can encounter issues along the way.

Let’s talk about the average timeline for replacing air conditioners, signs that they’re dying, and ways to help them last longer.

The Average AC Unit’s Life

Let’s start with the most basic question, how long do Air Conditioners last?

Generally speaking, the answer is 5 to 20 years. Of course, that’s just an average – where you live, how much you run your unit, and maintenance factors all play a role.

With proper care and monitoring, your air conditioner should last for many years to come. That’s why we recommend taking maintenance seriously, starting today. You don’t want to face a brand new air conditioner’s expense sooner than you need to.

Keep in mind that coastal areas often run out their AC units faster than other places, due to the constant saltwater exposure. Similarly, in subtropical environments, excessive moisture often mandates when to replace an air conditioner, not the system’s age.

Signs That It’s Time to Make an Air Conditioning Replacement

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The Air No Longer Feels Cold

When the air pumping out of your unit is room temperature or just slightly cool, there’s a problem. You should feel noticeably cold air flowing freely from your vents. Don’t wait until your home becomes uncomfortably warm to realize something’s up.

The AC Unit Is Making Weird Noises

It’s normal for your unit to make the occasional sound, maybe when it turns off and on, but ongoing noise usually indicates a larger problem. Loud squeals, pops, bangs, or grinding mean you should call a professional as soon as you can. You likely have some problems with the blower or compressor.

The Air Smells Weird

When your AC is functioning as it should, you shouldn’t notice any odors. If the air smells smoky or bad, you may have a problem with your unit’s wire insulation. Musty odors often indicate mold or mildew buildup. Long story short, if you smell anything atypical, have an HVAC professional check it out.

You’re Getting Strangely High Energy Bills

Even if nothing seems wrong with your AC unit, you might notice that it’s not working efficiently when you receive your utility bill. An old, poorly functioning air conditioner will wrack up higher bills than a newer, more efficient system.

If your bills are steadily climbing higher than usual, it’s likely time to look into an HVAC replacement.

The Most Common Reasons for an AC Breakdown

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Bad Capacitor

When your capacitor goes out, the motor in your AC system can’t run properly. Although you can replace a weak or broken capacitor, it might be best to look into an entirely new system if it’s more than ten years old.

Heavy AC Usage

The more your home runs your AC system, the faster it will wear down and potentially break. This is especially true if your air conditioner is already old (10 years+). If you’re encountering problems, consider giving your AC a break.

Lack of Proper Maintenance

By far, the biggest reason that most air conditioners eventually bust is that the owners haven’t scheduled regular checkups. Maintenance is crucial if you want to avoid breakdowns and give your AC system a long life.

In a maintenance check, an HVAC professional checks for issues like:

  • Dirty condenser coils
  • Obstructed filters
  • Low refrigerant levels
  • Blockages

Keep in mind that your AC warranty may require regular maintenance – another reason to contact an HVAC company soon.

The Thermostat Broke

If there’s something wrong with your thermostat, you may be able to replace the batteries, but you should also have a professional assess the situation.

Electrical Problems

Loose electrical connections and dirty contractors can cause problems for your unit.

Keep in mind that the more you have your system inspected, the faster big electrical problems can be spotted and prevented.

How Can You Extend the Life of Your Air Conditioner?

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Clean Your AC Unit Regularly

It doesn’t matter where you live – your air conditioning system needs cleanings on a regular basis to stay in tip-top shape. This is especially true if your unit(s) is located outside where wind, dust, animals, and dirt affect it.

Get Regular AC Tune-Ups

As we said earlier in this post, maintenance is the key to taking care of your air conditioner and extending its life. Schedule frequent tune-ups, at least twice a year. These checkups are especially important at the beginning of the summer and before the cold months arrive.

Check for Leaks

The sooner you look for moisture or leaks, the sooner you can fix them. Make a note to check for leaks at least once a year. If you spot any issues, you should immediately contact an HVAC professional. Don’t attempt to handle the leak yourself.

Clean the Ducts

Cleaning air ducts isn’t just about improving the air quality inside your home. It’s also about ensuring there’s a clear path for air to flow. When dirt and debris accumulate, cooling becomes more difficult, which puts more strain on your AC system.

At a minimum, clean your ducts every couple of years. If you live in an area with lots of wind, debris, and pollen, this may need to be done more frequently.

Change the Filter

It’s vital that you prevent clogs by changing your air conditioning filters on a regular schedule. Doing so keeps your air clean and breathable, but it also saves you money on your utility bills and ensures you won’t have to replace your unit as quickly.

The more you use your air conditioner, the more often you should check your filters and either clean them or switch them out.

Allow Air to Circulate

Last but not least, you can simply let the air flow freely. Do whatever you can to clear a path for cool air. Move furniture blocking vents. Watch for obstructions. The harder your AC system has to work to maintain a steady temperature inside, the faster it’s going to expire.

In Conclusion

This post should give you some idea of how much longer you have until you’ll need an air conditioning replacement. Start paying attention to your system now so you can save yourself the pain of paying for a new one soon.

Remember: at Bogner Sheet Metal, our HVAC technicians are more than happy to take a look at your Santa Cruz heating and cooling system. Our goal is to help your air conditioner lasts as long as possible with proper installations, maintenance, and repairs.

Call 831-423-4322 to learn how we go “above and beyond” for all of our clients. You can also fill out our contact form for more information on our services and pricing.

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Cindy Martin