Like any homeowner, you'd probably like your air conditioner to last for a very long time. After all, a decent unit represents a sizeable investment. When you consider the important role that an air conditioner plays in the indoor comfort of your home, however, the cost is well worth it. Still, it's natural to want to get the biggest return on your investment as possible, and that's easier when the air conditioner lasts a decent amount of time. Luckily, there are ways to help your air conditioning system last as long as possible.
What is the Air Conditioner Lifespan?
The average lifespan for an air conditioner is 10 to 15 years. Some air conditioners last up to 20 years. As interesting as these data points may be, they don't tell you the whole story. The issue is that a variety of factors affect the lifespan of an air conditioner. When you buy a new A/C unit, you may be given a rough estimate about how long it will last. Some factors are beyond your control, but there are steps you can take to protect your investment.
Factors that Affect the Longevity of Air Conditioners
One of the main factors that affects the longevity of an air conditioner is its location. Air conditioners in areas that are extremely hot and humid most of the year have to do a lot more work. In some cases, they may run almost continuously nearly every day. They endure a lot more wear and tear, so they're less likely to last for decades. Units that are located in more moderate climates, on the other hand, aren't used as much. If you live in a place that has long, cold winters, your air conditioner is typically going to last a long time.
Location isn't the only thing that affects the longevity of an air conditioner. The quality of its parts and components matters too. Some air conditioning units are made out of remarkably durable parts. You can get a feel for the quality and durability of an air conditioner's parts by considering the warranties that go along with them. Compressors almost always have decent warranties, but what about components like coils and air handlers? If parts are backed up by mediocre warranties or not really protected by warranties at all, your unit may not last very long.
How to Make Your Air Conditioner Last Longer
Air conditioners last longer when homeowners are conscientious about taking care of them. Unfortunately, many people do little more than switch them on at the beginning of the summer and switch them off at the onset of winter. Don't fall into that pattern. Be diligent about having your air conditioner cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. There are things you can do yourself, or you can just let a local HVAC company handle them for you.
A few great ways to extend the lifespan of an air conditioner include:
1. Regular Inspections - Before the warm weather rolls around every year, have your air conditioner inspected by an HVAC contractor. It's far better to become aware of a problem through a routine inspection than it is to wait for something to fail. The technician will make sure that the air conditioner is properly charged, which will reduce the risk of putting undue stress on the other components. He will also check the compressor and other components. Something as simple as a loose or failing part could wreak havoc on your air conditioning unit. If it's caught early, it can be repaired and managed more easily.
2. Routine Cleanings - Air conditioners have compressors, and the compressors are located in the outdoor portion of the system. Things like cottonwood seeds can work their way inside and clog the coils. Over time, this reduces the efficiency of an air conditioner and can even cause serious damage. An HVAC company can clean the coils while inspecting the unit, or you can do it yourself. A garden hose should do the job, but don't aim it right into the coil. Point it at a 45-degree angle to gently work away debris.
3. Duct Cleanings - In addition to having the air conditioner itself cleaned, you should have the ducts in your home cleaned every few years too. When ducts get too dirty, the efficiency of an air conditioner can suffer. The added strain can shorten the lifespan of even a top-notch unit. Your energy bills will go up too, so you'll spend more to keep your home cool. Duct cleanings aren't something that the average homeowner can handle, but a local HVAC company should be able to do them for you. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how much more efficient your unit is after having these cleanings done.
4. Additional Tips - Make sure the vents around your home are clear. Move furniture, curtains and other obstructions. If they are blocked by such items, your air conditioner's efficiency will be reduced. Turn off your air conditioner on chilly days too. Forcing it to stay on can cause undue wear and tear, and it does nothing to really enhance the comfort of your home. If it's stuffy inside the home, open a few windows and turn on a few ceiling fans instead.
When to Replace an Old Air Conditioner
Many homeowners try to hold off as long as possible before buying new air conditioners. At a certain point, however, it's far better to take the plunge than it is to keep using an old, inefficient unit. If your unit is 10 or 15 years old and keeps experiencing problems, or if it just doesn't cool your home as efficiently and effectively as it once did, it's probably time to upgrade to a new, more efficient model. Consider it an investment in your home and as a way to cut energy costs. You'll have to spend a decent amount to get a new unit, but you'll save money over time and have a more comfortable home in return.