How Long Should a Central A/C Unit Last?

crawfordmech August 5, 2022

Whether you’re actively looking for a new cooling system or weighing your options when something goes wrong with your current system, you’ll likely find yourself asking how long an A/C unit should last. While many central air system manufacturers pride themselves on offering reliable air conditioners, the answer to that question always varies. Realistically, the life span of your A/C will depend on numerous factors, so it often varies from unit to unit. 

Learn more about the factors that impact the life of an air conditioner, how you can extend its life and when you should replace your unit.

Factors That Affect the Life Span of Your Air Conditioner

What is the average life of an air conditioner? The answer to that question depends on factors like A/C use, maintenance, quality and external elements. These factors and many more can either reduce or extend an A/C unit’s life span. With the right care, some air conditioners can last up to 20 years. When air conditioners are neglected, they may only last 10 years or less. Here’s a closer look at some of the most impactful factors regarding how long A/C units are good for.

Level of Maintenance

Like all machines and equipment, air conditioners require maintenance to operate as intended. Regular and consistent upkeep and maintenance help your air conditioner last longer and improve efficiency. At the very least, you should keep it clean and replace air filters as necessary. It’s also recommended to have a licensed HVAC technician inspect your system every so often. They can clean and inspect important components like coils, drains, motors and fans and make small repairs to prevent bigger issues.

Maintaining a high level of maintenance and utilizing preventive care helps reduce the wear on your unit and can help you save money in the long run.

How Often It Gets Used

The rate of use can also affect the life span in a big way. More frequent use naturally leads to more wear and tear, while an infrequently used A/C will last much longer. Your location and personal preference can greatly impact the frequency and intensity of use. For example, units in southern hot, humid climates will likely get used more often than in northern moderate climates. 

Additionally, the temperature at which you keep the unit set can impact its condition over time. For example, if you keep your thermostat set lower than someone with a similar unit all summer, yours will likely show more use over time.

Exposure to Elements

Central air units sit outside, exposing it to year-round elements. Depending on your location, your A/C unit can take a beating. While A/C units are designed to withstand elements, over time, they’ll show wear and tear. For example, coastal locations may experience more corrosion due to the salt in the air from the ocean.

Elemental exposure is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent, though keeping your unit clean and removing debris can help reduce the negative effects of sitting outside. Some people get covers for their A/C during off seasons, though it’s important to be cautious when doing so. Your A/C still needs airflow to prevent moisture, mildew and mold from getting trapped under the cover.

A/C Brand and Quality

The brand and quality of your air conditioner can also affect its life span. As with most equipment, what you pay for is what you get, meaning what you save on cost, you may give up on quality. Choosing higher quality brands helps ensure the unit will last. Some brands may even offer warranties, helping to protect your unit for longer.

How to Know When to Replace Your A/C

Central A/C units will need to be replaced eventually. Regular maintenance and care will help you go longer between replacements, though even the most well-maintained units need to be replaced at some point. Here are a few good indicators that it may be time to replace your air conditioner.

Long Life Span

As we mentioned, air conditioners can last many years, though mechanical parts can be harder to find or become obsolete as time goes on. For example, a common refrigerant, R-22 Freon, is no longer being produced in the United States, meaning A/C units that used it likely need to be replaced. Once your air conditioner reaches the 10-year benchmark, you may want to consider replacing it. New models offer more control, effectiveness and efficiency, especially compared to models 10 years old or older. 

Frequent Breakdowns

If your central air unit experiences frequent breakdowns, you may want to consider replacing it. Regular maintenance should help prevent frequent breakdowns, so if you’re experiencing this issue, your unit may be at the end of its life. The more your A/C breaks down, the more you’ll need to pay for repairs. Buying a new one may be more economical depending on how often you need to repair your A/C.

High Energy Bills

If your air conditioner runs inefficiently, your energy bill can take a serious hit. For example, if the unit fails to cool your home effectively, it may be forced to work harder than normal, driving up your energy bill. If you see abnormal spikes in your energy bills, it may be cause for concern. 

While monthly bills fluctuate based on the level of use, if you notice your bill goes up and doesn’t come back down, you’ll need to determine if your A/C is the issue. If so, it’s time for a new unit.

Rattling Sounds

Have you noticed a new rattling noise coming from your A/C unit? If so, you may want to call an HVAC technician to determine the cause. Any rattling or other loud, out-of-the-ordinary noises indicate something is wrong with your air conditioner. This is common when air conditioners reach old age and are nearing the end of their life. If the rattling can’t be repaired, you’ll want to look for a new A/C before your current one completely breaks down.

Contact Crawford Mechanical Services for Your HVAC Needs

Trusting a professional to service your air conditioner helps ensure it’s properly taken care of. Whether it be installation, repairs or preventive maintenance, the dedicated technicians at Crawford Mechanical Services work hard to provide the best service possible. With over 25 years of experience serving the greater Colombus, Ohio area, we’ve seen it all and can confidently help you with all your residential HVAC needs.

If you want to take the best care of your air conditioning unit from installation to end of life, contact CMS to schedule air conditioning services today.