How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?

How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?

Many younger buyers and renters have never lived without air conditioning in a residence: What was once considered by many to be a luxury is now a necessity for nearly all. But when it becomes necessary to replace the necessity, or to even ponder the possibility, the natural question arises: How long does an HVAC system last? The short answer: 10 years. Or 30.


A better question might be, how long should an AC unit last? Again, answers vary, but generally, newer central air-conditioning units getting normal use and regular maintenance should be expected to provide around 15 years of reliable service. Let’s look at the variables that could make that lifespan higher or lower:

  • Usage: If you live in Arizona, your AC gets more of a workout than if you live in Minnesota. The amount of time that your unit runs has a huge impact on the span of its life.
  • Unit size: An HVAC unit too large for your space will turn off and on frequently, as it too quickly meets the heating or cooling needs of your space. A unit that is too small will be forced to run for longer periods than intended, running the risk of overheated parts.
  • Maintenance: Dirty filters restrict airflow, making units work harder while shortening their lifespans. Dirty condensers draw more power, which is simply dangerous. Annual check-ups ensure such potential problems are routinely addressed. Regular tune-ups avoid breakdowns and costly emergency repairs — and it’s always easier to schedule service in the off season than get a repairman during a heatwave.
  • Thermostat habits and placement: If you’re battling with your roommate over a couple of degrees, stop. Frequent changes to the temperature setting cause frequent, lifespan-shortening starts and stops. Consider a smart thermostat that can allow adjustments throughout the day that are more consistent and less taxing. Also, to avoid false readings that may prompt unnecessary operation of your unit, make sure your thermostat is out of direct sunlight and away from heat-generating appliances.

Repair or Replace?

If you’re looking at a repair running into four digits:

  • Get a second opinion. Some companies are less than scrupulous. A relatively young unit (10 years or less) might need a simpler, less lucrative repair than some companies prefer to perform.
  • Consider replacement. Older units can be replaced with much more efficient models. Where ductwork already exists, such replacements are often quite reasonable. Especially if you have no idea when your older unit might break down again, would you rather gamble $2,000 on a fix or invest $6,000 in a unit that will provide years of stability and monthly savings?

Window Units

Many homeowners or renters purchase window units. Such units can be a great choice if you rent, as a temporary, budget-friendly solution or to cool troublesome areas that never seem to be reached by older central AC and ductwork systems.

But how long do window air conditioners last? A good rule of thumb is about eight to 10 years. But, again, that is dependent about the level of care the unit receives.

If your window AC is struggling to keep a room cool, you might be able to stave off replacement by:

  • Inspecting the seal to make sure warm air isn’t entering or cold air leaving the room. Reseal with weather stripping where appropriate.
  • Removing and cleaning the filter. Typically located behind the grill, most filters can be cleared of airflow-restricting clogs with warm, soapy water.
  • Cleaning the evaporator coils. Located behind the filter, these thin metal fins should be cleared of dust with your vacuum’s upholstery brush attachment.

If you’re looking to replace a window unit, remember it is best to have a unit sized appropriately to the room it is meant to cool. Generally:

  • Small rooms (250 square feet or less) = 5,000–6,000 Btu.
  • Medium rooms (up to 350 square feet) = 7,000–8,500 Btu.
  • Large rooms (up to 550 square feet) = 9,800–12,500 Btu.

Gene May Has Solutions

Since 1972, Gene May Heating & Cooling has been providing solutions for your HVAC issues. Whether you’re on an annual maintenance plan or installing a new system, our highly trained, qualified, licensed and insured staff will respect your home and your time while providing services from AC cleaning to residential zoning systems, including:

  • Air conditioner repair
  • Air conditioner service and cleaning
  • Home heating and cooling systems
  • High-efficiency AC installation
  • Heat pumps
  • Compressor repair
  • Condensate drain lines
  • Indoor air quality
  • Air purification/ sterilization
  • Duct repair/ reroute/ modification
  • Whole house humidifier
  • Whole house dehumidifier
  • Wifi / smartphone thermostats
  • Residential zoning systems
  • Ductless solutions
  • Ductless mini-split systems
  • Thermostat service
  • Filter replacement

Reach out to us today to address all your HVAC needs, satisfaction guaranteed!