How Long Should an Air Conditioner Last?

The subject of how long an AC unit should last frequently arises during the hot summer months. The length of time an AC unit lasts often depends upon several factors, including climate, frequency of use, general condition before installation, and proper maintenance practices after installation.

Generally speaking, most AC units are designed to have a life expectancy between 10-15 years. After this period, the efficiency of the system has dramatically deteriorated to a point where repairs or a replacement system become more cost-effective options for homeowners in many cases.

Anatomy of an Air Conditioner: How Long Does It Last?

When discussing how long it takes for an air conditioner to wear out with HVAC technicians in your area, you’ll often hear the terms “compressor” and “evaporator coil” used. These are essential components of an HVAC system because they do the actual work of conditioning (cooling) your home. Generally speaking, it’s the compressor that fails first on air conditioners in almost any climate zone.

The evaporator coil is just a thin metal finned tube inside the plenum at the bottom of your central air handler or furnace. It absorbs heat from your home while pushing cool air into your house. The compressor pumps refrigerant through this evaporator coil so that cooled refrigerant can be sent back outside to start this process all over again. Because both components work so closely together, it’s common to see them both fail at about the same time.

Other Causes of AC Failure: Dirty Coils and Maintenance

If your air conditioning system looks dirty or clogged, this can affect how long it lasts. Air conditioners have a coil inside called a condenser coil that’s exposed outside so it can cool hot refrigerant before it enters your evaporator coil inside the home. If a lot of dirt and debris fall onto this condenser coil from trees or nearby construction projects, then your air conditioner won’t be able to pass as much heat through the waves into the atmosphere. This will cause inefficient operation and prematurely wear out several parts, including your compressor because it must work harder to get proper cooling.

Another cause of many AC failures is the lack of proper maintenance. For example, if your air conditioner has a dirty filter that doesn’t allow sufficient airflow or clean coils to pass heat through, it will have to run continuously, and the parts will wear out much sooner.

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