Whether it’s the AC providing a much-needed cool breeze in the summer or the heater warming up the household in the winter, HVAC systems are essential in almost every household.
You may be wondering, how long do HVAC systems last? And how to make them last longer? In this post, we address both questions, so stick around.
How Long Do HVAC Systems Last?
Installing an HVAC system is an expensive endeavor. Understandably, you want to get as many years of service out of it as you can.
Generally speaking, the majority of HVAC systems’ lifespan typically ranges between 15 and 30 years. However, the exact lifespan of an HVAC system is dependent mainly on its type.
How Long Different HVAC Types Last
Let’s explore some different types of HVAC systems, and how long they last.
Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps: cooling air
ACs can last anywhere between 10 to 20 years. This notably wide range is due to the key effect of the conditions of the region you reside in on the lifespan of your AC.
ACs are likely to last for shorter periods of time in coastal areas due to the higher levels of salt exposure they experience. The same is true for heat pumps, which can fail after only 7 years in such conditions.
Heat pumps have an average lifespan of 15 years in normal conditions. Since heat pumps are used year-round due to their ability to both cool and heat air, how frequently you use them plays a significant role in determining how long they’ll last. Heat pumps can often heat and cool a house.
The reason for AC and heat pump failure is typically leakage and corrosion of the condenser, as well as the compressor malfunctioning.
Furnaces: air heaters
When maintained correctly, gas furnaces can have a lifespan of 2-3 decades. The most common reason for having to replace a furnace is leakage issues with the heat exchanger, which is arguably the most important part of a furnace (and the most expensive).
On the other hand, if a furnace’s maintenance is neglected, it might need replacing after only 10 years. This is largely due to the complications resulting from inefficient fuel.
Boilers: water heaters
Boilers typically have highly similar lifespans to furnaces. They can last up to 25 years. Reasons for replacement are commonly related to heat exchanger malfunction. If you have a water heater with a tank, this has to be replaced every 10-15 years.
What Factors Affect Your HVAC’s Lifespan?
There’s a wide range of factors that contribute to the longevity (or lack thereof) of your HVAC system’s lifespan. They include the following:
Carrying out regular maintenance on an HVAC system enables you to spot issues before they become serious enough to have a significant effect on your system’s lifespan.
For example, an HVAC filter should be changed every 3 months or so. Failing to do so is sure to shave multiple years off of your HVAC system’s life. It is a great idea to schedule this tuneup for your heater in August or September. This prepares your system for the winter. For your AC, you can schedule your tuneup in April or May. A lot of people schedule the tuneup too late and have to wait a long time.
Off-gassing refers to the spread of dirt particles into the air from typical household components such as cleaning supplies. It’s particularly an issue in households that have been recently constructed or renovated.
Such particles can put extra strain on your HVAC system as it tries to filter them out, and in turn, reduce your HVAC system’s lifespan.
Indoor/Outdoor AC Unit
Another factor that can affect the lifespan of your HVAC system is one that’s specific to ACs.
Outdoor AC units typically last longer than indoor ones since they are more ventilated, which makes them less susceptible to the adverse effects of off-gassing.
Indoor AC units are more exposed to the chemicals present in modern households due to the lower level of airflow compared to the outdoors.
Such chemicals remain in the air coming in contact with your AC unit for longer periods of time, causing corrosion in the copper condenser coils within these units.
Location and Frequency of Use
How often you put your HVAC system to use largely depends on where you live and the weather conditions there. You can cover your system during the winter if there are icicles.
If you live in an area with harsh winters and hot summers, you’re likely to be using your HVAC system all year long.
In that case, your HVAC system will naturally have a shorter lifespan than that of one that’s only used for a few months each year.
Cleaning the system
Cleaning the vents is important. If you have air ducts, you will have to remove dust from them as well. These air ducts can be harder to clean but we have discussed some options here.
You should also remove debris and dirt from the condensor coils.
Finally, you will have to replace the batteries in your thermostat if the low battery indicator is active. This is often quite easy to do.
3 Ways to Make HVAC Systems Last Longer
Now that you’re aware of the factors that affect your HVAC system’s lifespan, let’s go over some of the things you can do to maximize your system’s lifespan.
Regular maintenance is essential to maximizing your HVAC system’s lifespan. You should typically be scheduling one tune-up per year.
Tune-ups should consist of inspection, cleaning, and lubrication of your HVAC system’s internal components. Such components include the condenser, drain tubes, filters, heat exchangers, and your system’s refrigerant levels.
The perfect time of year to do this is near the end of summer. Scheduling tune-ups at this time allows you to have a fully-functioning HVAC system free of issues.
It also gives you the chance to address any issues that might be found during the inspection process, making your HVAC system more efficient, safe, and long-lasting.
Regular Filter Changes
You should always make sure to check your HVAC system’s filter on a regular basis. If it’s dusty and clogged up, it should be changed, even if it’s not time for the scheduled filter change yet.
Failing to replace a dirty filter puts a lot of strain on your HVAC system as it tries to circulate air throughout the household. This can severely damage your system in the long haul and shorten its lifespan.
Regular Condenser Check-Ups
Your HVAC system’s condenser is located outdoors, exposed to the elements. Even though it’s designed to withstand these conditions, it’s always a good idea to inspect it on a regular basis to see if it’s in good shape.
Condensers can get damaged by hail and debris during a strong storm, so you should have a look at them when a storm hits your area.
Be sure to also remove any leaves or vegetation that has built up on or around the condenser.
HVAC systems typically last between 15 and 30 years. However, there are many factors that determine where exactly your HVAC system’s lifespan lies in that wide range.
How long your HVAC system will last depends mainly on its type, as well as on the measures you take to maximize its potential.
Maintaining and tuning up your HVAC system on a regular basis is your best bet to ensure that it continues functioning as it should for many years to come. If you want to learn how to maintain a HVAC system, you might be curious to learn more about a career in HVAC.