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How Long Do AC Units Last & When to Replace Them?

How Long Do AC Units Last & When to Replace Them

An air conditioner is an integral part of any home. It can make the summer heat tolerable, and provide a comfortable environment for everyone in your house to enjoy. But how long do AC units last? When should you replace it? And what are some things that might go wrong with your unit? We’ll answer these questions below!

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Air conditioners do not actually make the air cold — instead, they quickly remove heat and humidity, typically with a split two-unit system. The condenser and compressor are held in the outdoor unit, while the evaporator coil and air handler are in the indoor unit.

An air conditioner removes heat and humidity by condensing the moisture held by hot air into water droplets. A special fluid called refrigerant loops through the system absorbing heat from the air and transferring it outside, bringing the internal air temperature down. Throughout this process, the circulating air passes through a filter that cleans out allergens and dust, improving indoor air quality.

Additional Reading: Air Conditioning 101: Everything You Need to Know

What are the Types of Air Conditioners?

There are several types of air conditioners ranging from popular central air conditioners that cool the whole home through a duct system to portable air conditioners that are self-contained and can be easily moved as needed. The type of air conditioner you invest in depends on your budget and your needs.

Additional Reading: 7 Options for Home Air Conditioners the Will Keep You Cool

What is the Average Air Conditioner Lifespan?

There are a lot of factors that determine the lifespan of an air conditioner but typically a high-quality, well-maintained AC lasts between 10-20 years. If your air conditioner is over 10 years old it is a good time to start researching available options and budgeting.

What Factors Determine an Air Conditioners Longevity?

Air conditioners get a lot of use in hot summers and these are the key things that can reduce longevity.

  • Dirty air filters. Reduced airflow can cause a variety of issues, causing your AC to short cycle in short bursts that put pressure on it and reduce lifespan.
  • Temperature settings. Setting your thermostat to a sub-70 degree temperature means your AC will be working harder to keep up on hot days.
  • Size. An undersized or oversized AC system will waste energy and wear out more quickly.

Like furnaces, there are a variety of other factors that also play a part in the longevity of your air conditioner:  

  • Make and model of the air conditioner
  • Age of the air conditioner
  • Proper air conditioner installation
  • Proper air conditioner maintenance
  • Location and proper ventilation

How Often Should My Air Conditioner Be Maintained?

An annual inspection of your HVAC system is necessary to catch problems before they start. Seasonal service ensures that your system is running at top performance and that any issues are found and fixed. The best time to have your AC maintenance is in the spring getting it ready before you use it.

Additional Reading: When to Service Your Air Conditioner (and How Often)

When Should you Repair vs Replace an Air Conditioner?

Every homeowner faces the decision to repair or replace their air conditioning unit.  Personal comfort, your AC system’s age, energy costs, and the cost of repairs are all factors.  No two situations are alike but there are a few ways to make your decision.

What are the signs that an AC needs repair?

Many issues with your AC can often be a simple homeowner troubleshoot but sometimes you need an expert.

  • Warm air. If your thermostat is set correctly then this could be a compressor or refrigerant issue that needs expert attention.
  • Frequent cycling. If you notice that your AC unit is turning on and off constantly it needs to be looked at.
  • Water or refrigerant leaks. Pooling water around your unit or high humidity in your home could be a sign of a leak somewhere, either water or refrigerant. Both are signs to call in an HVAC technician.
  • Strange noises. Loud, sudden, or unusual noises are a sure sign that things are not well with your AC. It could be a loose part or something more serious.

When is it time to get a new AC unit?

Age and cost of repairs are two ways to evaluate if it is time to get a new AC unit. If your system is getting older or the lifetime cost of repairs is $2500 or more it is probably time to consider a replacement. A Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning consultant can help you evaluate your current system and make an informed decision.

What does an AC replacement cost?

There are a variety of factors that go into the cost of a central air conditioner unit. Generally, that can start at around $5000 and run up to $10,00. Other considerations that affect the cost of air conditioning installation:

  • Square footage of your home
  • Desired level of comfort
  • Desired efficiency
  • Type of system installed

How Jacobs Can Help

Replacing your air conditioner doesn’t need to be a difficult decision. If you’re asking the question, how long do ac units last, let Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning experts guide you through the process to help you pick the right cooling system for your home. Consultants will help evaluate your home to ensure you have a reliable and long-lasting HVAC system that will keep you comfortable and save money.

Avoid extra costs and fewer repairs by scheduling a tune-up for your existing system before issues arise. Our professional maintenance plans keep your heating system running like clockwork without any stress or hassle. No matter what you need we’re always just a phone call away.

About the Author

Amanda Jacobs portrait

Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.