How long do air conditioners last?

How long do air conditioners last? Air conditioners last 15-30 years.

That’s all you needed right?

But slow down a second, don’t back out just yet.

There’s more questions to be asked like:

  • How much longer will my air conditioner last?
  • Should I repair or replace my air conditioner?
  • How much does a new AC unit cost?
  • How can I extend my air conditioner lifespan?

These are all great questions that need answered to help you make the best decision regarding your home air conditioning system.

At Precision Temperature, your safety and comfort is our top priority. We want you to make an informed decision that’s right for you and your family.

With that in mind, let’s dive into each of these questions individually, starting with the question that brought you here.

How long do air conditioners last?

As has already been mentioned, in general, air conditioners last 15-30 years.

“But that’s a big range!” you say.

It is, and a lot of it depends on where you live. In fact, most of it does.

If you live in a part of the country with harsher climates like say, Alabama. What? Alabama? Yup. For 8 years I lived in the panhandle of Florida, which might as well have been Alabama, and it’s rough.

Constant rain, potential for ice, humidity, and (if you live near the gulf) salt water in the air. All of these conditions beat on your air conditioner, wearing it out sooner.

But hot, dry, arid places like Nevada and Texas are at as much risk. Not because of the elements, but because the necessity of air conditioners.

In states where an air conditioner is almost required for survival, you’re running your AC unit all day long for months on end. This wears down your system faster than a place like where we’re from: San Diego.

Sure, San Diego gets hot in the summer, but we have near perfect temperatures most of the year and only suffer the intense heat in July and August.

Other factors play a part in your air conditioner lifespan, and we’ll discuss those in just a few moments.

But if you take care of your system and don’t live in an extreme climate, it’s not unusual for your air conditioner to last 30 years (or more).

How long does an air conditioner last?

How much longer will my air conditioner last?

“Okay, so in general air conditioners last 15-30 years, but long will mine last?

Before I can answer that question you need to take a quick quiz. Answer yes or no and keep a running tally in your mind.

  1. Is your air conditioner a name brand (Trane, Goodman, Lennox, Carrier)?
  2. Did a licensed professional purchase and install the equipment?
  3. Does the unit have adequate space to breathe (approximately 12-18 inches on all sides)?
  4. Do you live in temperate climate?
  5. Do you perform regular preventative maintenance on your air conditioner?
  6. Do you live inland, away from the ocean?
  7. If no to #6, is your air conditioner weather-sealed?
  8. Do you use your air conditioner only when absolutely necessary?

The more questions you answered “YES” to, the more likely your unit is to last longer. The more questions you said “NO” to, the sooner you’re likely to need a replacement.

Why is that?

Because your air conditioner is a piece of machinery, and like any other item we own, it begins to degrade the moment we buy it.

There are steps that you can take to increase your air conditioner lifespan, but you must understand that the better you take care of your air conditioner the more it will take care of you.

You get a regular oil change for you car, go to the dentist every six months for your teeth, and visit the doctor for a yearly checkup (or you should).

Just like we take care of our cars and our bodies to help them last longer, the same is true of your air conditioner.

Should I repair or replace my air conditioner?

This is the real question that you want to know, though isn’t it?

You came here wondering how long air conditioners last, but your true question is: “Can I keep my air conditioner a little longer, or do I need a new one?”

If your otherwise perfectly good air conditioner had a one-off problem that had you calling the repairman, I’d think twice about replacing.

“But the air conditioning company said it had a bad compressor and I was better off replacing the whole unit.”

I’d highly recommend you get a second opinion.

While it is accurate that if the compressor is bad you’re better off with a new system, the hard truth is the contractor might be dishonest.

I’m going to be transparent with you and tell you air conditioning companies don’t make money on small troubleshooting service calls.

If we’re just cleaning the coil and replacing the air filter, we’re losing money. So some companies will tell you something is wrong to get you to replace a bigger ticket item in order to make more money at your expense.

Precision Temperature will never do that to you!

Signs you should replace your air conditioner

So how do you know if you need a new air conditioner?

First things, first. Does your air conditioner look like this?

HVAC maintenance on old air conditioner

If your air conditioner is more than 20-25 years old (that unit is about 35), you might consider replacement.

If it looks old, worn down, and burnt out. You might consider replacement.

How frequently does it break down?

Repairs more often than twice a year is a sign of a failing air conditioner. With each passing year, your breakdowns will become more and more frequent.

How expensive are the repairs?

Repair costs in excess of $2,000 a pop are high enough to warrant considering a new unit.

Since you’ve got all the appropriate ductwork and linesets in place, air conditioner replacement is much cheaper than installation.

How much does a new AC unit cost?

Which brings us to our next question: how much does a new AC unit cost?

As with any of the questions above, I’ll give you an answer, but I won’t.

Truth is, I can’t tell you how much your air conditioner will cost.

It all depends on the number of units you have, the level of efficiency you want, the required air conditioner sizing and tonnage for your house, etc.

But I can give you a ballpark, and point you at an AC install cost case study we did.

On average, the cost to replace a single residential Trane air conditioning unit ranges from $5,000 to $9,000. The smaller the tonnage and the lower the SEER rating, the cheaper it will be.

California law requires a minimum of 14 SEER, which is probably 6-8 SEER ratings higher than your existing unit if it’s more than 15 years old. So that’s a huge improvement.

What is SEER rating? It’s just a way we measure efficiency (and lower energy bills)

So you can see why it might be smarter to replace your air conditioner for $6,000 than it is to repair it for $2,500.

On average, an air conditioner will last about 10 years without having any issues (that’s the length of the manufacturer’s warranty).

So would you rather pay $2,000/year or pay $6,000 and be done with it?

How can I extend my air conditioner lifespan?

Perhaps you’re reading and discovering that your 10 year old air conditioner has quite a lot of life left in it. What can you do to extend that air conditioner lifespan?

In two words? Preventative maintenance.

We also sometimes call this an air conditioner tune-up.

I recently had a conversation with a San Diego property manager and he had this to say about the 150 residential properties in his portfolio:

"We run a program where we service all of our single family properties in the spring – it’s a win win because our tenants aren't having to wait 2 weeks to repair their downed AC in the middle of the summer."

His years of experience has shown him that regular AC tune-ups (usually in May), can prevent unwanted breakdowns.

Why does this help?

Precision Temperature will come in and fully inspect your system. If we see anything that’s about to break, we replace it before it goes bad.

Then we clean the system, inside and out, to make sure it’s running at optimum efficiency.

Not only does this help prevent unexpected failures, but it lowers your energy bills. A true win-win is it not?

By treating your air conditioner like an investment, it’ll be a great companion for you and your family for many years to come.

For more information check out our 9 Tips to Maximize Your Air Conditioner Lifespan.

Need an Appointment?

If you’d like to schedule air conditioner repair services or would like to talk to one of our senior technicians about air conditioner replacement, give us a call.

Precision Temperature is standing by to help 24/7 at 619-588-5321.

Trusted and Certified since 1987

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