What Is the Average Life of a Central Air Conditioning System?

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors

woman changing her central air conditioner temperatureYou may be trying to decide whether to invest in a central air conditioning system or save money by buying a couple of window units or portable units. Before making that decision, be sure you understand the difference between a central air conditioning system and stand-alone air conditioners.

Central Air Conditioning Compared to a Stand-Alone Air Conditioner

A central air conditioning system is designed to cool an entire house with one large unit. In some cases, it requires ductwork to deliver cool air to each room. In homes where space will not accommodate ductwork, a ductless system offers the same benefits as a traditional central air system.

In contrast, stand-alone units operate independently of each other. You will need one for each room you want to cool. The unit takes up space and some units are unsightly.

central air conditioner unit outside of houseA stand-alone unit will cool the room, but not the entire house. If your space is large enough you will need more than two stand-alone units to meet your cooling needs. In that case, you should go with a central air system because the initial cost of three or more stand-alone units would make a good down-payment on central air conditioning. Additionally, the cost of operating three or more stand-alone units can exceed the cost of operating a central air system.

A central system may cost more up front, but it has many advantages over stand-alone units. Central air conditioning systems are more popular than stand-alone units and will add to the resale value of your home. Also, if your home has a forced-air heating system, you already have the ductwork in place for a central air system.

The central air system cools your entire house, not just a few rooms. It is also more energy-efficient than running multiple stand-alone units. A central system is quieter to operate than stand-alone air conditioners and is an investment that adds to your home’s value.

Normal Life Span of a Central Air Conditioning System

The average life of a central air conditioning system ranges from twelve to fifteen years, but your system could last longer, depending on the amount of usage it gets. Clearly, the more often it gets used, the more wear and tears it experiences. (Note, however, that central air conditioning equipment usually comes with longer warranties on both parts and labor than any stand-alone unit offers.) With mild to moderate use, your central air system can last much longer. Cut back on your use by keeping the thermostat set at a slightly warmer temperature in the summer months. The inside of your home will still feel cool at 72 degrees when you come in from 95-degree heat and high levels of humidity.

woman on couch using remote to control central air conditioningOne of the most important factors to prolonging the life of the system is keeping up with annual maintenance. In fact, for the newer systems, many manufacturer warranties require it. With proper maintenance over many years, it is not unusual for air conditioners to last 15 to 20 years.

Maintenance costs are relatively low on central air systems. Have an HVAC professional inspect your system each year before the warm season starts. The technician will make sure your air filters are changed and all component parts are cleaned, lubricated, and functioning properly.

These tune-ups are typically inexpensive and can avoid the need for a costly and sudden air conditioner replacement. When a reputable technician services your air conditioner, the technician will check the condenser to make sure it is clean and operating efficiently. If it is clogged with dirt, the technician can clean the fins and external housing to allow for more efficient operation. If necessary, the technician will make any minor repairs and replace worn parts before they become significant expenses. Keeping up with this annual maintenance will prolong the life of your system and keep it operating at optimal performance levels.
Changing your air filters at least every 90 days, or more frequently if you have pets, will go a long way to keeping your system functioning for many years. If you operate your system with dirty air filters, you are making your system work harder than it should. Not only will dirty air filters increase the cost of operating your system, but dirty air filters can also damage the system and shorten its life.

man changing the air filter of his central air conditionerAnother important factor that affects the lifespan of a central air conditioning system is matching the size of the system to the size of the area being cooled. The life of the system will be compromised if its capacity is not properly matched to the cooling load of the home. Oversized air conditioners will “short-cycle”, that is, turn on and off rapidly. Short-cycling causes excessive wear and tear on the compressor, which is the most costly component in the system. Once the compressor wears out in a unit that has outlived its warranty it is time to invest in a new, more energy-efficient air conditioner rather than trying to repair the existing unit.

When you have the new system installed, you can help prolong the life of your system by placing the condenser unit in a protected location. For example, air conditioner condensers sited on the north side of a home tend to outlast condensers located on other sides of a home. When the condenser is on the north side, it is subjected to less sun exposure. Also, consider putting a cover on the condenser in the fall and winter months to alleviate debris build-up and accumulation of dirt.

Contact the HVAC Experts at Presidential Heat and Air

Before you decide on a new air conditioning system for your home, speak to the professional staff at Presidential Heat and Air. Their technicians will be happy to discuss your needs and help you determine the best system for your home. Call them to schedule a consultation or an installation.

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