What Is The Lifespan Of An HVAC Unit?

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Since a heating or cooling system is such a large expense, it just makes sense to get the most out of it. In general, most HVAC systems can last 15 to 25 years, although this prediction can be highly variable based on the type of system and other contributing factors.


Although with routine maintenance and upgrades, even the most advanced boilers, furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioners will inevitably fail.


The cause of a shortened life cycle, according to Tim Brizendine, owner, product management – cooling devices at Lennox, is today’s climate, not anything within the systems themselves.


All used to be simple 20 to 30 years ago. The levers were straightforward, and there were fewer moving pieces to break. As a result, HVAC systems can tolerate a lot of violence, including filthy filters, plant overgrowth on outside condensers, and poor airflow problems like dirty blower wheels, dirty coils, and undersized ductwork.


“As indoor conditions change, we’re getting new ‘stressors’ that are targeting HVAC systems: chemicals from cleaning supplies — some of the newer cleaning supplies have a different makeup than the older stuff — and even outgas from new materials: carpets, wood, particularly products that are manufactured in a plant,” he said.


These chemicals accelerate the deterioration of indoor coils, especially copper coils.


He estimates that an average device would last 12 to 15 years, noting that both the outdoor and indoor environments play a part. Corrosion may be more prevalent in marine regions, for example. In a cold environment, the heater will see more use, and in a hot climate, the heat pump or air conditioner will.


According to Tim Storm, Trane’s general manager for heat pumps, the majority of residential systems on the market today has a 10-year extended product warranty.


He said structures that are correctly planned, sized, assembled, and managed today do not have a shorter life span. The only stumbling block, he said, would be the cost of repairing versus replacing an out-of-warranty high-efficiency device. Rather than investing in a 10-plus-year system, a homeowner can want to replace and update for system reliability.

Life Expectancy of HVAC Units

The lifespan of an HVAC device is determined by its type. The standard life spans for common HVAC equipment are as follows:


  • The average air conditioner will last 15 to 20 years, but some will only last 10 years. Due to salt penetration, they usually only survive seven to twelve years in coastal areas. If the compressor fails or the condenser experiences excessive corrosion and leaks, both air conditioners and heat pumps are usually replaced.
  • Gas furnaces will last 20 to 30 years or much longer with careful maintenance. A furnace is usually removed when the heat exchanger begins to leak, since it is one of the most important and costly elements. Poorly run or dubious quality systems will last as little as ten years, whereas oil furnaces usually last about 10 to 15 years due to inefficient fuel maintenance issues.
  • Boilers have a much longer life expectancy than furnaces, ranging from 20 to 35 years. If the heat exchanger begins to leak, they are usually replaced.
  • Heat pumps will last anywhere from 10 to 20 years, based on how much they are used, but 15 years is the norm.
  • Heat pumps are similar to air conditioners in terms of functionality, but since they can provide both heating and cooling, they are usually used for a longer period of time each year. Heat pumps in coastal areas can also malfunction prematurely, with life spans ranging from seven to twelve years.
  • Except in coastal areas, ductless mini-splits can have both heating and cooling and have a normal life cycle of 10 to 30 years.

Despite the fact that these are the most normal life cycles, more homeowners opt to upgrade their HVAC systems earlier. If the machine ages, it can become less stable and functional, resulting in higher maintenance and utility costs. 

The monthly energy savings from switching to a newer, more effective model will also support the initial investment once a system is 10 to 15 years old, particularly if the current system is inefficient or has major problems.


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