How Long Should I Expect My HVAC System to Last?

HVAC Lifespan in Charlotte, NC

Your HVAC system is a considerable investment for your home that often goes unnoticed while it’s working well. However, when it fails, everyone in your home is uncomfortable and knows that it needs quick attention. Discover how long your system should last, what you can do that affects its life, and how to know when it’s time for a replacement.

The Quick Answer

If you had to put an expected service life on your entire HVAC system, it would likely be between 15 and 20 years. However, your entire system does not wear the same, and the different parts of your system will wear out at different times.

This is actually a good thing, considering that replacing the entire system can put a heavy burden on your wallet. However, bundling replacements can help drop the overall costs in some situations. Consider what’s actually included in your HVAC system and the life expectancy for the various parts.

Heating And Cooling Essentials

To understand how long the various components of your HVAC system should last, you have to understand what’s included and how it works. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. However, when you think about replacing the system, this typically refers to the parts that warm and cool your home. This includes your air conditioner, a heating system, your thermostat, and the ductwork.

To make the entire system work, it must draw in air from your home, heat or cool it, then push it back out into your home. Any hiccup in moving the air around your home or transferring heat into or out of the circulating air reduces the system’s efficiency. Only with a consistently maintained efficiency will your system last the full expected service life.

What Reduces Expected Life

Simply put, anything that makes your system work harder can reduce its service life if left long enough. Any airflow restriction is the biggest issue that can take years off your system’s life.

These can happen at the air filter, heat exchanger, evaporator coil, circulating fan wheel, or even in the air ducts. Outside your system, you may see airflow restrictions at your vents if you have them closed or blocked. Some airflow restrictions not only cause longer cycles but can also produce unusual pressure in your ducts, leading to leaks.

Next, things reducing effective heat exchange will reduce the service life. The biggest issue here is a buildup of small airborne contaminants that make it past your filter. You’ll commonly find these on the heat exchanger and on the evaporator coil. Once the buildup gets thick enough, it’ll form a type of insulation on these surfaces, preventing them from conditioning your air.

How you run your unit will also reduce your system’s service life. You want to keep your temperature reasonably comfortable. However, the greater the difference between the air temperature outside and the setting on your thermostat, the harder your system has to work to achieve it.

How quickly you address problems all greatly affect your system’s service life. The system is interdependent, so when one small component operates suboptimally, it puts strain on the rest of the system. The longer you leave small problems, the bigger they become and the more strain they put on the rest of the system.

Finally, whether your system was properly installed will also affect its service life. Some analysts estimate as much as 90% of residential HVAC systems are installed improperly. This leads to excessive strain on the system and even potentially dangerous leaks. That’s why it’s so important to get a trusted professional to complete your system’s installation.

How to Extend Your System’s Life

There are a few easy things you can do to extend your system’s life while also reducing your energy consumption. First, make sure you change your air filter regularly. For 1- and 2-inch filters, this may be as often as every 30 days. For larger filters, this could be anywhere from 3 to 9 months, depending on your air quality and filter size. Check it monthly to see how quickly it’s clogging in your environment. Extend the life of the air filter by gently vacuuming off the loose dirt from the intake side.

Next, make sure to get regular maintenance for your system, with a heating visit in the fall and an air conditioning visit in the spring. Your technician will perform a deep cleaning of your system during routine maintenance, including the evaporator coil, heat exchanger, and circulating fan.

They also do deep testing of the entire system to ensure everything’s operating within optimal parameters. By having this testing regularly, you’ll often catch small problems early on before they can strain the entire system.

How Long Does Each Component Last?

Each component of your system has its own expected service life, with gas-fueled furnaces lasting the longest. These forced air furnaces usually serve for 15 to 20 years if they’re properly maintained and run appropriately.

Air conditioners and heat pumps are similar systems and therefore have similar service lives, usually between 10 and 15 years. Heat Pumps may be on the lower end of that range, being they don’t get a break over the winter, usually servicing 7 to 12 years.

Your thermostat and air ducts also have an expected service life of 10 to 15 years. For thermostats, the temperature sensor wears out, leading to improperly timed heating and cooling cycles. Your air ducts will eventually develop leaks because of the temperature variations they experience. Once this happens, you lose efficiency, increasing the cost and wear to run your system.

How to Determine When It’s Time for a New System

When you wait for your system to experience a catastrophic failure, you’re setting yourself up for an emergency replacement. This often means you’re going to pay more since this usually happens during the peak of heating and cooling seasons. It also means you have to interrupt your normal daily routines to make space for dealing with the replacement. Fortunately, if you know what to look for, it doesn’t have to turn into an emergency.

First, plan to replace your system once it gets to be about 15 years old. Yes, it may seem as if it’s still running strong. However, most systems lose efficiency as it ages, costing you more to operate the system. Older systems often have more repairs as the internal components wear out. By planning to replace your system around a certain age, you avoid paying more in utilities and repairs, and instead, you can invest those funds into a more efficient system.

Next, keep an eye on both your energy consumption and repair bills, even before it reaches 15 years. A significant climb in either of these indicates there’s certainly a problem somewhere, and it could be part of your HVAC system failing.

For energy, compare each month’s consumption with the same month last year. If you see it consistently higher, then you know it’s not just the weather causing the climb. For repairs, add up the cost for repairs for each system over the past two years and multiply that by the age of the system. If that exceeds the cost of replacing the system, it’s time to consider the replacement.

People around Charlotte have turned Integrity Heating & Cooling for over 35 years to keep their homes comfortably cooled and heated. Our expert technicians provide heating and cooling repairs, installation, and maintenance, including duct sealing and insulating. Call to schedule your consultation with one of our trusted installation technicians today.