If you are thinking about a maintenance plan for your existing air conditioning system or considering an upgrade, it’s common to consider this question. Like any complex system, your HVAC unit has a finite lifespan, and sooner or later, you will need to make a change. In this article, we will examine this issue in more detail to help you make an informed choice about your AC system.

Early Warning Signs

As your HVAC system reaches the end of its useful lifespan, there will be some warning signs to look out for. Initially, you will start to notice that your energy bills are becoming more expensive because the energy efficiency is dropping. The frequency of repairs will increase and those repair bills will become more expensive over time. An average air conditioner unit will last 10-15 years before a replacement is necessary. To ensure that your system is at the upper end of that age limit, it’s essential to get the system maintained regularly. When the HVAC system is checked and maintained annually, it will perform better, the energy efficiency is improved and the lifespan is extended. But, there will be a point of diminishing returns and even professional care will not be sufficient to keep the system running efficiently. At this point, it makes more sense to replace the system with a new high efficiency alternative.

4 Factors that Determine the HVAC System Lifespan

There are four key factors that determine the useful lifespan of your HVAC system, they are:

1.   The HVAC Unit Size

Many people approach the subject of HVAC unit sizing by simply choosing the largest unit they can comfortably afford. After all, bigger is always better, right? No, this is not the case, the HVAC equipment must be chosen carefully to ensure that it matches the requirements of the home or other building. Choosing a unit that is too small or too large can affect the performance, energy efficiency and the lifespan of the system. If you have recently purchased a new home and you’ve inherited an HVAC system, there is no guarantee that it’s sized correctly. If you’re in the market for a new HVAC system, it’s important to get a professional load calculation from a local heating and cooling specialist. There are free online load calculation tools available online, but they are only based on the square footage of your home. To make an accurate load calculation, other factors must be taken into account, including: airflow patterns, insulation levels, home orientation and more.

2.   Regular HVAC Maintenance

We’ve already mentioned this, but the point cannot be overemphasized because regular maintenance is important for performance, efficiency and longevity. A modern HVAC system represents a significant investment and it makes good sense to protect it. Poorly maintained heating and cooling equipment is prone to drawing more power, and it’s often overworked leading to frequent repair bills. In fact, when you consider the energy savings and smoother operation the cost of regular maintenance looks like a bargain in comparison. A professional health check for your HVAC system will ensure that filters are clean, the ductworks are sealed, the condenser is working efficiently, and that the components are safe. If you have avoided servicing for a while, you can catch up with a comprehensive inspection and maintenance.

3.   The Quality of the Installation

Even if you have purchased a good system and it’s sized correctly for your home, it can still be affected by a poor quality installation. In most cases, a DIY installation is not the way to go and a professional installation is a better alternative. If the unit is placed in a room with poor insulation, it can force the system to work too hard and the lifespan will be lowered significantly. Bad wiring can create an unsafe living situation and poorly sealed ducts can waste a lot of treated air which drives up the energy bills. If the refrigerant pipes are too long, it places additional strain on the compressor leading to expensive and frequent repair bills. It’s natural to try and “save money” with a DIY or “handyman” installation, but this costs more in the medium to long term. When it’s time to install your system, choose a local licensed HVAC specialist for extra peace of mind.

4.   Thermostat Issues

The thermostat is the brain of your entire heating and cooling system. Any problems with this unit can have a dramatic effect on your heating and cooling efforts throughout your home. The thermostat contains a sensor that checks the local ambient temperature and a failing sensor gives the system the wrong information. In many cases, this problem can be solved by cleaning the sensor or changing the battery. But, if the thermostat is placed in a sunny spot, it can get hot and give a false sensor reading. It’s also possible to cause problems with frequent and dramatic temperature changes, which can place a lot of extra strain on HVAC equipment. Gradual and incremental changes are a better way to adjust the temperature without placing additional stress on your system. Upgrading to the latest smart thermostat models is a good idea if you want to improve the performance, energy efficiency, and lifespan of your system. You can monitor and make changes in real time via your favorite mobile device in real time.

Making the Final Decision

As you can see, there are a number of factors that can affect the longevity of your HVAC system, but you have the final decision to replace or repair it. If the system is ten years or older and you’re experiencing frequent repairs and higher bills, a replacement makes more sense. If the system is aging, but it has been well maintained, you may be able to get a few more years out of it. Making a final decision can be tricky, but if the repairs are 50% or more of the original purchasing price, a replacement is recommended.

Contact your local heating and cooling specialist and get them to check your system for performance and energy efficiency today.