How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?


There have been significant improvements in air-conditioning systems over the years. But even the best one cannot last forever.

So, how long does an air conditioner last? In general, an air conditioner can last for 10 to 20 years. If you skip some maintenance of your air conditioner, it can last for about 10 years. If the usage of the air conditioner ranges from mild to moderate but it is being maintained regularly, then it will last for 15 to 20 years. Nevertheless, it is difficult for an air conditioner to cross the 20-year lifespan mark when you do not maintain it properly over the years.

However, many factors contribute to the lifespan of an air conditioner, and using your air conditioner properly is the best way to extend its lifespan and make it last for a very long time.

With adequate maintenance and proper use, you can make the most out of your air conditioner, and it will serve you for up to 20 years or even more.  Nevertheless, regardless of how you maintain and care for your air-conditioning system, it cannot last forever. 

It is even rare to see an air conditioner that has made it past 25 years. Both small and big air conditioners require regular checkups and repairs to last even longer. This is why many air conditioners come with up to a 10-year parts warranty. 

Air conditioners are designed to last that long, and even more. The majority of them are made with high-quality components that can stand the test of time. If a manufacturer is not sure of its products, they will not back it up with up to a 10-year warranty.


Factors That Determines How Long an Air Conditioner Lasts

Air conditioners are designed to last for a long time. These units can serve you for up to 20 years or more. However, how long they last depend on several factors, including:



One of the key things that will determine how long your air conditioner lasts is how you maintain it. Air conditioners are not self-maintaining systems, which means you have to be deliberate about the maintenance of your unit. 

When it comes to maintenance, maintaining your device once in a while will not cut it out. If you want your AC unit to last as long as it ought to, you need to maintain it regularly. The manufacturers designed your air-conditioning system to function as efficiently as possible. If you want your air conditioner to be working as closely to the way it was designed to work always, then you should make preventive maintenance a habit. 

An AC system should have a tune-up about once or twice a year. The best time to do this is in the spring, before the hottest weather. You should tune up your heat pumps a minimum of two times a year because they both cool and heat your home. 

When tuning it up, you should also inspect the whole cooling system. Remember, this is not a job for you unless you are an expert. You should outsource the maintenance of your air conditioning system to the right professional to avoid any complications.

Many people often get the concept of maintenance wrong, as some people see it as repair. Maintenance is more like checking the system and inspecting it even when it is working perfectly. You do not have to wait until the unit starts developing fault before you inspect and maintain it. You should get an HVAC professional to inspect the unit periodically. 

In addition to tuning up the system, the technician should also lubricate, clean, and test all applicable parts and components. The technician should also look for signs of stress. One of the dangers of neglecting maintenance is that it usually voids the warranties of the manufacturer. Hence, you need to be careful. 

When outsourcing the maintenance of your air conditioner to an HVAC technician, you want to make sure that the technician is experienced in this field. The last thing you want is to allow an underqualified technician to repair or service your unit, as this might void the manufacturer’s warranty. 

Hence, you should maintain your air conditioners regularly if you want them to last for a long time. You should outsource the maintenance to only professionals with the experience and technicality of maintaining air conditioners. 


Airflow Restriction/Obstruction

No air-conditioning system can work properly without adequate airflow. These systems need unobstructed airflow to work properly. Without adequate airflow, the air conditioning unit will struggle to push air through the system over time. If this happens continually, the equipment will age faster. 

Hence, you want to make sure that the outdoor unit of your air conditioner is well-positioned. It should be in an area with no airflow obstruction. Here are a couple of tips for keeping good airflow:

  • Make sure there are no objects close to the outdoor unit of the air conditioner. The equipment should not be in the midst of other objects. Many people like utilizing the space around the equipment; this can be tempting, as you would like to use every inch of space. However, you should avoid this temptation and keep everything away from the equipment, including decorations. Keeping objects around the air handler will restrict airflow, and this can cause the unit to wear out quickly. 
  • Inspect the airflow every month and replace it when needed. This is also part of a routine check that you need to carry out on the AC. It is difficult for an air-conditioning system to push air through a filter that is dirty or clogged. Hence, you should check the air filter regularly to get rid of any dirt on it. If it is clogged, you should clean it properly before putting it back. If it is bad, then you should replace it with a new one. 
  • Avoid landscaping around the compressor of the air conditioner. You should make sure the unit is free from storm debris or fallen leaves, as these can block the airflow. You should also avoid planting invasive or fast-growing plants close to the equipment. Avoid camouflaging it with fencing or plants. The AC compressor should have a free zone of about 2 to 3 feet around it. 


Short Cycling

Short cycling is one of the things that reduce the life span of an air conditioner. An air conditioner is said to be short cycling when it turns off and on frequently before it fully cools. Several factors cause an air conditioner to short cycle and one of the most common factors is a dirty filter. 

Your air conditioner or HVAC system also short cycle if it is not sized correctly for the occupancy and house. When this happens for some time, the short cycling effect will begin to tell on the performance of the equipment. It would start stressing the system and make it get old quickly. When this happens, it would be difficult for your air conditioner to serve you for the number of years that it ought to. 


Signs That Your Air Conditioner Is Done and Needs a Replacement

With adequate maintenance and proper use, your air conditioner will serve you for a very long time. It can sever you for two or three times the warranty period it comes with. However, regardless of how careful you are and regularly you maintain the AC, it cannot work forever. There must be a time when the AC would no longer function as it used to, and it would start giving you signs that its job is done.

At this point, your air-conditioning system will start showing you different signs of packing up. Once you start noticing the following signs, you no longer spend your money on maintenance and repairs. You should start considering replacing it with a new one. Here are some of the signs that your air conditioner is getting close to the end of its life. 


The AC Is Over 10 Years Old

When we said an air conditioner can last for 10 to 20 years, it does not automatically mean that all ACs will last that long. If you noticed, we said that your AC could only last for up to 20 years or more when you maintain it regularly and use it properly. 

Maintaining your AC regularly is the only way to guarantee it would serve you for a long time. One of the major mistakes you can ever make is not servicing your air conditioner at least once a year.

Nevertheless, regardless of how you maintain it, once your air conditioner is getting older, you need to get ready to buy a new one. Air conditioners are mostly outdoors, and they are exposed to extreme temperature and external factors for years. This exposure alone reduces their life expectancy. 

If you are using a modern air-conditioning system, you can expect it to last for 15 to 20 years, but if you are using an older model, expect it to last for about 10 to 12 years. If you maintain your A/C very well and it is in good condition for more than 10 years, you should start getting ready to buy a new one.

You should also know that as your air conditioner gets older, the replacement parts would become obsolete or unavailable. At this point, if any part gets damaged and you are not able to replace it, then you would have no other option than to buy a new air conditioner. Hence, once your air conditioner is more than ten years old, you should be getting ready to buy a new system. 


Frequent Break Down of the Compressor or Motor

When an air conditioner is getting old and possibly requiring a replacement, the compressor and motor would be breaking down more frequently. Failed compressor and motor are common issues among old air conditioners. You will be shocked when you calculate how much you spend on the repairs of these parts at the end of every year once they start developing a fault. 

The downside of repairing the compressor, coil, or motor of your air conditioner is that once you have started, you will likely continue repairing them for years. Whether it is your first time repairing these components or you have been dealing with them in the past, replacing the entire unit will be more cost-effective than fixing them year in year out. 

Hence, once you start experiencing frequent breakdowns regardless of how you maintain the unit regularly, you should consider getting a new one. Frequent breakdowns will translate to frequent repairs, which would not end well for your pocket when you accumulate the bills. 


Massive Ramp in Electricity Bills

There should be no considerable change in your electricity bills every month unless you introduced some new appliances or made some changes in the energy use of your home. If everything remains the same and your electricity bills skyrocket all of a sudden, then you should start planning to get a new air conditioner. 

When you notice a significant increase in your electricity bills, it can mean that your A/C is either losing efficiency or malfunctioning. When your air conditioner is getting older, some of the effects of old age will show off on your electricity bills. 

If you notice this increase just once or twice, there might be no need for alarm. Nevertheless, if this becomes a norm, then you should consider getting a new air conditioner. 


Unusual, Annoying Sounds

When air conditioners are in use, they do make sounds. Some are quieter than others, but it is normal for the unit to make a sound. Nevertheless, if you start noticing some annoying and unusual sounds such as squealing, grinding, or clunking noises, you should see it as a sign to contact an HVAC professional. 

These unusual sounds can mean several things such as a faulty motor, fan, and/or blower. While you can easily fix these components and get your A/C working properly, you should be considering replacing the entire unit when you start hearing these sounds. 

These sounds do not automatically mean you should change your unit. However, when you consider the cost of replacing these parts and the possibility of them developing a fault sooner, you might see getting a replacement as a better option. 


Your Air Conditioner is Using the Old Freon (R-22)

The production of R-22 Freon stopped in the United States on January 1, 2020. Some people head this over the news but they do not know the impact of it. If your air conditioner is more than 10 years old, chances are it is using a refrigerant known as R-22 Freon. 

According to research, Freon has negative effects on the environment, which is why it is being phased out of use. If your air conditioner uses this refrigerant, you can still be using it even after its phasing out. Nevertheless, you should start getting ready to buy a new air conditioner. 

The reason is that if your cooling unit breaks down now and the only solution is a Freon refill, you will not find anywhere to get any. At this point, you will have no other option than to get a replacement. You would need to invest in a unit that does not use this type of Freon refrigerant.

Currently the R410a refrigerant is being used and even that one is most likely to be phased out by the R-32 refrigerant in the next few years.


Uneven Temperatures

This is another common sign that you need to replace your air conditioner. If you start experiencing uneven temperatures in your home, you should first check to make sure everywhere is properly sealed and there are no escape routes for the cool air. If everywhere is sealed and the air is not escaping, then the problem is from the air-conditioning system. Once your air conditioner gets to the point of distributing uneven temperature, you should consider getting a new one.


How to Maintain Your Air Conditioner for It to Last Long

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to extend the lifespan of your air conditioner. These simple tricks will not only make your A/C last longer but save you maintenance costs in the long run. Here are a couple of tips that you can use to extend the lifespan of your air conditioner:


  • Keep the Coils Clean

Coils are one of the most important components in an air-conditioning system. The coil helps the refrigerant in the system absorb heat and keep your house cool. After using the unit for some time, dirt and debris will insulate the coils, and this will reduce their performance. It will reduce the amount and rate at which they absorb heat and this can affect the overall performance of the air conditioner. 

Once the coils are insulated, the unit would have to work harder to cool your home. To avoid this and reduce the stress on your air conditioner, you should always clean the coils. Keeping the coils clean always will enhance the performance of your air conditioner and extend its lifespan. 

There are several ways you can clean the coils. However, the easiest way to go about this is by ensuring the condenser area is clear of debris. You can contact a professional to handle the cleaning for you.


  • Check the Condensate Drain

The condensate drain is another crucial part of the A/C, as it allows for the drainage of the condensation in the system. Inspecting the condensate drain is important, as it can become clogged over time. When this happens, the drainage of the system can be obstructed. 

Clogged drainage can affect the efficiency and functionality of the air conditioner, which is why you need to inspect it regularly to avoid such issues from occurring. Whenever you notice that water is not draining from the AC properly, check the drainage and remove any obstruction. 

However, we recommend you outsource this task to a trained professional. Once you notice a decrease in the performance of the drainage, contact your local air conditioner professional or company to come and handle the issue. The earlier you fix it, the better, as delayed maintenance can reduce the performance and lifespan of your A/C. 


  • Inspect the Fins

There is an evaporator and condenser in every air conditioner, and they both have fins. After some time, the fins on both components can bend, and this can result in insufficient airflow. When this happens, the overall performance of your air conditioner will reduce, which is not good. 

If this issue is left unsolved, it would reduce the lifespan of your air conditioner. Hence, we highly recommend you check the fins of your A/C regularly. Make sure the fins are always straight and not bent. If you find them bent, you can buy a fin comb to straighten them. 

If this is beyond your technical expertise, then you should consult the right professionals. Once you notice that they are bent, contact your technician or AC repair company to come and fix it. Fixing it on time will help to increase the lifespan of your AC. 


  • Clean the Air Filters Regularly

Air filters play a key role in the performance and durability of your air conditioner. They help to block dust and dirt particles from entering the core of the unit and your room. Since they trap dirt and dust, they get clogged with dirt and debris often. 

When the air filter is clogged, the air conditioner will not be able to work at its optimal level, and this can reduce its lifespan. To avoid this, you should clean the air filter regularly. You should remove, wash, and clean it before putting it back. The air filter is one of the easiest things to clean, and you can do it without the help of a professional. 


Final Thoughts

Air conditioners have been an integral part of humanity, and they are now a major component of the home. These devices are highly durable and can serve for a very long time. With adequate maintenance and proper use, your air conditioner can serve you for 15 to 20 years. However, if you fail to maintain your AC regularly, then you should not expect it to last that long.