How Long Does An Air Conditioner Last And When To Replace?

If you ever sit down to make a list of important pieces of equipment you have in your home, the air conditioner will definitely make it to the top five. 

It is the machine that controls the temperature in your room, no matter the weather outside. So, it can be a big problem when this machine fails.

In this article, I’ll tell you how long your average AC can last and when you should buy a new one. Read on to find out. 

How Long Does An Average Air Conditioner Last?

If you have an HVAC system at home, you know that it is an investment. It can be an expensive setup, but it is definitely an advantage to have the temperature indoors controlled as you need it. The good news is these machines can work for quite a long time. 

Most air conditioning systems are meant to last at least ten years, if not more. With timely maintenance, some air conditioners can even last as long as twenty years

It usually depends on what kind of AC you are using and how you have taken care of it through the years. 

What Are The Signs Of Your Air Conditioner Failing? 

When a machine starts failing, in most cases, it does not happen within a day. There will be obvious warning signs that you have to learn to look out for.

And in air conditioning systems, it is easier to notice because the machine practically becomes a part of your daily life. So, here are some signs that can tell you your AC needs a replacement. 

1. Repairs Are Getting Expensive Each Time

Regular and timely maintenance of an air conditioning system is important to ensure that the machine is running properly. These could be minor repairs to yearly cleaning of the internal electrical system. 

Most of these can be done by an HVAC professional. 

But when you see that the repair costs start to become more and more expensive, it might be time to consider buying a new one instead. 

After a certain time, there could be a variety of issues – from a burst capacitor to a fan replacement. In some cases, you might have to consult emergency services. 

2. More Noise And Dust

When you are cleaning your house and notice that there is a considerable increase in the amount of dust that is accumulating around the room, your old AC unit could be a culprit. 

If there is a ductwork leak, the AC fails to filter out the dust, which then disperses around the room.

The failure of a duct system also causes the AC to become very noisy over time. You will not be able to avoid the loud buzzing or sometimes ticking sounds that come from the duct. 

3. Use Of Freon In The AC System

HCFC-22 – more commonly known as Freon – is one of the main gases responsible for global warming, and the aim is to decrease its usage as much as possible. 

Unfortunately, this is also one of the main refrigerant compounds of most air conditioning systems.

However, in January 2020, the Freon refrigerant called R22 was phased out due to its highly toxic nature. Current air conditioning systems use R410A or Puron, which is slightly less harmful to the environment. 

If you are planning to switch to a more eco-friendly option, find out which refrigerant is used in your present system. 

4. The Efficiency Of The System

One of the first giveaways of your AC system failing is the decrease in its performance. 

Not cooling the room fast enough, the dehumidifier not working right, or uneven cooling of a room – these are the first signs of your AC reaching its expiry date. 

Sometimes, this could be an internal problem in the AC because some internal component is failing. But if your AC is more than ten or fifteen years old, consider replacing it with a more efficient system. More efficient air conditioners consume half the energy of a regular one.

5. Increasing Utility Expenses 

When the utility expenses of running the air conditioner start rising, it could be a sign that your AC needs to go. 

You may be using the AC in the same way as the previous years, but you will notice that the electric bills are going up nonetheless. 

This is a sign that the AC is using up more energy than before, which obviously means it will create a bigger tug at your pockets. 

6. Frequent Breakdowns 

There are common AC issues that can be sorted out by consulting professionals once in a while. However, when your AC starts to fail, you can expect multiple breakdowns in a shorter period of time. 

This means frequent repairs, irreversible damages, and worn-out capacitors. These problems mean that your AC is not going to last for long. 

7. Age Of The AC System

Finally, you have the most obvious reason for your air conditioner failing, which is its age. Most ACs have a lifespan of ten years, sometimes fifteen and in the best case twenty. 

After this, they start to become too outdated, break down too frequently, and in general become too much of a drag on your wallet. 

Usually, this is the time to start thinking of investing in a more energy-efficient system that uses better technology. This can be better for your home as well as give you a more comfortable experience at home. 

Repair vs. Replace – What Is Right For Your Air Conditioner?

If your air conditioner is only a few years old, it makes sense to check the repair costs when it breaks down. But if it is already more than ten years old, you should always compare the cost of repairs versus the costs of buying a new one.

Lastly, an HVAC expert is the best person to determine whether your AC is repairable at all! Consult an expert and follow the advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should A 20-Year-Old AC Be Replaced?

The average lifespan of an AC is between 10 to 15 years. However, some machines can run for up to 20 years. 

You should make the decision to replace a unit when there is any kind of problem with the recent machine or its energy efficiency has decreased.

What Is The Cost Of Replacing An Air Conditioner?

The cost of replacing an air conditioner unit will depend on what model you use, its energy rating, tonnage, and how much per foot coverage your house has. 

An average HVAC system with an energy rating of 16-20 might cost you anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000. There will also be an installation charge by the HVAC contractors whom you are contacting for the job. 

Related article: Air Conditioners Buyer’s Guide

How Do I Know That The AC Needs To Be Replaced?

There are a number of signs to look out for before replacing your AC unit. The clear signs will be if the AC is making a lot of noise when it is not cooling as it used to and the electricity bill has suddenly increased. You should also consider how long you have used the machine. 

Please check the signs of your AC failing in the text above.

How Long Does An Air Conditioner Compressor Last?

An average AC compressor and refrigerant can last for 12 to 15 years. This also depends on how the components and the whole unit are being maintained and how old your unit is. 

Most companies offer a separate warranty on the compressor, and if the unit is still within warranty and breaks down, you should get it replaced.

Also read: Why Does My AC Smell Like Vinegar?


An air conditioner is one of those machines that ensure you have a comfortable time when you are at home. This is why you should be careful about how you maintain the machine and know when you are supposed to replace it — all of this while making a good and eco-friendly choice. 

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