cleaning the HVAC unit

How Long Do HVAC Systems Last? (Signs Yours Needs Replacing)

In general, it is a good idea to consider replacing your HVAC system after about 15 years or so. This will ensure the unit doesn’t waste energy and continues to operate at the best possible efficiency, which will reduce overall energy costs. Several other factors—like yearly maintenance and manufacturer—will also factor into how long your HVAC system operates efficiently. Some units may last longer, while others will begin to wear and become less efficient in as little as 10 years. So how do you know when it’s time to replace your HVAC system?

Depending on the size of the unit, installation, and daily usage, even systems less than 15-year-old can become less efficient and require a replacement. Heavy use systems, not properly installed, or regularly serviced can begin to show signs of wear and breakdown after just 5 or 6 years. We'll share our many years of HVAC experience to help you identify some signs that might indicate it’s time to start thinking about replacing your HVAC system.

HVAC Age and Efficiency

One of the best indicators of whether your HVAC system might need to be replaced is the age of the unit. If you have consistently maintained the system twice a year, the unit should operate efficiently for at least 15 years or more. If routine maintenance was not performed on a yearly basis, then, unfortunately, your HVAC system may need to be replaced soon, rather than later.

Related Topic: Learn More About Indoor Air Quality

Here are some other factors that will determine how long an HVAC system can operate efficiently. Ensuring your system has been correctly sized to meet the heating and cooling demands of your home is a key contributor to overall operating efficiency. A system that is too small requires the heating and cooling units to run more frequently and work harder to maintain a comfortable environment. This ultimately puts a greater strain on the entire system—causing parts to be replaced more frequently—and the HVAC system to wear out sooner.

Ensuring the system is properly sized is very important. Equally important is proper installation. Improperly installed HVAC systems operate less efficiently and can potentially cause additional damage to the entire heating and cooling infrastructure of your home. Hiring a licensed HVAC installer is the best way to ensure the HVAC system is properly sized and installed.

Outdated HVAC Systems Are Costly to Repair

Many older HVAC systems utilize an R-22 refrigerant—commonly used in older AC units. This compound is no longer manufactured. However, systems over 10 years old most likely still have R-22 flowing through the refrigerant lines. The use of R-22 alone is not a reason to replace the unit. But it should be noted that if repairs are needed, the cost to repair systems using R-22 is becoming increasingly more expensive—especially if the repair is refrigerant related. As a result, the use of R-22 refrigerant has been banned for use in newer AC units. Therefore, if your current HVAC system relies on R-22 refrigerant, you might want to consider replacing the unit, rather than repairing it.

Not Sure if Your AC System Uses R-22 Refrigerant – Contact a Local AC Pro to Find Out

Higher Bills, But No Comfortable Temps

Another indicator that the time to replace your HVAC system is approaching is a closer look at your energy bills over the past 6 to 12 months. If you notice your energy cost continues to increase year over year—barring a significant change in weather conditions—this could be an indication that the heating and/or cooling system isn’t operating as efficiently. This falls under the category of diminishing returns. When the cost to operate an inefficient unit can no longer be justified. Instead, put the money toward the installation of a newer, more efficient HVAC system.

If you are constantly adjusting the thermostat in order to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home, this is another indication that it’s time to consider replacing your HVAC system. If it’s taking considerably longer to heat or cool your home after adjusting the thermostat, this is a surefire sign something is not right with the unit. It either needs maintenance, repairs, or a full-scale replacement.

Repair and Maintenance Cost Adding Up

You may also notice that the repair and maintenance of your HVAC system is getting more and more expensive. This could be due to the fact that more work is required to get the system working properly on a consistent basis. It could also mean that parts for your aging system are getting harder to find, and more expensive to buy.

Every year, repairing and maintaining an outdated and inefficient HVAC system gets more expensive. After a while, repairs become too expensive, and the law of diminishing returns will apply again—time for a full replacement of your HVAC system. When this happens, it’s time to call your local HVAC professional to assess, evaluate and install a new, more efficient HVAC system so you and your family can rest comfortably knowing the job was done right!