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How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

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AC units don't last forever, but how long does an air conditioner last in Kansas City? It depends on the age and health of your unit, and the factors responsible for aging your system. Replacing a cooling system is never fun, but knowing it may be coming makes it less painful. Planning for replacement helps you plan for when the time comes.

Repair or replace?

First, it's often a dilemma whether it's worth repairing an older system or if it's better to replace. Our Service Advisors share options and guidance to help you make the right choice for your home and budget.

On average, air conditioning units last 12-15 years. Multiple factors play into how long a system performs well. Has it required more repairs in recent seasons or have repairs grown in cost recently? Was it properly installed? Has it been maintained at least once a year? Is it appropriately sized for the home? Does it use R-22?

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WHAT IF MY SYSTEM USES R22?

In the United States, 66 percent of central air conditioners use R-22. In 2020, production of R-22 stops so if your system uses R-22, it may be time to consider AC replacement.

But what is R-22 and why does it matter to you? R-22 (also known as HCFC-22 or Freon) has been the most common refrigerant in residential heat pumps and air-conditioning systems for many decades. It is known to accelerate damage to the ozone layer of our atmosphere, so the EPA created a timeline to phase out its production.

If your unit was made before 2010, there is a good chance it uses R-22. Look at the serial plate on the outside unit of your system.  Most brands have a place for refrigerant or charge type somewhere on the plate. R-22, HCFC-22, or simply the number 22 all mean R-22 refrigerant is used in that model.

If your air conditioner is working properly, you are not required to take action at this time. However, because the cost of R-22 is skyrocketing, some common repairs have become very expensive. Regular maintenance is increasingly important to avoid these costly repairs. You also may want to consider replacing your unit sooner than you would have otherwise. New air conditioners are often much more energy-efficient, which saves you money as soon as your next electric bill.

How old is my AC unit?

Knowing the age of your AC gives you an idea of how long an air conditioner will last. But what if you don't know the age of your unit because you bought a new house or simply forgot? Luckily, the age is hiding on the back of your unit. Find the serial number located on the nameplate.

If you have a Lennox or Carrier system, the third and fourth digits of the serial number tell you the age (The photo above is of a Lennox system, which was manufactured in 2004).
If you have a Goodman or Daikin system, the first and second digits of the serial number tell you the age.

WHAT FACTORS DICTATE HOW LONG DOES AN AIR CONDITIONER LAST

Many things affect the performance and therefore, the lifespan of your AC unit.

Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key. The engineer designed your air conditioner to function as efficiently as possible. With preventive maintenance, your air conditioner operates as closely to that level as possible.

Air conditioners should have a tune up at least once a year, preferably in the spring, prior to the hottest weather. Heat pumps should have tune ups twice a year, because they both heat and cool your home.

A tune up includes an inspection of your entire cooling system. The HVAC tech cleans, lubricates and tests all applicable components. He or she also looks for signs of stress.

In addition, maintenance neglect often voids manufacturer warranties, so be careful. It's best to use a qualified HVAC contractor like A.B. May for AC service, because nonprofessional service or repairs often voids a warranty as well.

At A.B. May, we know warranties so if you're curious or concerned, please ask! We love talking about HVAC, so give us a call.

Airflow Obstruction

All HVAC systems depend on strong airflow. Without it, the equipment strains to push air through the system and over time, it prematurely ages the system. Keep good airflow by:
  • Check the air filter monthly and change as needed. It's hard for an HVAC system to push air through a clogged or dirty filter.
  • Clear objects away from the HVAC equipment area. It may be tempting to use every last inch of space in your utility closet, but find somewhere else to keep wrapping paper and holiday decor. Too much stuff around the air handler obstructs airflow.
  • Be mindful of landscaping around your outdoor AC compressor. Clear away fallen leaves or other storm debris from around the AC unit. Don't plant fast-growing or invasive plants near the AC compressor. Don't try to camouflage it with plants or fencing. It needs a zone at least two to three feet around it.

SHORT CYCLING

When an air conditioner, heat pump or furnace frequently turns on and off before fully cooling or heating the home, that's short cycling. This symptom happens due to a few reasons, including a dirty filter. It also occurs when the HVAC equipment is incorrectly sized for the house and occupancy. Over time, short cycling stresses the system and prematurely ages it.

TURN TO A.B. MAY FOR EXPERT AIR CONDITIONING SERVICE, REPAIR and AC INSTALLATION

We've handled air conditioning issues for the Kansas City area for decades. When you have questions or concerns, give us a call. We offer 24/7 service for emergency situations and are eager to help solve your AC issues. Stay cool with A.B. May. Ready for a tune up? Click here to schedule service.

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